‘You’ve raised a failure, Vaishu Ma.’ My voice was shaking with a weird mix of anger and grief.
My grandmother advanced towards me to take me into an apologetic hug, but I walked away wrathfully and slammed the door shut. Fury changed within the four walls of my room into tears that blinded my vision. I buried my face into a pillow and cried. I was in the solitary confinement of my failure until I heard a knock at the door ten minutes later.
‘Bala?’ her voice was hesitant as she knocked again softly.
I didn’t reply. My face was still buried into a pillow and my eyes were burning due to the acidic fusion of tears and Kaajal. The door clicked open and I heard the soft tinkling of her anklets as she walked in and sat beside me.
‘You lied to me when you said I was the most talented writer you ever knew, didn’t you?’ I wailed.
‘I can’t hear you’ she said ingenuously. ‘Your voice is muffled by the pillows.’
‘I didn’t let you come in to mock at me, Okay?’ I snapped.
‘Okay.’ She said. It was my cue to continue.
‘I’m so angry I could kill somebody!’ I collapsed into her lap and broke down again. ‘What do I do with my life now?’
‘You should drink some coffee.’ She finished with a serious note.
That’s the thing about Vaishu Ma. According to her, there wasn’t a problem that can’t be fixed by a strong cup of perfectly brewed filter coffee or a dire mood that can’t be lifted by an Ilayaraja tune. Ironically, it was that attitude that helped me get out my fourth rejection letter from a publishing company.
A few minutes later, I was sitting on the couch, my eyes still wet, my face hued due to the washed off make up and my heart filled with the aromatic warmth of the coffee I held in my hands.
‘Failure is just a stripping away of the inessential’ she said as mashed up some creamy curd rice for dinner. I smiled a teary smile as she quoted J.K.Rowling.
I had managed to infest a sixty year old south Indian senior citizen with my fandom feelings.
But Vaishu Ma wasn’t like any other sixty year old grandmother. She was the epitome of Darwin’s theory of natural selection, continuously evolving with the times. She was always in with the trend and she raised me full time as both my parents were working. She grew up with me, living my obsessions and having an opinion about everything I liked or disliked. I was into my teens when I made the transition from Fairy tales to YA novels that had sparkly vampires on the cover.
My parents were skeptical about the sudden adult feelings of supernatural infatuation that had taken over me. But Vaishu Ma handled that phase perfectly. Being an extensive reader herself, she perfectly understood the harmless feelings of a fan girl. In fact she was the one who helped my parents silently walk away when I started hysterically crying after Dumbledore died and made me some coffee.
Here I was, five years later, lamenting over a rejected novel that I had put my heart and soul into. I grabbed my shiny new laptop, turned it on, and opened my facebook page.
‘Your new obsession.’ she sighed as she sat beside me.
The rain was lashing loudly against the windows when I woke up the next morning. It was only the first day of the winter holidays and I had no idea how I was going to cope with the idea that I was big failure for twenty more days.
‘Vaishu Ma, Where’s my coffee?’ I yawned as I walked into the kitchen, hoping to find her. It was still dark and my parents were asleep. The kitchen was empty, but I knew my Vaishu ma was up as I saw the lights were already on.
But I found Vaishu Ma in a very unusual place.
There she was, with a steaming cup of coffee in her hands, at my study table. Her face was blank and expressionless as she had the laptop opened out in front of her and the black screen starred back at her. There they were, the two of them starring into each other while I watched her run her hands through the keyboard.
‘Coffeeeeeeeeee! Pleaaaase!’ I was starting to get cranky.
She left the table and returned in a few minutes with a hot cup of coffee. I took it gratefully and she sat beside me, her eyes glued to the computer.
‘Bala, how do you turn this thing on?’ she questioned wide eyed.
I drained the last sip in as I pointed at the power button and gestured her to switch it on. Once she did, the screen lit up.
‘Will you teach me?’ she said with her eyes still wide.
I gave her a thirty minute lecture on how it worked. I gave her all the software and hardware instructions. I wasn’t on teaching mode, but I gave her as much a tutorial as my crappy mood allowed me to. But I started losing my patience once the caffeine started wearing out.
‘Vaishu Ma, that’s all there is to know.’ I muttered. ‘Any questions?’
