I am sure that some of you might be wondering what is paati and to clear your doubt to proceed to read the next line! Paati is grandmother in Tamil. As simple as ABC.
10th May 2014, turned out to be one of my most memorable nights in my life. I met my Tepu’ Bulan. I asked Dan, Project WHEE!'s 2nd coordinator, who is my Tepu then he pointed to a short and plump lady wearing a blue Ambank beanie, blue t-shirt beneath a striped orange sweater and a pair of gray socks. I nodded him with thanks and walked to my Tepu.
Honestly, I was very nervous and told about it to one of my closest friends Jon. I sat on the sofa beside my Tepu and introduced myself. I told her that I am going to be with her for two weeks and she is stuck with me. She laughed! I wanted her to feel comfortable with me and I know that it will take some time. I was patient about it.
|Being nervous...when I first met my tepu!|
At first, Tepu Bulan was shy to talk to me and I know that it is hard for her to come out from her personal bubble. So, I was cracking more jokes with her and other Tepus. Phew! It is quite hard to make jokes when you are nervous. I held her hands and rubbed soothing circles on her palm with my thumb to make her feel that my intentions are sincere and genuine. We instantly clicked and started having normal conversations along with a bunch of my friends.
During my 16 days of spending time with Tepu Bulan, I learnt a lot of things about Tepu. She was so comfortable talking to me and she even shared some of her teenage life secrets. It was interesting and I really did a good job at teasing her about it. My relationship with Tepu became so close that I felt like I have known Tepu Bulan for more than 2 weeks.
I could feel an extremely close grandmother and granddaughter bonding whenever I am with Tepu Bulan. We talked all the time and it never get bored. Some things happen for some reasons and I guess that’s why Tepu Bulan existed in my life. I tried to spend time as much as I can with Tepu as some people say, “treasure the moment when it is still available”.
Teaching Tepu English was completely fun together with Xara and Tepu treated her as her own granddaughter too. I used many drillings and role-plays to keep Tepu Bulan engaged in the learning. Tepu’s English was good enough to communicate with tourists so I just had to tweak her grammar and sentence structure mistakes. I felt like it was my responsibility to keep her happy and making jokes with her even if it makes me look like a fool. Who cares about it man?
One day before sleeping, I was thinking of my past days with Tepu Bulan and I remembered a memorable conversation with her. It goes like this…
Me: “Tepu, what age did you get married?”
Tepu: “I got married when I was 20 years old la Divya!”
Me: “Waaa…so early?? Tepu was it an arranged marriage or love marriage and was Tepu handsome??Haha.
Tepu: “ Eh, arranged marriage la! Nanti bapa tepu pergi jatuh sakit dan pergi hospital la! Ha-ha! When are you going to get married?
Me: “ Haha..urm!ehem!haha! I think when I am 27 years old.
Tepu: “ Ya..ya..Do not get married so early! Will you visit me with your husband and children? Send me you wedding picture ok, I want to keep it in my album.
Me: “ Haiya Tepu! Buat apa nak tunggu lama-lama?! I will come before that and send you a wedding invitation too!
Tepu: “Oh ya! You can spend your honeymoon here! You and your husband can stay at my house. I will cook chicken wings for both of you!Haha.But, you will come to visit me right? Jangan- jangan lepas 2 minggu, lupa tepu pula!
Me: “ Tepu Bulan,I promise punya promise that I never ever forget my doh ribet Kelabit granny at any cost!
Tepu: “God bless you… ”
A simple “God bless you,” sounded so meaningful and I am blessed with it. Not everyone can mean a simple “God bless you” sincerely but I truly felt the sincerity, love and genuine in it. The day before I left Bario, I told to Tepu Bulan that I am going to miss her and gave a bone-crushing hug. I could feel my eyes tearing and she noticed it. She told me “ Divya, don’t cry, we are going to meet soon,we can always call each other ok. Kalau rindu,call je!”
|Me and Tepu at her tapioca farm!|
Previously I only had one grandmother but now I have many and thanks to Project WHEE! for making this to happen. Honestly, I am not saying this to make my piece of writing interesting or to capture the reader’s attention but it is from my heart. Tepu Bulan gave me a Kelabit name, which is Sigang, and she considered me as her eldest granddaughter. So, here comes Divya Sigang Paramasewa! Just throw the “Devi” out from name dude!(hope so la..haha)