Sunrise November 4, 1935 – Sunset August 6, 2012
Stepping out of the attic facing the top of the staircase I struggle to keep a stack of toys within my grip. I slowly inch one little foot onto the next step. I can barely see the end of the stairs.
With much concentration I reach halfway down the stairs but suddenly one foot trips in front of the other. In a split second my toys and my little body come crashing down the stairs.
My Grandma turns around and looks at me face down on the floor, my arms and legs sprawled out, and my toys scattered around me.
She stretches out her hand and offers to help me up.
Then she says, “Kameel, take your time and peel your pine.”
Last year I wrote an article in tribute to my Grandma titled “Our Female Sages” It was published on August 6, 2011. This year on August 6, 2012 my Grandma passed away.
I had no knowledge that my Grandma wouldn’t be with me exactly the year after my article about her was published but I have taken it as a symbol that time was always on my Grandma’s side.
Sometimes I wonder how was my Grandma so successful at being a Grandma. I think the answer is she always made time for herself and for others. In my home, anytime a pamper needed to be changed, a tear wiped, or a warm smile offered she was there.
My Grandma lived with me, my parents, and my two sisters for nearly two decades. Growing up I became accustomed to hearing her cassettes playing the tunes of Hindu bhajans every morning.
When I was five, I had stomachaches that only she could treat with hot black tea and sugar but really it was her comfort and understanding that helped me the most.
Food was always given with a smile, the gentle force of her hospitality, and with a tale.
Saijan baji she said would, “Help me see better” and pumpkin would “make me smarter”–it was those tales that would cast a giggle on me and my sister’s faces. We would always wonder if she really meant it or if she was just trying to get me to eat. Nevertheless food became a way for my Grandma to teach us the lesson she would never feel full until we were.
She reminded us even though we were girls to “take your book seriously” Her dream as a young girl to become a teacher was not exactly fulfilled but she taught me and my sisters to make the most of our education, help in the house, and be a part of Hindu culture.
Underneath every piece of wisdom she gave us was her mark of a good person–to love yourself no matter what wrong you do and love your parents no matter how old you are.
She was born in Plantation Albion in Guyana and her roots from late parents Betty and Arron Erriah were of strength, tenacity, and passion. My Grandma was an intelligent student in Guyana but was married at the tender age of sixteen and later had six children.
At thirty my Grandma became a single mother due to the death of her husband. She was faced with the challenge of feeding six mouths and ensuring a safe roof over her children. She took on the task by becoming a rice vendor selling in the marketplace–measuring dozens of twenty gallon bags of rice each day.
After her children grew up and were acclimated, my Grandma moved to New York City in 1984. She took care of her grandchildren but never stayed confined to the home. She visited all parts of Europe, United States, and the Caribbean while encouraging other family members to come along for the ride too.
It was in this time of her life that she witnessed some wonders of the world–something very few are able to. Yet with all of her travels she still made trips back to Guyana to host annual jhandis at her home.
My Grandma was able to do all of this within her seventy-six years of life. In her words she “took her time and peeled her pine” Even in the last few months that she lived she reminded me to do just the same.
As an adult I am always in a hurry to do things, to be successful, to make sure I get a chance to try everything even if I can’t see what is at the end of the stairs. But my Grandma was able to do so much in no hurry at all and I’m sure she will rise to her final destination.
My Grandma passed away this past Monday August 6th 2012 in her own bed at home. Her hands were loosely clasped with a murti of Lord Krishna by her side.