Beloved Paati

During my higher primary schooling days in 5th Standard, there was a new joinee in my class. As kids, we would address any new joinee as new gal or new boy. The NEW gal was grabbed by bunch of gals and the circle of friends increased. Similarly, the new boy was pulled by the gang of guys.

During the first two days of school re-open, teachers would revise few math tables, rhymes and let us play inside the classroom. If the teacher was good, she would even narrate a moral story and we listened. The teacher noticed the new joinee and asked themselves to intoduce to the class. At the lunch break, newbies were subjected to many questions: which place are you from? Where do you stay here? What's your mother tongues? siblings? ... The newbie had no other choice than reasoning! Phew. Nope, it wasn't ragging, but it was out of plain human curiosity to make friends.

Once the gal said where she stayed and I yelled out of joy with my eyes wide open--"yaay, you stay near my house. From now on, I have a companion while I walk to school and back home." Now, she was not only my classmate but my neighbour, too :) After evening snacks at my home, I would join her to play badmitton or carrom along with her elder siblings who also treated me like their younger one. We also did combined study which at many times turned out be mere gossip!

During summer vacations, her matenal granny joined their family. Her granny who was 70+ and a widow, who had a hunch back, her voice was feeble and one could listen and understand her only if the person knew Tamil, which I didn't. My friend and her siblings called her "paati", meaning Grandma in Tamil, with love and affection. I hope "Paati" spelling is right, if not please let me know. Soon, I started calling her paati. With paati's arrival, I found a new friend. :)

She has no muscles and the wrinkles would speak her age. The spectacles rested on her nose were huge, with a semi-cicle at the bottom of the glasses and a black thread tied to the edge in order to prevent it from breakage. She read Bible written in Tamil, everyday.

Every Sunday morning, my friend's family would visit the Church. Since Paati couldn't walk much distance, they left her alone at home. I was the lone listener and that would kill her boredom. She taught me few Tamil words like Moru (Buttermilk), Tairu (Curd) , maaDu (cow)... and framing them into sentences. When I couldn't follow her conversation, I would nod my head in reply that I understood and noted the words and asked my mother to explain the same after reaching home. I made a note of the words I wanted to say Paati. Paati would point at the objects and spell the name aloud. When she was thirsty, she would point at the water bottle and say "tanni" which meant "water".

The frequency of my visits increased day-by-day due to Paati's presence. Paati had lot to narrate: her family, her kids, her sister, her grand children. She had studied only till 4th Standard which was considered to be an equivalent to Ph.D , she would smile as she said this with joy. :)Before moving to Bangalore, she had stayed whith her son's family in Madras (now Chennai) for six years and before that, in Vellore. Now that it was her daughter's turn to look after her, she was in Bangalore. Each of her children looked after her for a fixed no of years after she had lost her husband. Once she said that Vellore had only two buses and a popular medical college.

Now, I had learnt to converse in Tamil with my dear friend and she appreciated it, too.

One day, Paati heard the sad news of my friend's paternal granny's demise. She remained hunger and mum for the whole day and prayed in silence.

My friend stayed in a rented house and the owner pestered them to vacate the house. As a result, they shifted to a far off place and I missed seeing Paathi regularly. After schooling, I lost in touch with them. Since they were shifting frequently and had no telephone, I couldn't trace them, either. I've even forgotten the last time I spoke to them which must've been more than six long years. Later, I learnt that, Paati was no more and she was bed-ridden and suffered till her last breath. When I heard of her death, I skipped my dinner and prayed for her just the way she had done, once.

I was just eleven year old when I met this 70+ year old friend of mine. I never knew we could be such good friends inspite of such huge gap between us. Though, both my parents knew Tamil very well, they never converse in any other language other than mother tongue, at home. Nobody might even believe me if I say I had a friend who was 70+ and taught me a language. She's the only one whom I've ever called "paati" so far.
Sometimes, my friend was jealous that I was close to her granny and granny was more close to me than her.

