When A Grandmother Raises a Tomato

For my grandmother who quit on 11 November.

“If you are right, you are the tallest.” She told me on the day when a taller-than-me boy tore my shirt pocket’s zipper when I was seven.

“We should not wait to feel hungry to have a fruit. To skip fruit is a disservice to our body.” She told me when I was stuffed and I said No to an apple.

“While traveling, keep an eye on everything that you can see outside the window — the people, lakes, trees, and vendors. There is a lot to learn.” She told me when I was four and I was ready for a bus ride from her Chandigarh to the real Chandigarh.

“Mathematics is the most important subject to master in school. Regardless of whatever you do when you grow up, mathematics always helps.” She told me when I first learnt how to do subtraction — eight minus five.

I started living with her when my brain was raw like a raw tomato. And she processed it full-time for ten years.

She told me a few stories of seeing Britishers in India. That they would visit their colony and streets to make certain announcements. There were on horses, always in uniform, and they were powerful. She never talked about partition or pains in those stories. As if her eyes had no space for conflict, distaste, or bitterness.

And so it matched with the glow on her face — a radiant mask of skin that meant conviction and belief.

She answered friction part by reason and part by silence. She answered a patch by a coating. A tension by humor. With a certain, certain assurance in her eyes and a promise in her words.

She taught me about voice, and reason, and being just.

There was something too heroic about how she felt about herself and anybody in her orbit. It was never about non-working knees or swollen feet — it was about a well-conditioned mind. It was never about constraints — it was about privileges.

She told me that many a times being soft means adding forces to our own strength. That passive voice has its own space.

We lose friends, neighbors, and relationships. And Advice. A Key. City. Passport. And Teeth.

She told me that we should never lose our Tongue. Even if the road from her home to our home is too long (now). (She quit on 11 November.)

“My grandmother told me that our tongue was our most important organ — working or non-working. Like a zipper.”

She supported me when I was shy in a crowd.

She was happy to raise me with my flaws — as if she had seen flawed geniuses doing as well as any perfect or near-perfect role models (of the world).

When I look back today, I can say that she lived her life as if she could outsource all her own world’s friction to a plate full of healthy salad. Something she could chew gradually, or she could overlook as required. Hurdles were never meant to be the main course in our diet.

“For me, she was a 19th century surrogate who owned me on behalf of my owner. As if she was NOT raising an individual — she was taking care of a kingdom that she will ultimately handover to a government. And she did. After ten years, in 1988.”

In 2017, I have a new asset now. As if a small brick in my pocket. A brick with six faces. The tomato is so processed that it will let the grief die — to grow this asset. Across six directions.

In my pocket with a zipper.

Fittingly, Her name was Krishna. Forever

PS: Whenever you have a tomato whether in a puree, sauce, salad, soup, or in a dish, a grandmother might have played a role there.