Paati in Tamil means grandmother. But I don’t think my husband has ever addressed his maternal grandma that way! At around the time I got married to him through the arranged marriage process 11 years ago, I was told by his family members that when he barely started speaking, he called her, “Thathamma.” And since no one, starting with Thathamma, had the heart to correct him, the moniker stuck. As I got to know her better and heard more stories of Ram's childhood, I remarked to him that she should be called Thathamom as she was a most integral part of Ram’s childhood, showering him with unconditional maternal love and affection.
|Thathamom with my beautiful mother-in-law|
For anyone that knows Thathamma, they will agree that she is not the quintessential Tambram grandmother. She is very cool, loves to eat out, be it Mumbai chaat, South Indian tiffin varieties or even ice cream. A few years ago, when she visited us in North Carolina, we took her to an ice cream place. She really enjoyed the experience and smilingly remarked the next day, “I don’t mind going there again!” Of course, Ram being the strict grandson (!) that he is, said that sugary stuff was not good for her health. Well, I couldn’t convince him because he seemed to have a watertight argument – she was diabetic! One of the other things that I like about Thathamma is that she is very religious and ritualistic but finds a way to make that coexist with modern thoughts and broad mindedness. Once, during the concluding portions of a rather long winded prayer meeting, she said to me that I probably would not feel comfortable wearing a saree for such a long time and urged me to change into casual clothing. I thought that that was very genuine and generous of her.
Thathamma’s life revolves around her grand kids- as a kid, my husband was pampered beyond words by her. After Ram’s aunt had a daughter in 2004, Thathamma was very involved in her upbringing. I have some very fond memories of her visits to the US where I enjoyed being the subject of the same kind of affection that Ram and his cousin enjoyed.
Thathamma is not only a wonderful cook but also a lovely host. Her cutlet, pongal and sandwich (which she calls “chilly cheese toast”) are all to die for! In fact, while I enjoyed his previous write-up, “Warmly Served” the only bone I had to pick with Ram was that he did not write enough about Thathamma. She embodies every virtue that he wrote about in that article. Her generosity of spirit as a host is very symptomatic of her as a person. She is just a very giving soul, in general.
But this giving soul needs something from all of you readers now – your prayers. On January 1st 2018, Thathamma suffered a massive cardiac arrest. By the grace of God, she survived but she is still recovering slowly, as it has taken a heavy toll on her quality of life. For a person that lost her husband 24 years ago and her second child 18 months ago, this health crisis is too heavy a burden. Not a day passes by without all of us praying for her continued recovery. Dear reader, if you are religious, pray for her. If you are not, it doesn’t matter - just think happy thoughts for her. For a person that has personified giving for 82 years, it is time to get all the strength, of body and of mind, to deal with this health crisis. Something tells me that she will come out of this healthier. After all, I need to buy her the ice cream that my husband once denied her!