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Brand ‘Grandma'

Their recipes are celebrated, and home-made face pack, lapped up. They watch over grandchildren online and bond with them during visits abroad. Grandmas never had it so good, says GEETA PADMANABHAN

PHOTO: S.R. RAGHUNATHAN

NOTHING COMPARES To spending time with grandma

‘Grandma' must be a glamorous word. How else do you explain the headline ‘Indian-origin grandmother is Trinidad and Tobago's first woman PM'. Never heard of a grandpa who had such luck with a headline!

So, is referring to a dignitary as a grandmother a sinister pointer that her place is at the kitchen? Or, is it a celebration of a rare happening? Looks like the glass is half-full. In the new century, grandma has moved into a deserved spotlight. “I am grateful for the immense support and to the extent this helps break the barriers so many competent women face,” said PM-elect Kamla Persad-Bissessar, whose forefathers migrated to T&T nearly 150 years ago.

A new lease if life

Grandmas today are doing well for themselves. Think of it — everything she said, used, and stood for is now marketable merchandise. Amused dadimas across the nation watch their recipes win cooking contests, published in glossy cookbooks, and become restaurant brands. Her kaimurukku remains unrivalled, as is her kadi or curry-leaf chutney. And, then there's, of course, her post-natal diet that helps women regain their shape.

Her beauty tips are a billion-rupee industry. Product labels proudly market sandalwood/green gram/almond powders with milk to remove pigmentation, the banana-honey-green gram powder face pack, the lemon juice-egg-white mix for face lift… Egg-and-oil massage to help hair shine, lettuce juice to make the skin oil-free… And, who first told you buttermilk was a skin toner, hibiscus, a shampoo, dried cucumber fibre, a depilatory, and that neem-leaf extract and lemon juice kill dandruff? Grandma's wisdom is tried and tested, chemical-free and cost-effective.

Ah, her jewellery!The hand-crafted jewellery, made of kemp, green and blue stones, were heirlooms that often came wrapped in family history. Stores now have sections for imitations of the chunky pieces she wore half a century ago, following their comeback as “authentic” classical. Her addigai (choker), maattal (ear-chain) and brooches are on every bride's want list. Look at the old family photograph where she stands shyly behind her husband. Her balloon blouse is back in vogue. And, the pure silk sari with the golden border never went out of style. Welcome, brand grandma!

But, of course, there's more to her than just marketable products and unparalleled style — the emotional quotient. It is to her you go to trace your roots; it's in the comforting folds of her soft sari that you buried your tears, as a kid; it's her unconditional affection that pushed you to find lost self-esteem...

She had a saying or a short story to solve every problem; she was our first counsellor — she asked us to work hard, play about with rangoli, walk around the temple, wash our face well, not eat food from the shops, not litter, be polite, do handwork, speak softly... And, she was right, right? And, that's only the tip of her brand value. Much more lies behind those kind eyes, waiting to be tapped. Small wonder Connie Stevens, actor, director and founder of skincare line Forever Spring, recently sold her New York apartment to spend more time with her grandchildren in California!

Our paa tis keep a watchful eye on their grandchildren abroad over Skype, dole out advice over e-mails and bond through annual visits, even while pursuing a life of their choice back home. The grandma never had it so good.

And, she's also been written about. Kamala Das' Grandmother's House is about the all-pervading presence of her grandmother in her ancestral house. Khushwant Singh bids a touching farewell to his grandmother in his essay The Portrait of a Lady.

Thousands of bloggers have shouted their virtual ‘hoorays' to their grandmothers.

Writes Krish Ashok about his remarkable paati: “She lived her entire life with a sense of wonder. She was alive to possibilities. She played along (with tradition), but was a woman who enjoyed MS Subbulakshmi while secretly admiring Michael Jackson… I will only remember her for the vastness of her knowledge and her boundless curiosity.”

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