‘Yeah’ she sounded genuinely confused. ‘Why aren’t the keys arranged in proper alphabetic order?’
I was completely flabbergasted that I started hitting my head on desk.
‘No, Vaishu ma.’
‘Can’t a girl grieve in peace here?’ I screeched. My patience was withering. ‘My novel got rejected and I can’t give you internet lessons right now!’
The hard feelings were starting to rise again as the word rejected slipped out my mouth. My heart throbbed with pain as I realized that it was what I really was. A rejected girl with a rejected talent. Vaishu Ma stood there, sharing the mournful silence. The tears rose again. I sunk into her lap and allowed myself to cry.
‘I’m sorry. That was harsh.’ I whimpered through the sobs.
‘Darling, better days will come’ she was stroking my hair. Tears dripped down my eyes and blotted her saree. I could never share her optimism.
‘No matter what I do, or where I go, I find so many walls up that I can’t break through.’ I wept.
‘It’s okay if you can’t break them.’ She said. ‘You can shine your way through. Because honey, that’s what diamonds do. They shine. ‘
With her brilliant therapy, I spent the rest of my holidays starting on a fresh plot with a fresh attitude. I locked myself up in my room eighteen hours a day that I had no idea what the rest of the family was up to. I cut myself out of all sources of distractions.
‘I can’t believe what you’ve done to my mother’ my dad was ranting as he walked up to my room for a chat. ‘I was okay with the Barbie obsession and even the witches / wizards phase I had managed to live through.’
I was in the middle writing the climax (which involved the murder of my protagonist’s best friend) when he had walked in that I hardly understood any of it.
‘But this!’ he continued with a shocked expression pasted on his face. ‘The two of you are driving the house crazy.’
‘Huh?’ I finally looked up from the computer, having finished the killing. ‘What?’
‘Oh, don’t you know?’ he asked slightly taken aback.
‘Apparently, your Vaishu Ma is a viral phenomenon on twitter now.’
I was shocked. I knew there wasn’t any possibility of that happening. I knew my dad was pulling my leg. I seized my laptop and signed into twitter.
You know those moments in movies where people start crying because they are overwhelmed with joy? Well, I’ve never had them.
All along my life, I had cried because I was hurt or depressed or tired of falling down or frustrated. Tears of sorrow that made my heart bleed were all that I been used to. But Vaishu Ma made me shed those happy tears for the first time in forever.
I didn’t know how she had mastered the internet in such a short span of time. She had set up her personal blog, her very own facebook page and a twitter account. It was all full of canny posts and beautiful compilations of sketches from her life. But I wasn’t surprised. Vaishu Ma was a shrewd lady with the survival skills of a tiger shark.
She had a people’s reach of more than a million. And she had talked a lot about me. She had an umpteen number of sincere followers. For a minute, I contemplated of a place where we can put the vast audience to good use. She echoed my thoughts.
‘You can now self publish your new novel and still reach a million readers.’ I hear her soft voice from behind. ‘Now nobody has the right to reject your work other than yourself. ’
She wrapped her arms around my shoulders and kissed me on the fore head. I was proud of her. My eyes welled up when I read the caption beneath her blog.
‘Experienced in raising Super Stars. Not Failures.’
Yes, sometimes, Life’s definitely sweeter than fiction.
Before you assume that we lived happily ever after, let me warn you about the possible dangers of introducing your grandmother to social networking. A week after I signed my publishing contract, this happened.
‘Bala?’ Vaishu Ma called out.
‘Meet Charan.’ She gleamed as she pointed out to the facebook profile of a nerdy looking guy. ‘He works as a research assistant in Belgium.’
Oh no. Oh no no no! I was screaming inside of my mind. I knew where we were heading with this. Vaishu ma was into her most favorite social domains. Her eyes were sparkling with excitement as she started the match making process. But loosing my temper in front of her would be a bad idea.
‘Vaishu ma, I don’t like Scientists.’ I replied emphasizing the on the don’t. ‘Or NRI guys’
‘Okay then.’ She gave me a cool reply. ‘Make a list of the things you like and I will find your soul mate.’
I scowled all the way back to my room.
Grandmas don’t tweet. But when they do, it’s an out of the world experience that is sure to send you down, feeling like a toothless elf.