A couple of days ago, few of my teammates were conversing in Tamil. They assumed that I couldn't follow nor understand their conversation. One of them cracked a joke and I burst laughing aloud which they never expected! One of them asked "How do you know Tamil?", I replied, "My friend taught me during my childhood."

And you know who that friend is ;-)

© Manasa. All rights reserved.


  1. Wonderful post. Loved it. How come your parents know Tamil and you didn't?
    Hope you meet you friend again soon....Try orkut.

  2. thaaanaana thaananana aaaaa thaaaanaaa naanannaaaaaa ( Flute sound in background) :) ..U know that nostalgic music rite ;)

  3. aww.. that was touching. paati is right ma. you have the freedom to call your friend the way you like :) darn the landlords...And yeah, dear God, Manasa is really missing her paati, send her here soon :) And how is your name called? Maanasa or Manasaa? just curious :)

  4. so nice of you to have found such a friendship with an elderly person.

  5. you made me nostalgic.. i was very fond of my grannie.. she passed away at the age of 96.. i miss her a lot!!

  6. Very well written...took me back to my school days. :)

  7. aww... nice..

    thaaanaana thaananana aaaaa thaaaanaaa naanannaaaaaa ( Flute sound in background) :)

    perfect way to explain this :)

  8. wow ...wonderfull post. .you made my nostalgic ..i knew a similar patti while i stayed in kanchipuram for my BE ..she was my neighbour ..she used to tell me stories and many more things,.,

  9. Very nice short story. Lovely narration.

  10. @Sandeep Did u eat something special today? Everywhere your comments are making me laugh out loud. Thank god i m alone :)

    @Manasa Lovely post. I have never been that close to my maternal granny as she stayed in village and we just visited once a year. Paternal granny died before I was born.

  11. Ok one more thing? You dont reply to comments, is it?

  12. Very beautifully written. Touched somewhere deep. Yes, it can happen if the heart is open and ready to take any person in.

  13. Such a precious relationship that I can see you hold dear. Very sweet and rare. These moments make life all the more meaningful. Thanks for sharing.

    Lovely blog. And thanks for visiting mine as well. Looking forward to more of your well-told stories.

    Take care,

  14. this is really great.. very nice to read this post.. it moved me

  15. Oh wow!! Such a lovely post abt a childhood friend. Yes, i also learnt Gujarati, Sindhi and Marwari from my friends' houses in my childhood.. :-)

  16. Pranay, Thanks :) Parents knowing Tamil?That's again a long story :) Tried orkut n found her.

    satishds, Will play it for you someday :P

    preeti, Thanks :) But God can't send her again :(

    Its pronounced "Maanasaa" :)

  17. arunima, Thanks. Keep visiting.

    --xh--, Thanks :)

    sakhi, I wasn't close to my granny since she didn't stay her at Blr.

  18. Ria, Thanks. Keep visiting :)

    vishesh, Yeah, right. They've loads to narrate n don't find any to listen :(

    sandeep, Set it as your ring tone if you like it so much :P

  19. arvind1187, wow. Then tell us more about it ;)

    Jagjit, Thanks :)

    myheadtrip, nandri :)

  20. Reema, Same here. My maternal granny in a different city n paternal granny died at the age of 35 :(

    I do reply to comments; but lil late :)

    Mampi, Thanks a lot :)

  21. Shireena, Welcome. Glad that you liked it. Keep visiting!

    kanaguonline, Thanks :)

    How do we know, We tend to learn so many languages without our knowledge. Don't we?

  22. Wow! Nice posts! Its been long since I visited my blog... so chances are remote that I would have visited yours.

    Anyways, I tried to catch up with your posts. really nice posts and a very nice template....

    I like the way you write... so keeep it going!

  23. :)

    lovely lovely post manasa!

    its amazing how most unexpected relationships turn into beautiful friendships! :)



  24. How sweet!!!

    FRds are like this... teach you so many things which are adored !!!

    nice post :D


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