For my first years I knew my Nani as my mother; those are the years when one grows. This circle is for my Nani. My own mother came after that; I was already grown up, already made in a certain style, and my grandmother helped me immensely. My grandfather loved me, but could not help me much. He was so loving, but to be of help more is needed – a certain kind of strength. He was always afraid of my grandmother. He was, in a sense, a henpecked husband. When it comes to the truth, I am always true. He loved me, he helped me…what can I do if he was a henpecked husband? Ninety-nine point nine percent of husbands are, so it is okay.
I remember an incident that I have never told before. It was a dark night. It was raining and a thief entered our house. Naturally my grandfather was afraid. Everybody could see that he was afraid, but he pretended not to be, he tried his best. The thief was hiding in the corner of our small house, behind a few bags of sugar.
My grandfather was a continuous pan-chewer. Pan is betel leaf. Just like a chain smoker, he was a chain pan-chewer. He was always making pan, and the whole day long he would chew it. He started chewing pan and spitting it at the poor thief who was hiding in the corner. I looked at this ugly scene, and told my grandmother, with whom I used to sleep, “This is not right. Even though he is a thief we should behave in a gentlemanly way. Spitting? Either fight or stop spitting!”
My grandmother said, “What would you like to do?”
I said, “I will go and slap the thief and throw him out.” I was not more than nine.
My grandmother laughed and said, “Okay, I will come with you – you may need my help.” She was a tall woman. My mother does not resemble her in any way, neither in physical beauty, nor in her spiritual daring. My mother is simple; my grandmother was adventurous. She came with me.
I was shocked! I could not believe what I saw: the thief was a man who used to come and teach me, my teacher! I really hit him hard, more so because he was my teacher. I told him, “If you were only a thief I would have forgiven you, but you have been teaching me great things, and at night you do these things! Now run away as fast as you can before my grandmother gets hold of you, otherwise she will crush you.”
She was a big woman, tall, strong and beautiful. My grandfather was small and homely, but they both went well together. He never fought her – he could not – so there was no problem at all.
I remember that teacher, the village pandit, who also used to come and tutor me sometimes. He was the priest of the village temple. He said, “What about my clothes? Your grandfather has been spitting all over me. He has spoiled my clothes.”
My grandmother laughed and said, “Come tomorrow, I will give you some new clothes.” And she really did give him some new clothes. He did not come, he did not dare, but she went to the thief’s home and took me with her, and gave him the new clothes, telling him, “Yes, my husband is terrible to spoil your clothes. It is not good. Whenever you need clothes you can always come to me.”