I took Kanthi nanda (nanda means ‘aunty’ in Sinhala) to the dentist today. She is my mother’s cousin and has been living with us since I was born. So that’s a good 50 years. She moved in to live with me when I had my own children. Both my husband and I worked, so she was a great blessing in our busy lives. She took over the house. I was more than happy to hand it over. I was very much interested in continuing to work. Work gave me opportunities to travel. I was off to some Asian destination almost every three months. Kanthi nanda and my mother-in-law made sure the kids were well looked after. I felt incredibly blessed. I still do.
Kanthi nanda is 74 years old now. She is still the queen of the castle. Toothless, and beloved. Why toothless? Because she cannot control her love for sweets. According to her unique wisdom, teeth are a small price to pay in the grand scheme of things.
The photograph is of her last year, as she licked off the best chocolate icing that only she can make.
What struck me most about her teeth saga was that she never complained. She has only seven teeth now because we took out four. What happened to all the rest? She had taken them out because she was too scared to fill them. I didn’t know. Or I don’t remember. I was too busy with my life. When I think of her quiet determination, I remember my maternal grandmother, Charlotte. She lived 93 years, toothless in the last couple of decades of her life, and always smiling. She never complained either. So graceful and at peace with the world. I realize that I like their ways very much.