Our Nani embodied joy.
She was a girl, with a capital G-I-R-L, sneaking cosmetics between her house and school, even all those years ago. Born to a powerful mother in a line of legendary women, she was an exquisite, self-aware youth with a dramatic birthmark, Asiatic cheekbones, grand lips and fine hair. Her natural beauty became stunning over time, and her life a fashion parade: Sosamma was go-go glasses and polka dots and gold and glam and chiffon, famously executing more outfit changes than brides at their own weddings. Why such excess? Well, why not?
She lived in a constant state of celebration — oblivious to the way ordinary people considered, rationed, measured, doled-out, and quietly existed — evincing out-of-box thinking at its purest.
She was smart. She was in college when she met Daniel Thangam, who had come down from Bombay to find a simple Kerala girl but left with the sensation that was Sosamma. When she went to the big city she embraced the place and all it had to teach her, from exotic cookeries to fashion and music, silk painting, dance.
She was clever. She was uproariously funny. She would crack eggs with her thumb. If we were jet-lagged and hungry in the middle of the night, she would take us to the kitchen with one eye open and grate coconut and warm pani and whip up, literally, the most elaborate crepes ever consumed by children at midnight, all while telling stories about our Mama that made us laugh until we coughed and cried. She knew to smile sweetly at the right time, while whispering the truth with an ironic glint in her eye. And if she was telling a story, or a secret you didn’t want shared, and you just felt enough was enough (but she did not) she could look at you innocently, cutely, even a tad indignantly and ask why-ever did you continue to kick her under the table?
She was joyful, downright exuberant, with a natural curiosity bordering on restlessness. One moment she was in Kottayam, but then she was in Mysore, Coimbatore, Canada — before landing in one place, scouring her diary for the number of a cousin in the next place. She would pursue happiness and sensory pleasure even when the logic of common folk dictated against it. And for this reason, she was never possessed of that particular jealousy that afflicts small-town women: If she wanted something, she would simply go and get it. A hat, a shoe, a scarf, a car. Even if she didn't drive. When the whole world was falling down, she might take you to see a palace, or to learn fishing or swimming or tabla, or to buy a baby lamb to fill your empty summer days because what was the use of sitting? What was the use of moping when you could spend that time seeing the circus or sculpting flowers, going sailing, or painting a myriad tiny clay pots?
Nani taught us to love life and love every lush sensation the world could offer, but most of all, she encouraged us to love ourselves. She told us that we were born stars and made us the center of every fairy tale and told us that we were going to go to big places and do exciting things, marry meaningful people who would adore us even more profoundly than she — was that even possible? We achieved some of those grand plans with her help, and she paved the way for us with every resource in her means, even if that resource was the simple power of magical thinking. Each one she had a part in raising believes that he is a rather big deal and has some trouble reconciling with a real world that needs a little more convincing than she did. Sosamma Thangam leaves four children — Nirmala, Vinod, Sindha, and Honey — and six grandchildren — Michelle, Crystal, Cherie, Michael, Zefania, and Daniel.
We all miss her terribly and look forward to seeing her in a new world where her joy will achieve the pinnacle of its perfection.