Once Abba took her to a fancy restaurant to have a meal and I mean really fancy – with a violinist plucking at his strings while they ate a meal too expensive for their meager earnings. The bill arrived and Abba pretty much spent his entire salary on it. They didn’t have any money for the bus back home. They trudged through the snow and Dadima’s feet turned blue. When she chided him for his indiscretion, he laughed it off saying – You live only once! The rest of the month they had to survive on potatoes and little else. Which explained her hatred for potatoes in her later years. She probably consumed a lifetime's worth of potatoes in those few years in England.
Don’t be fooled by Dadima’s illness and think she spent all her time in bed. I was most astonished to hear that she was the President of a committee for Indians living in England. But that’s her-full of surprises.
How Abba managed work, studies, and an ailing wife is beyond me. But he did and later landed a job at Shell Oil Company in Bombay. Dadima and Abba returned and took their son, who was spoilt rotten by his grandparents, to Matunga where they set up their home. The young maid Thankam, who took care of young Ravi, tagged along, because the child hardly recognized his parents.
From then on her life was easy. They could afford maids, cooks, and chauffeurs and lived in company bungalows. Her days were spent managing the servants and the home and nights at official dinner parties. It is hard for me to imagine my grandma having a drink and chatting with Russian ladies or waltzing on the dance floor. But remnants of her past made it to Chennai with her. When I dug through her closet, I’d find a tap dancing heeled slipper or a black and white picture of her dancing with a man I didn’t know. Her old silk blouses lay concealed in the back of her closet but told stories of a time when she dressed up for parties and entertained.
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