It is possibly a truth universally acknowledged, that the offspring of a youngest child on one side, and middle child (only child resident in India) on the other, would be subject to greatly indulgent and torrential doses of grand parental attention.
A grandchild in the family after a long break, and he could do no wrong.
Birthdays were celebrated with great planning, kindergaarten annual days were attended by grandparents travelling in from other cities, and there came a time when he graduated from tricycles to bicycles. Living as I do, in something that resembles a park, he soon learnt to ride the bicycle thanks to either parent desperately running behind him, and other folks on the road making way for him, seeing the expressions on his parent's faces.
His maternal grandma, the younger of his two grandmas, lived in Pune, climbed the Parvati Hill temple everyday, and took him with her when he visited. She played badminton with him on her terrace. He treated her like an equal; or maybe she did. I dont know.
When she visited him in Mumbai, he often visited the Devi Temple on campus , with her, and he wanted to ride his bicycle there now. He discovered that grandma had ridden a bike when she was younger, and so he convinced her to ride his mother's bike, and they both went off. At high noon.
On the way back, he had a brilliant idea. Of exchanging the bikes. The only thing was his bike was an Easy Rider style fancy thing with high handles.
But grandma agreed. :-)
And so they rode, amidst the trees, and amidst stunned folks who saw a little chap riding ahead , on a bike where his feet didn't reach the pedals, turning back, calling out to someone, and an old lady in a saree , with great effort, riding a terribly hip bicycle (totally flummoxed with the odd design) and pushing on nonetheless.
Till her chappal broke.
They stopped. Things were examined. The road was too hot, and her feet would get burned. So he removed his shoes, took out his socks, and right there on the road, made his grandma wear them. The shoes would be a bit small, but socks were manageable. So he wore the shoes, she wore his socks with the one working chappal.
A whole bunch of people known to his parents were witness to all this drama, and by and by, they returned, he, a few paces ahead, pedalling , seat less, on his mother's old style bike with a high level seat, and his grandma, wearing his socks, chappals in the basket, desperately trying to manage the low-seat Easy Rider style bike. Both returned, red in the sun, and his grandma a bit breathless, because she wasn't used to such fancy bikes.
He didn't think anything unusual was happening. That's how grandmothers were. And she probably agreed.
Several years later , his other older grandma who was staying with them after he lost his grandpa, had an amazing experience tangling with third standard history.
His parents both worked, and came home for lunch. School got over at 1:30 pm , and his mother would check the day's lessons, give him some quizzes for the afternoon, and then leave.
After some rest, and chitchat, he would attend to homework/quizzes et al, with his grandma's help , and one day, he was a bit preoccupied. The fellow was doing some "filling in the blanks", and he suddenly looked up , caught her arm and said ,"Aji, you are lucky, it is now, and not Raja Ram Mohun Roy's time. ".
She was a bit bewildered. Yes, they were learning about the pre independence days, but why Raja Ram Mohun Roy suddenly ?
"Aji, if you had lived around then, they would have made you do "sati" when Aba passed away !" . He looked at her, with large eyes, bewildered at the prospect. His textbook had drastic pictures. I mean dinosaurs, phantom, superman, batman etc were manageable, but this stuff about making people sit on funeral pyres, on the death of a husband, was just too serious.
She was stunned. Went off to the kitchen, saying it was time to have his cocoa, and she would heat the milk, but really because she didn't want him to see her tears. Came back and explained to him how these were different times, things had changed, and there were laws. And such things didn't happen any more.
Little minds worked in complicated ways, and sometimes, imagination was frightening.
She recounted this story to us when we came home in the evening.
We all possibly studied the same history. But didn't live it. He learned to apply it to his environment and came to conclusions.
Like he did , when Ramayana was a hit on Sunday morning Doordarshan television, the only choice we had then. Hanuman was a huge favourite because he flew around with entire mountains when he couldn't find a required medicinal tree . His Pune grandpa had a birthday coming up, and he designed a card with Hanuman in full flow, flying through the clouds, holding aloft a chocolate cake (with lit candles) with grandpa's name on it. It was framed and stood proudly in their living room, for almost 25 years.
Albert Einstein , who talked about many things besides science, supposedly said, "You do not really understand something until you can explain it to your grandmother."
Notice, how grandmothers always understand. Notice how fathers and mothers kind of fade away into the wings, and are nowhere in the picture.
Today, the grandparents are no more, the little boy is not little any more, but he observes, he learns, he studies, analyzes. and when he needs to communicate and seriously explain things, he does something else.
He blogs. Here. :-)