I have never forgotten my grandmothers smell, the smell of old age, of soft skin, her favorite sandalwood soap and a particular brand of talcum powder.
On many afternoons I rushed back from school straight into her lap. My pony tails were loose, my shirt crumpled, and stains of an eventful day at class all too visible. I was never reprimanded for being naughty, dirty or unkempt. I was never asked to change my clothes quickly, eat sleep, play or study. Instead my unending, halting tales of what happened at school- a fight, an upcoming debate, a school play, an exciting experiment, a trip ahead would get a patient indulgence.
Lunch was always accompanied by an Akbar Birbal story, some had been repeated scores of times, but the excitement with which they were recited made it seem that this old tale could have a new ending. When the stories of the King and his trusted advisor became too repetitive, my grandmother dug into her own treasure trove of experiences-a train journey with her sisters, how she became a doctor, how she started her nursing home, her first frog dissection, of how her mother encouraged her to conquer the world and how I could do that as well.
She remained always a little bit of a parent, a little bit teacher and a little bit of best friend. I often wonder how even as the years passed and age overtook, her lap was never small for me nor I ever too big for it.