They sat around her plastic throne
For Grandma gave to those who came
Freely from her tiffin boxes
As much as from her braided brain:
One strand domestic tips and hacks,
One strand news of government schemes,
And one strand tales from books and palms
That touched them all, ignoring caste.
Her feet didn’t flinch from shadows of
Washerwomen drinking her tea
Turn by turn in the same flask
Tightly cupped in their starchy hands
That she herself drank out of last,
Preferring her tea not so hot.
They loved her potato wisdom, for
Though she mashed her words like all,
She massaged them in mustard oil
Of proverbs and chopped idioms
Into palatable patties that
They could not help but nod to.
But some days someone burned their tongue
Upon a hidden chilli tale
From her kitchen garden lore
Grown overnight in fertile soil
Of hurt pride ploughed open with
Misspoken words from a cool tongue.
But nonetheless they came again
To Grandma’s grand diwan-e-khaas
Every winter morning that she
Chose to shine around her warmth
Freely to all who chose to come
And praise her for her charity.