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“Let’s order Chinese today. The kids love it, no?”, my 75-year grandmother (fondly known as ‘avva’) asked my mother as she ambled into the living room. Her white cotton sari had colourful polka dots embroidered at regular intervals — they reminded me of a packet of Gems or Smarties (as some may call it).

“Yes! We want noodles!”, my little brother and I announced unanimously as we plopped next to our grandmother on the sofa. “Great, let’s order Chinese!”, avva chimed in as she smiled at me.

Little did we know that in fact, it was avva who was craving Chinese, and was mischievously shielding herself against any further questions from the other elders in the family. She was diabetic, and the doctors had asked her to follow an unerring diet.

However, you may want to tighten your seat belt as you read the next sentence, Avva loved drinking Coca Cola. (Even as I am typing this sentence, I just cannot help but giggle in reminiscence). She was like a naughty little kid in the body of a 75-year-old — constantly tricking us with her clever words.

As soon as the aromatic parcel of food arrived, we took our seats at the dinner table as my father switched the television off (the rule was — no TV during dinner). Before we knew it, avva whispered into my ears, “Just pass me some noodles?” and avoided eye-contact with everyone within her radius.

As an 8-year-old, I chuckled and made a clumsy attempt to serve some spicy noodles on her plate. Within moments, the noodles disappeared, and she exclaimed, “Very nice”, in Telugu. My brother and I smirked, exchanged another look and repeated, “Yes, we love it. Thanks, avva!”

Mischief Managed

In the evening, when it was just the two of us at home — I was buried in math homework as avva watched a Tamil serial on Sun TV. During the ad break, she took a few seconds to pick herself off the sofa and began walking toward the kitchen. Despite the clamorous TV advertisements, I heard avva popping the fridge open and suddenly caught a familiar sound. One that we all know — the fizzy sound of a Coca Cola bottle being opened.

I tiptoed into the kitchen and captured a sight of avva chugging a few sips of Coke from a steel glass (she would always suspend the glass in the air even when she drank water, and this time, it was Coke)! I screamed, “Avvaaa! You are not supposed to drink this or else, you will have to eat more medicines!”

Calmly, avva added, “Oh, not at all. I had just a few sips … very nice.” I was only a little girl and yet, I recognised the mischief in my grandmother’s eyes. Her polka-dotted sari was now slightly stained with a few drops of Coke, as well.

Patterns and Prints

Two decades later, I was strolling at IKEA and spotted something that caused goosebumps along my spine and simultaneously instilled a sense of warmth and nostalgia in my heart. It fluttered beautifully in the furnishing section — a white curtain with colourful polka dots, swaying gently under the breeze of the air-conditioner.

Instantly, just as a tiny drop of water causes endless ripples in a still pond — a feeling of deep longing had washed over me. The curtain was an exact replica of avva’s sari. For a few minutes, I simply stood and stared at the curtain in silence — it calmed me down like a cool breeze on a scalding hot day. Each polka dot reminded me of my grandmother’s mischief and the beautiful memories that I shared with her.

Undoubtedly, I purchased the curtain and was tempted to buy two pairs of the same design but decided against it. I was hoping to have a backup, just in case the first pair of curtains invited any blemishes. I paused and marinated in the instant memory of Coca Cola stains on avva’s saris, helping me realise that one pair was more than enough.

As I sipped on a cup of tea next to the newly installed curtains in my living room, I skimmed through Instagram when a sponsored ad popped up. It was Kelly Wearstler’s MasterClass trailer — an established interior designer who said two statements that were spectacular — ‘What you look good in, you feel good in’ and ‘Living without colour is like living without love.’

I could not agree more — I have had an undying love for polka dots from the time I entered my teenage phase and always wondered why? Now, I know. All thanks to avva’s ‘gems’ sari. Very nice, no?

Hansika Korivi works in Corporate Communications in Dubai