I found a treasure last night.
I am at my parents' place and while rummaging through my old books cupboard, I found notes from my speech for beloved grandmother's memorial service. My Ammachy was a rare gem. A simple woman, but nobody who has ever met her has gone away unimpressed by her genuineness! Ammachy battled cancer before she passed away about 7 years ago and at her memorial service I was asked to speak. I wasn't sure I'd be able to manage a speech without choking up, and so I wrote down every single word in case all I could do was read. I'm so glad i did, because reading through it last night, I was once again reminded of the rich heritage that she left behind for her adoring grandchildren.
* This pic was taken right after Ammachy graduated from college and before marriage. Isn't she beautiful?
"There was once a bamboo tree that stood tall and strong in a garden, and swayed gracefully as the wind blew through its branches. One day the gardener came up to it and said "You are beautiful and strong. I have a better use for you" and he began to cut it away from its roots.
"Please, please master, don't cut me" said the bamboo.
"My beloved bamboo, I have to cut you down if I have to use you" said the gardener.
"Alright master, cut me down if you will" said the bamboo.
As the gardener began cutting its branches, the bamboo protested again but the gardener reminded the bamboo of the 'better plan' he had in store. As the gardener got ready to split its stem in two the bamboo cried out "Cut and trim as you wish master, but I beg you, please do not split me in two! "
"I have to, beloved bamboo. Soon you will see why" replied the gardener as he struck the final blow with his axe.
The master then carried the bamboo to a spring of sparkling water and laid it down. The water flowed through the channel of the bamboo's broken body into the paddy field nearby.
A few months later, the crop had grown and was ready for harvest. On that day, the bamboo that once stood tall and beautiful was even more glorious in its brokenness. For in its beauty it was life abundant but in its brokenness it became a channel of abundant life to its master's world. "
This is one of the many stories Ammachy used to tell us. In fact she had cut this story out from 'Young World'- the children's newspaper and had pasted it on her cupboard. I feel it bears a striking resemblance to Ammachy's life. Born in an affluent, influential family, she chose to stand by her pioneering husband as they ventured out into a famine stricken, seemingly god forsaken village to live and raise her 3 children and be a channel of Gods love to the people she came in contact with.
Imagine this - a grandmother, tripping over her sari and yet playing frisbee with her grandchildren. We always felt like she was one of us and yet she knew how to deal with us and keep us in place. Ammachy would go out of her way to make sure our summer holidays spent with her were special. Since I stayed in the same place, I would see Ammachy preparing for my cousins' arrival. The swings would be put up on a tree in the backyard, the tank would be cleaned, bicycles readied and the kitchen stocked with all sorts of goodies. We took them all for granted then, as though as grandchildren, we were entitled to these. We miss them now, as we think of her thoughtfulness!
Ammachy's mission was to instill in us the values that our family stood for. Evenings were spent in storytelling. She would regale us with funny stories from hers and our parents' childhood and stories of God's faithfulness to our family. As each of us were old enough to read, she would make us memorise the books of the Bible and some key Bible verses. One of the songs Ammachy taught each one of us "Yeshu en adisthanam" (Jesus is my foundation) has been a source of strength and comfort to us.
Ammachy encouraged us to learn to live simply. One summer, she gave us each a small square patch of land, a few seeds and taught us to garden. She would lay three bricks in the backyard to make a stove and we would collect firewood and cook rice over it. It didn't matter if the rice was undercooked or burnt. Appacha and Ammachy and the whole family would eat that for lunch! If we wanted a swim in the tank, we had to clean it out ourselves, get the water in and maintain it! Ammachy made each one of us feel like we were her favorite. How did she manage that, I wonder!
As a kid, I have heard people remark on how the Tharien family kids are avid readers. I feel we owe it to Ammachy. At night we would all snuggle up next to her, with the lights off as she retold some of her favorite classics - The Bishop's Candlesticks, The Hound of Baskervilles, The Taming of the Shrew, Pride and Prejudice...etc. Ammachy's home was stacked with comics, old issues of Readers Digest and a host of other books that she encouraged us to read.
Some pictures linger in my memory. Ammachy standing at the doorstep to see us off, waving till we turned the corner. Ammachy with her gold coloured glasses bent over reading her 'The Living Bible'. Ammachy singing "I am satisfied". Tears rolling off her eyes as she laughs her heart out. Ammachy hugging us close when we miss our parents. Ammachy's many "surprises". . .
A lifetime of memories cannot be reduced to a few minutes speech or a short article. Yet one thing remains. Ammachy lived her life just as God wanted her to. And just like the bamboo in her story, she had some pretty tough things happen to her, but through it all, she knew in her heart that she was doing her master's work.
As her grandchildren, Sumodh, Arpana, Soumya, Neetha, Sudeep, Satshya and I are proud recipients of her love, and we hope we will be able to pass it on to our children and their children just as she did.