Sitting on the front porch in an arm chair was one of granny’s favourite pastimes. Not that the view was great – but she loved all the attention she got from passersby who would greet her by calling her “chechi” – as in elder sister in Malayalam. So thirty something men and women who lived in the neighbourhood addressing her by “chechi did wonders to her ego, and you can actually see her face light up. She even mentioned casually to me about how the whole village thinks she looks so young for her age. I usually have the “no comments” look on my face when someone’s ego does the talking. Also she thought of this as an opportunity to catch up on the various gossips that float around in the village. Over the years it became hard to imagine our home without granny on the front porch trying to grab some attention.
Years later I found out that the tradition still continued when I came back to India after high school to write the Kerala State Entrance Exam. Preparations were on full swing with me signing up for entrance exam coaching which involved trips to town where the classes were held – and this immediately opened up possibilities of exploring the numerous movie theatres around town. It was just a matter of running into the right group of friends ( or “mites” as Aussies would call them :-P ) before we started seeing a movie every other day. Also this was when I got introduced to the world of dodgy noon shows .. don’t let me get into that now.
So soon the talk of the village was “mon ( a not so cute name for son in Mallu ) and his entrance exams” thanks to granny and her gossip friends. So every morning she would make announcements to passersby on how well “mons’s” preps are going for entrance exams and how he is hoping to score a good rank. My mum who knew better would try to shut her up but in vain. This became a regular routine for a month..
After a month of solid preparations the big day arrived. The Kerala State Entrance Exam! and granny decided to accompany me to the exam centre. We started off in her white Ambassador with Mercedes Benz wheel caps (Yes! granny had a souped up car). She asked the driver to slow down at every house nearby so she could inform them that “mon” is off to write the exam today. I was in the front seat trying to hide my face in embarrassment, one, because I hated being referred to as “mon” and second because I had a vague idea about how the results would turn out. I slid down in my seat as far as I could.
What I loved the most about entrance exams was the fact that they were all multiple choice and I had one in four chances to get it right and with my common sense I could narrow it down to one in three which I thought was pretty good.
Soon the results were going to be out and I was busy trying to find colleges in Bangalore because that was further away from home and Blore was much more a happening place than Kerala. Granny had taken down my registration number so she can check the results in the local newspaper first thing in the morning as she is usually up before sun rise. On judgement day I got up late as usual and came out to the front porch to have coffee and get some fresh air... but something seemed wrong! The chair was empty. Granny was nowhere to be seen.
Apparently I managed to get a rank of 4000 something in the entrance exam in a world where anything above 1000 was considered pretty crappy and I would not get into any of the decent colleges. I already had Bangalore in sight. What I had done with my performance was break Granny’s 15 year old habit of sitting on the porch and gossiping away to glory. To save face she had to stay indoors for a few days and make limited appearances in public till all the talk of the entrance exams died out. I noticed on a few occasions how she avoided any talk remotely related to academics lest the question of entrance exams and “mon’s” rank came up. Those were tough times for poor old lady.
“Mon” did finally attend an Engineering College and he even managed to roller coaster his way through attaining a BTech within the allotted four years. Both of granny’s daughters were brilliant in studies and were rank holders frequently during their academic life, so I do sympathize with grandmother as none of her grand children lived up to her expectations. One passed away a while back at the age of 24, another one has taken solace in religion and finally the prodigal ‘grand’son, somewhere down under, has limited achievements that she can boast off sitting in that arm chair in front of the house. The fatted calf survives.