Swami's Granny: Character in the Novel - Swami and Friends

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      The second female character in the novel is Swami's granny. She is an old, illiterate, kindly, helpless and non-descript archetypal grandmother. Hardly anybody seems to bother about her when she is sick of stomach-ache. There seems to exist no communication bond between her and her daughter-in-law and also her son (Swami's father). Like a traditional grand-mother in a family, she is of use only to her grandchild. Swami, during his time of leisure, shares the experiences of his school-mates with her. He finds in her a docile patient listener whom he can unhesitatingly scold at his wil. She too enjoys talking to him and relishes telling him things of her past life about her husband (Swami's grandfather).

Swami's granny gets lost in old memories. She has led a simple and non-descript sort of life. She has nothing significant to recount about her personal self. Rather she enjoys, finds satisfaction and sense of self-fulfilment in the worth and achievements of her husband. She loves the merits of her husband more than anything in the world.
Swami's Granny

      She is warm, affectionate and submissive to Swami. A bond of mutual kindliness exists between the two. Swami feels relaxed and relieved of his mind's burden in the company of his granny after his night meal as "with his head on granny's lap, nestling close to her, Swaminathan felt very snug and safe in the faint atmosphere of cardamom and cloves." She is a well of love and a rendezvous of spiritual reassurance for the grandchild. Age and experience have taught her patience. Her sense of concern for the child is greater than for her own self.

      Like any other old woman, Swami's granny gets lost in old memories. She has led a simple and non-descript sort of life. She has nothing significant to recount about her personal self. Rather she enjoys, finds satisfaction and sense of self-fulfilment in the worth and achievements of her husband. She loves the merits of her husband more than anything in the world. The memories of her husband's merits are a valuable treasure with her. She is proud of it. This attitude reiterates the fact that a woman in a middle-class family has no existence of her own. Rather she is only a shadow and a sharer of her husband's image. Swami tells her about Rajam, his new class mate, that he is smart, well-dressed and speaks English. He is the son of Deputy Superintendent of Police and performs brilliantly in studies. In response to it, the granny recounts the old reminiscences about her husband and tells him that he was a powerful Sub-Magistrate in whose office the police force would tremble and the fiercest dacoits of the place would flee. She further adds that his grandfather was very intelligent and bright in studies. While recounting her husband's academic merits, she rambles into old memories saying:

"And then, his answers would be so powerful that his teachers would give him two hundred marks sometimes... When he passed his F.A., he got such a big medal! I wore it as a pendant for years till-when did I remove it? Yes, when your aunt was born... No, it was not your aunt... It was when your father was born.... I remember on the tenth day of confinement No, no, I was right. It was when your aunt was born."

      Swaminathan gets impatient with her for dwelling long on her old memories and scolds her for that. She gently stops speaking and tries to show that she is appreciating what he is telling her about Rajam's adventure ina camp in the forest when he kills a tiger with his hunting gun. Swami doubts that granny is not interested in the incident and perhaps does not believe it. So he says : "Granny, probably you do not believe the tiger incident." Soon she replies soothingly, 'Oh, I believe every word of it. She does not want that the child should feel annoyed. She is self-effacing and submissive before him for the sake of Swaminathan's pleasure. She is illiterate but rich in the knowledge of traditional lore of the Hindu scriptures. She is tradition-bound and plays the role of a typical grand-mother. She tells Swami old tales of good moral teachings. She relates to him the saga of King Harish Chandra who lost and regained his Kingdom, wife and son for the sake of truth.

      She is tolerant, forgiving and lenient towards Swami who at times behaves in a domineering way. She does not take it ill. Once Swami asks for six pies from her. She refuses saying that she has none. But he does not believe it. So, he makes a search of her bed and below her pillows. She asks him: "Why do you want money now? He replies to her domineeringly; If you have what I want, have the goodness to oblige me. if not why ask rutile questions?" She takes his ill-tempered behaviour with: forbearance.

      Despite Swaminathan's occasional peevish, intolerant and domineering behaviour with her, the relationship of mutual sympathy and deep attachment exists between the granny and her grandchild. In his heart of hearts, he is kind, humane and considerate towards her. She is his confidante. The lemon incident reveals Swami's sincere feeling of remorse for this indifference to granny when the latter is writhing with acute stomach-ache. He has just come back from school. He is in a hurry to go to the playground for cricket. Granny asks him to come near her and gives him six ples. She tells him to bring a lemon for her for three pies and to keep another three pies with him for his personal use. She has to take the lemon to relieve her of the acute stomach-ache. She further tells him that he should come back with lemon till she counts ten. Swami feels irritated over it as he cannot afford to lose his cricket play. So, he throws away six pies and runs out. While returning home from the playground in the evening, Swaminathan recollects the acute pain and suffering of his grand-mother and how unkind he has been to her. He feels penitent and reproaches himself for this cruelty and wonders how she might be at that time. Recollecting her pathetic, upturned face and watery eyes', he calls himself a sneak, a thief, an ingrate, and a hard-hearted villain.

      When he reaches back home, unlike his usual habit, he goes to granny's room straightaway in an anxiety to know about her health. He asks her; Granny, how is your pain?" Granny stirs, opens her eyes, and says: "Swami, you have come! Have you had your food?" She feels more concerned about her grand-child's food than about her own condition. She shows no anger or grievance against his indifference and refusal to bring a lemon. She is so forgiving that she replies gently; 'Oh, it is all right. It is all right. But, Swami does not feel satisfied with that answer. He asks her : 'Did you get the lemon?" Though Granny takes no time to answer this question yet it seems to Swami as if an age has passed because he is so much anxious to know the answer. Before she answers, his mind is pestered by probable fears thinking; ... anything might happen, she might say anything, scold him, disown him, swear that she would have nothing more to do with him, say reproachfully that if only he had cared to save her and that she was going to die in a few minutes. But none of his fears comes true. She simply answers: You did right in not going. Your mother had kept a dozen in the kitchen. Swaminathan feels highly relieved by this news.

      The same tolerant temperament of the granny is reiterated in the incident in which Swaminathan tells her that he is called by a nick-name, Tate. Granny is not able to understand as to what Tate is. He becomes impatient with her for her ignorance and tells her with a rebuke that Tate has been a well-known cricketer and his friends call him Tate for his good play. She does not react to his irritable behaviour. Rather she takes it easy. Her cool-headedness and forbearance is very typical of old ladies, Swami is the only wanderer in her world of self-enclosure. She has a deep sense of self-abnegation and finds pleasure in the well-being of her husband and grandson. She symbolises a typically old, unlettered, kindly, and loving woman. She may be ignorant in terms of formal education but she is abundant in knowledge about the ways of the world. She represents the class of old ladies that Narayan has delineated in his various novels.

      Granny is more forgiving, large-hearted and tolerant towards Swami than the mother is to him. Granny chooses to have no complaint against Swami even when she has a reasonable cause for it. Swami feels more comfortable and is more communicative in his granny's company than in his mother's. He shares all sorts of confidence with her and she too relishes recounting to him the old happy things of her past life. Both granny and mother are tradition-bound. They belong to the same class and confine themselves to the four walls of the house. Both of them are satisfied with their role of a homely, submissive, subservient and serviceful household lady. They represent the age-old traditional women of the Indian middle-class family. The male right from birth to death dominates in such a social milieu.

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