Paati was my best friend in my younger days. I grew up with her. She was my maternal grandmother. Appa and Amma were there, but I hardly remember being with them. Both of them were very hardworking and hardly had time for me. Then one day, they decided to go separate ways. Amma stayed on with me and Paati.
Amma was the owner of a beauty parlour. She was meticulous and worked her way to be an entrepreneur. Even though she was occupied with her growing business, she tried her best to spend some time with me. She will come to school to get my yearly progress and spend some time with me over the weekend. The best part with Amma is; she never forgets my birthday.
Paati looked very fun-loving with her all-thick, grey hair. She was always smiling. She had all the time for me. She can sit for hours with me and talk stories. In my growing years, she would feed me nila sooru (feeding rice under the moon) and made me one of the chubbiest boys in my class. I used to be teased by my friends because my perfect vest cannot be buttoned. My friend called me ‘Gunddu Paiyan’ (fatty).
Apart from watching her favourite dramas, I was her world; she used to teach me everything and anything. We used to play chess together and I would ways take away her pawns when she was not looking. I became the district chess champion, thanks to guidance from Paati.
One day, as Paati was drying clothes, she collapsed. Lucky for her, my neighbour, Mr. Ram Lee was outside doing gardening and saw her on the ground. He immediately called the ambulance and Paati was rushed to the hospital. I was informed about the incident after I came home from school, completing my examination paper for that day.
I was devastated. I just sat on the floor and tears rolled down my cheeks. I just cried. Paati always said; “If you cry, you should just cry, don’t try to be macho by controlling your tears.” I realized that it was fine for boys to cry.
I felt like my world had collapsed. My neighbours consoled me. They were very thoughtful. I still had a few more papers to complete for my SPM and didn’t know what to do.
Mr. Ram Lee and his wife took me to the hospital. Amma was already there. Paati was in ICU. She looked terrible with all the machines and wires fixed to her. She was very active and healthy. Why did this happen to her? She was unconscious. The doctor was talking to Amma.
At that moment, I recalled telling Paati about designing her own dream house for her. Will my Paati be around to see her dream home? Will she stay in the house? A lot of thoughts were running in my head.
After three days, I received the news from Amma that Paati had gone to meet her creator. Everyone said that she had a good death as she did not suffer much, but she left me without saying a word. I was really down. I was lost.
Suddenly, my reverie was broken when I heard my name being called. I walked to the stage and was ushered by two beautiful young ladies wearing evening dresses designed by my friend, Mr. Joe Fern.
Before going on stage, I touched the floor. This is something that I always do. My Paati always asked me to do so. It is a sign of respect and being thankful, she said.
I shook hands with the President and he congratulated me. I have been awarded the Best Interior Designer Award for the Year 2018 by the Association of Interior Designers, Malaysia.
Paati, I know you are watching and blessing me from up there. This award is for you.
Cover image by Synthia Snider. The copyright of SHORT STORY | Prayers From Above belongs to Anuradha Chelliah.
Tags: Anuradha Chelliah