MY paternal grandma left a huge impact on my life. She taught me a very valuable lesson. Come to think of it, it’s probably one which she never planned to impress upon me. Born Mas Binti Mentol (literally means gold daughter of lightbulb) my granny was quite a character. Unfortunately for her, my grandmother lost her hearing following a high fever at a very young age.
Perhaps it is because of that Tok Mas, as she’s fondly referred to by her grandchildren, became a real drama queen. Wherever she went drama followed. Looking back I think she behaved the way she did because she didn’t know any better. I guess creating dramas was her only way of controlling a situation. The way I see it, she must have done it out of fear or insecurity.
As someone who couldn't hear, it must have been hard for her to live in a world where she constantly had to second guess what was going on around her. To make it harder she did not know how to read. She was never taught how to.
My grandma who never went to school never understood the fuss about education either, especially for girls. To her, no matter how far a girl went in her studies she would still end up in the kitchen! This was her mantra to her granddaughters.
I was in primary school when Tok Mas moved in with us. I can’t remember what happened but one day, my dad announced that grandma was moving from my aunt’s to ours. It wasn’t exactly the news my sister and I wanted to hear. We weren’t her favourite grandkids.
Apart from being sarcastic, grandma was difficult to please. Back then, I found it hard to see her good side as she seemed to enjoy saying and doing hurtful things.
Living in the same house with grandma was frustrating at times. Due to her hearing problem, communicating with her was rather challenging too. Oftentimes she’d misconstrue what we try to tell her and this often led to some major dramas.
When she didn’t get things her way, she would either vent out her anger at us, cry, or resort to asking my dad to drive her to her other children’s home. Being frequently exposed to dramas, I grew up thinking it was an acceptable thing to do when things didn’t go my way.
It took me many relationships to realise how destructive tantrums and dramas are to relationships. It takes a mature person to accept responsibility and deal with a situation objectively, putting emotions aside.
Looking back, this was the biggest life lesson I learned from my grandma. Ironically, this wasn’t what she spent her time teaching me back then. I hope she’s not too disappointed.
When Tok Mas was living with us, she spent a lot of time teaching my elder sister and the art of housework. One of them was the right way to hang the laundry. Tok Mas told us to give each clothing item a good shake to lessen the creases, before pinning the clothes on to the clotheslines. Subsequently she made us pull the bottom corners to get rid of more wrinkles.
My sister and I spent every afternoon folding laundry with grandma. She was obsessive about making sure that the laundry were wrinkle free before organising them in the cupboards.
I have to say however that my Tok Mas was one amazing woman. She didn’t allow her difficulty to stop her from leading a so-called normal life. To cope with her disadvantage, my grandma taught herself to read lips. I guess it was one way for her to keep up with what was going on around her. Especially since she liked to be in the know.
As a matter of fact she got really good at reading lips that she could pick up on other people’s conversation just from watching the movement of their lips.
I guess that was how she figured out the plot and subplot of the black and white Malay dramas and P. Ramlee movies she saw on television. Every evening after dinner, with the exception of Fridays, she would lie down in front of the tele, with a pillow tucked under her head. Friday evenings are reserved for her Ya-Sin (the 36th ‘chapter’ of the Quran) recital.
For someone who couldn’t hear my grandma could sure talk. In fact it was very hard to stop her, once she started chattering.
My grandma was in her 90s when she passed away in the 1990s. I think about Tok Mas and her quirkiness every now and then . Especially when I perform househould chores. I am glad I had her in my life. Because of her, I have a great appreciation for kind people and honest relationships.The views expressed are entirely the writer's own