The Zany Granny
'Yeah of course, sweetheart! Give me five minutes to finish packing these tiffins.' Granny Harman Preet Kaur-Bebe to most of her family, friends, neighbors-replied with a lilt in her voice.
This was a time she would not miss for anything-her drive with her grand daughter was special. It was just their 'our' time-unchecked, unhindered-when joyous chatter and laughter flowed free like the rivulet nearby.
Clara aka Kulpreet Kaur had come to meet her granny for the first time in six years of her birth. She lived in Montreal where her Dad and Granny's son Hardeep Singh aka Harry had gone in search of better work opportunities. He had soon found work in a motel as a cook and his honesty and diligence had helped him rise to the position of manager within two years. He had first met Charmaine at a pub where they had been partying with their respective friends. They had soon fallen in love, got married and settled down into happy matrimony. Hardeep had set up his own little cafe by then and the initial struggle in managing the cafe and loan repayments had meant he couldn't invite any of his folks from his 'pind', his hometown for his wedding-not even his 'Bebe'.
Charmaine had lost her parents in a car accident a few years ago and had worked her way to survival. She was delighted to have a home and family again and was a fabulous wife and companion to Hardeep. She helped him cook, clean, get groceries, serve customers in the cafe despite her pregnancy. She had seen Hardeep's family and home in pictures but she had never felt any need to interact with his folks, not even on phone when Hardeep made his once in three months call to them. Although Hardeep had a hotel management degree yet she didn't harbor a high opinion about his family. They appeared to be simple people with a modest background and did not look much educated from their shabby and garish clothes. They had even stopped mingling with other Punjabi migrants because Charmaine detested their loud mannerisms.
Knowing her disinclination, Hardeep had also never insisted that she talk with his family.
Then Clara was born and they got busier than ever. Charmaine had to give much of her time to nursing and tending to her needs and was left with very less time or energy to work as much at the cafe as she did earlier. Although Hardeep kept assuring her that he was managing it fine and she need not worry yet the truth was that business was not as good as earlier. Many new restaurants and cafes had opened up and were offering steep discount offers to cut others out of business.
He had never been home after his wedding and even his phone calls back home had dwindled to almost once in six months by now.
Clara started school in a couple of years and Charmaine could returne to work but busy as they were in reviving the sagging fortunes of their cafe, they would get very little time with Clara. She would watch families in cartoons and movies and wonder why she didn't have grandparents coming over to meet them. Charmaine herself had scant information about her in-laws and had told her that her grandparents were simple people who lived in an obscure village in India. They had never been out of their town let alone traveling abroad. They spoke only their native language and couldn't understand the English they spoke in Canada. His mother was most likely a rustic women with weird ways of life. She would be spending most of her time praying to their Wahe Guru and gossiping with other vain women.
Clara who had seen her father revert to some rustic Punjabi whenever he had Indian customers at the cafe, retorted,'But Mom, I find Indians very charming and warmhearted. Why do you always speak so negatively about my grandparents and India? My friend in school has been to India and she says it's an amazing place. I also wanna go and meet our folks there!' Charmaine tried to convince Clara about the dirt and squalor in backward India but she was insistent.
Then one night Hardeep received a phone call from his mother. His father had had a heart attack and was admitted in hospital. This time Hardeep couldn't stop himself. He had rushed home. Charmaine had to relent when Clara insisted on accompanying her father to meet her grandparents.
Clara aka Kulpreet had hit it off with her Granny instantly. Granny was certainly not what Mom had told her. She spoke English even if it was a bit broken and in a funny accent. And she also drove the giant machine.
'When did you learn to drive this, Granny?' Clara was overawed when she first saw her granny manoeuvre the massive tractor expertly. It had become their daily ritual to go on a drive in the tractor. Clara had declared on the very first day that she loved it's rattling sound and the green countryside.
'When I was a little older than you, my doll. In my spare time after school I used to help my father in his fields.' Granny Harman Preet replied to Clara's non stop questions and prattle with infinite patience. Clara followed her everywhere like a pet puppy...to the massive kitchen, to her library, to the Gurudwara, to the hospital where her Dad and Mom were looking after her grandpa. He was recovering fast and was expected to be discharged from hospital soon.
'Why do these dirty children come to help you in your kitchen? And why do you cook so much food, Granny? We are so few people at home then who would eat all this?' she looked at the humongous vessels in amazement.
'Hush! Don't call them dirty, Kulpreet. They are poor and can't afford fancy clothes like you but their clothes are clean. And they are self-respecting children who prefer to work instead of begging for survival.' Granny chided her.
'I cook this food for children, my dear. It's to be distributed as mid-day meal in the government school where they study. And I employ these children so that they can help their families with the money I pay them. From here they go to school and get to eat the food they have helped cook themselves.' Granny explained.
'But why do you need to do this work? You don't need this money, do you?' Clara was perplexed.
'No sweetheart, I don't need the money. But these youngsters do need it. It's a small village, you see, with limited employment opportunities so they will need to go out in search of work when they grow up and I believe the skill of cooking, health and hygiene and English speaking along with their regular education will empower them in becoming self-sufficient. Just like it helped your Dad in a foreign land. That's the least I can do for these children with my limited education and means, my dear.' Harman Preet switched off the gas and wiped off sweat with a clean face towel just as the familiar sound of the family car announced the homecoming of her husband with their son and daughter-in-law..
Clara ran out to welcome them as Granny followed her slowly.
'Granny is super awesome, Mom! Clara hugged her Grandpa and gushed, 'She's so intelligent and kind. She teaches those poor kids cooking and helps them earn money. She helps them speak English too, Mommy. She's not weird, you see!'
Charmaine bent down to pick her up and moved towards Granny. 'Indeed, sweetheart. Your granny is truly limited edition!' and she hugged both in a tight embrace.