She blinked back tears as my tiny fingers curled around her thumb… I call her ‘Amma’*. “But she is your grandmother”, they’d always say. "Yes, but, I have two Ammas. This is my Janaki Amma". She would bathe me every day with a mixture of gram flour and turmeric and dust my crotch with talcum powder. She would apply a black dot of Kohl on my left cheek before every trip to the bazaar. “It’ll keep the evil eye away” she would explain to my mother of modern mind. She would sing hymns to me in her quavering baritone voice. When I would return home crying, she would immediately hitch her sari up and hobble angrily on arthritic feet after the kids who had teased me. I knew her as compassion and warmth.

Her swarthy forehead would glisten with sweat as she made me lunch with hot phulkas** every afternoon. She forbade me from eating at any of my friend’s houses. “Why? Are we beggars that there’s no food in our house?” she would exclaim indignantly. Every time I swore, saying "shit" or "aiyyo"***, my back would sting with a hot palm-shaped reddish patch after her hand had made hard contact with it. She told me not to talk to boys or wear my skirts too high. She taught me to carry myself with dignity and showed me the importance of independence. I knew her as self respect.

Eventually, thin green and violet cracks ran up her ankles. The doctors called it varicose. Red broken spider webs shone in the whites of her eyes. They ignored it. Her pallor sallowed and the darkened skin under her eyes hung like empty gunny bags. They called it iron deficiency. Then one night, she howled my name in pain while relieving herself. They feigned shock and nervously inserted needles into her frail wrists. While gadgets moaned with unearthly beeps in the tiled septic room, they informed us that her kidneys had failed. That day the whole family gathered around her bed. She beamed through the pain.

And now, I also know her as tenacity.

There on the white sheet lay her hand like crumpled brown paper, which I cupped and spoke my last words to her. I squealed “Amma!” as the final breath of life snuffed out of her deflated lungs.

*Mother, in Tamil **puffy flat wheat bread made in Indian households ***swear word similar to “Oh darn” in Tamil

Take action! This post was submitted in response to My Story: Holding Hands.


I think the most humbling experience one can have is to learn from their grandma. They have seen so much and know so much, and yet they are always stubborn stuck in their old ways. I love how you expressed, what at some point we all experience, someone who defines strength to us, becomes weak unable to fight. Thanks so much for your story, it beautifully stated the relationship that so many women have with their grandma.

Thank you Carrie! Your feedback is very encouraging. My grandmother was my only caretaker in my early days, while my mother worked, so I shared a really close relationship with her. Grandmothers are indeed loving and giving souls. We must cherish and remember them for life..I just hope my story helps many more women like you to relate to this special bond! :)

Supriya R

Grand mothers are the best.You have shared the bonding between your grandmother very beautifully. They are the ones from whom we can grasp a lot as they as they are the most experienced one.And it becomes more useful when actually their grandmother teach them.Reading your story made me relate my strong relationship with my grandmom.Thank you so much


You offer up such amazing, descriptive imagery in your story - gram flour and turmeric, green and violent cracks, gunny bag skin-- I instantly wanted to re-read the piece, sitting in the final moment of the tiled room while you held her crumpled brown hand. Thank you for the pure poetry you offer in giving us a description of tenacity. It's beautiful.

Warmly, Frances

Thank you so much for your positive feedback. It is heartening to see my worldpulse sisters respond to such a simple story with their own beautiful interpretations. Here's to wishing more and more such interpretations flow in to enrich our perspectives and broaden our minds!!

Supriya R