Tiny's Granny

  • 10 Aug - 16 Aug, 2019
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Fiction

At times she would laugh and cry hysterically, at times talk to herself, then suddenly, for no reason, break into a smile. Then out of the darkness some old recollection would hurl its spear at her, and like a sick dog howling in a half human voice, she would rouse the whole muhalla with her cries.

Two days passed this way, and the people of the muhalla gradually began to feel sorry for what they had done. After all, no one had the slightest need for any of these things. They had disappeared years ago, and though there had been weeping and wailing over them at the time, they had long since been forgotten. It was just that they themselves were no millionaires, and sometimes on such occasions a mere straw weighs down upon you like a great beam. But the loss of these things had not killed them. Shabban’s quilted jacket had long since lost any ability to grapple with the cold, and he couldn’t stop himself growing up while he waited for it to be found. Hasina had long felt she was past the age for wearing a bodice. Of what use to Munni were her doll’s baggy trousers? She had long passed the stage of playing with dolls and graduated to toy cooking pots. And none of the people of the muhalla were out for Granny’s blood.

In the old days there lived a giant. This giant’s life was in a big black bee. Across the seven seas in a cave there was a big chest, and in it another chest, and inside that was a little box, in which there was a big black bee. A brave prince came and first he tore off the bee’s legs and, by the power of the spell, one of the giant’s legs broke. Then the prince broke another leg, and the giant’s other leg broke. And then he crushed the bee, and the giant died.

Granny’s life was in the pillow, and the monkey had torn the enchanted pillow with his teeth, and so thrust a red-hot iron bar into Granny’s heart.

There was no sorrow in the world, no humiliation, no disgrace, which fate had not brought to Granny. When her husband died and her bangles were broken, Granny had thought she had not many more days to live; when Bismillah was wrapped in her shroud, she felt certain that this was the last straw on the camel’s back. And when Tiny brought disgrace upon her and ran away, Granny had thought that this was the death-blow.

From the day of her birth onwards, every conceivable illness had assailed her. Small pox had left its marks upon her face. Every year at some festival she would contract severe diarrhea.

Her fingers were worn to the bone by years of cleaning up other people’s filth, and she had scoured pots and pans until her hands were all pitted and marked. Some time every year she would fall down the stairs in the dark, take to bed for a day or two and then start dragging herself about again. In her last birth Granny surely must have been a dog-tick; that’s why she was so hard to kill. It seemed as though death always gave her a wide berth. She’d wander about with her clothes hanging in tatters, but she would never accept the clothes of anyone who had died, nor even let them come into contact with her. The dead person might have hidden death in the seams to jump out and grab the delicately nurtured Granny. Who could have imagined that in the end it would be the monkeys who would settle her account? Early in the morning, when the water carrier came with his water skin, he saw that Granny was sitting on her haunches on the steps. Her mouth was open and flies were crawling in the corners of her half closed eyes.

People had often seen Granny asleep just like this, and had feared she was dead. But Granny had always started up, cleared her throat and spat out the phlegm, and poured out a shower of abuse on the person who had disturbed her. But that day Granny remained sitting on her haunches on the stairs. Fixed in death, she showered continuous abuse upon the world. Through her whole life she had never known a moment’s ease and wherever she had laid herself down there had been thorns. Granny was shrouded just as she was, squatting on her haunches. Her body had set fast, and no amount of pulling and tugging could straighten it.