By: Vanaja Malathy
April and May always bring a lot of thrill, excitement, and anticipation of some magic to unfold. A month of summer holidays, a relief from the drudgery of completing the syllabus, examinations, paper corrections, and declaration of results of. It is teachers’ busiest time of the year but laced with a sweetness of looking forward to spending the time differently. “What is going to be my summer plan this year?” I wondered.
My phone rings, “Mamma, how are you both?” “Your summer holidays will start, right? “Why don’t you plan to visit us? Kids will be delighted.” I am going to send the tickets.” “No excuses. Get ready.” The phone cuts. It’s my daughter who rules.
My Packing goes on. Quick shopping and preparing spicy, delicious, tangy mouthwatering Indian savories, etc., etc. keep me tightly busy. The day arrives soon, and my husband and I are off to the US. This has been our routine every year. I could see my grandkids growing each year, from the state of babies to kindergarten. I buy Indian toys, Indian dresses, and anything that looks Indian is hunted for. One such Indian toy that is my grandson’s favorite till today is the mini auto. It is a motorized version of a baby taxi on three wheels, a means of urban transport in India.
The best part, however, has been storytelling. My grandson was an avid listener and would plead with me to continue and ” One more story, granma” would be the burden of the song. He would also derive pleasure making ladoos, round balls of Indian sweets along with me. He would insist on a story to accompany during such an activity. While strolling in the park, while eating, and before sleeping the stories formed the background music. The little kid demanded more stories on different themes as the years went by. As a grandmother, it was my evolution too. I graduated from simple animal stories to mythological stories to adventures. It used to be non-stop story sessions. I had to sharpen my wisdom from simple cock and bull stories to fairy tales, fanciful stories, farfetched stories, unbelievable tales, and made-up stories to action stories, thriller stories to adventure stories. Topics as dry as geographical explorations, and civilizations were ok with him. A great storyteller should know to spin a yarn about some topic to connect with her audience. My head would reel, inventing story after story. These sessions brought us closer to each other.
Having exhausted all the stories I knew, I decided to tell my grandson about William Shakespeare, his art of narration, and the clever plots in his dramas. I was always fascinated by Shakespeare and his dramas. As a teacher I got more involved in dramatics and this provided an opportunity to train my students to enact his world famous dramas. One day, I had a brilliant idea to hop on to the story of Merchant of Venice. I did not expect my 3-year-old grandson to understand the logic behind, “Only one pound of flesh, not a drop of blood,” of Portia. My little Neil would gape to hear the story repeatedly, leaving me wondering how he could understand the rationale behind these words. My granddaughter was equally excited by this story. Further my bright plan of getting the story enacted by the kids resulted in just fun. My husband donned the role of Shylock, Neil as Antonio, and my granddaughter as Portia. They would dress up by themselves, and the whole afternoon was spent in rehearsals.This had saved me from narrating stories for that day but would give extra load of cleaning the mess they made. Kids improvised fancy dresses, junk jewelry, and hats that were stored in the attics. In no time they set up a stage against a stony background and fireplace in the living room. I spent my time writing very simple dialogues that can be memorized. I even recorded the whole enactment. In the evening when their parents returned from work, they would watch in awe, Merchant of Venice enacted by their kids. Kids would arrange popcorn and lemonade for the august audience. The whole act would end with rapturous applause.
Enacting the Merchant of Venice captivated Neil’s mind so much that he would ask umpteen questions about Shakespeare. As an English teacher, I was curious to visit London, the birthplace of Shakespeare at Stratford-upon-Avon, and The Globe theater, a living monument of the greatest English playwright. Neil would always ask me innocently, “Granma, will you take me to Shaespeare’s birthplace and Globe theater?”
My answer would be for sure an affirmative “Yes.”
Neil has been growing up too. I saw him through kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school. He was a chubby little boy who would nod his head in approval to whatever I said. Now he is a toned muscular teenager who would ask a million questions and still be dissatisfied with my explanation. He would argue with me about Indian traditions, rituals, and beliefs. But as a gentlemanlike a youth, he was very gentle with me and would never hurt my feelings. Grandma’s food, stories and advice always retained their color and charm.
After grandpa passed away, as a single grandparent, I settled in my daughter’s place in the US. Neil is in his final year of high school and will soon leave for the University. It has been so overwhelming to see him grow, drive by himself, have his own opinions, argue and be dissatisfied. But his love and devotion for grandma has remained strong by the years. “When will we be visiting Shakespeare.” used to be his usual question. My answer now has changed from an affirmative “Yes.” to an expressionless smile. Neil has many milestones to cross, and his higher studies required to take preference on his list of plans. With this planted on my mind, my yearning for a London trip started melting away like snow under the sunshine.
Now that I am aging, I satisfy myself by imagining how my desired trip would have been in reality. I often wonder how quickly the days passed into years and years into decades watching my grandkids growing up. It was as if they were trying to reach the skies while I gaze at them from the ground below in astonishment. The fact that Neil would be leaving for some far-off University soon brought both pride and pain to me. I would often go to bed with mixed emotions. I cannot deny the fact that somewhere in the corners of my heart, Shakespeare and The Globe Theater still lurked. I would laugh within myself at the very improbability of it happening. My mind would discourage me from thinking of any adventure while my heart would desire to seek excitement.
Through my storytelling, I had created an atmosphere of Shakespeare at home for my younger audience. Neil was familiar with most of the famous works of the great author. He was pretty comfortable with the comedies and tragedies of Shakespeare. At times it would make me wonder at what age he would lose interest in my stories. We both fostered an emotional bond and over the years our relationship kept solid. He would be uncomfortable with my rigid adherence to specific values but soon would show a keen interest in whatever I said or did. We would discuss Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, As You Like It, and not forgetting Merchant of Venice, in detail. I don’t take the whole credit for myself for the influence of Shakespeare on Neil. Perhaps Shakespeare himself has built a solid and lasting relationship between us. The four-hundred-year-old world-famous playwright’s unique gift of culture, language, and imagination is widely recognized, and Neil loved it all. His most beloved character was Shylock. He repeated the lines, “Come on, Antonio, prepare yourself for a pound of flesh from your heart.” He would imitate Portia’s legal quibble that he must take precisely one pound of flesh from the heart without spilling a drop of blood.
Neil’s English syllabus now, in XII grade, included Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in detail. I am overwhelmed to see his passion for Shakespeare’s plays. The teenage boy understood the prince of Denmark, Hamlet, as a young man trapped in a politically dangerous world, much better than his grandma.
Indeed, Shakespeare’s works are timeless and universal. They are relatable to contemporary literature and also left an indelible mark on Neil’s mind. Neil would often boast that he would prepare a virtual tour to London with his camera. And I would read curiously all the tourist guide booklets I would come across.
Summer in London brings mild weather and sunny skies. It’s a great time to visit the Music Festivals, outdoor cinemas, and many great outdoor activities. I had made a list of places worth visiting in London: the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, The British Museum, and so on. Neil and I couldn’t resist the temptation of placing Shakespeare’s Birthplace and The Globe Theater on top of the list. It would be a week’s stay here, and we both must fulfill our longing desire for Shakespeare. I wore my lightweight, waterproof jacket and a scarf. Our first adventurous visit was to the places of our priority, and we stuck to them without any second thought. We chose to reach our destination by bus, which took around 24 minutes.
We boarded the bus in the early morning. A thrill ran down our spine. The journey to Southwark, Bankside Pier, was filled with awe and excitement. The time arrived, and our wish was going to be fulfilled. The bus stopped by The Globe Theater and we both stood transfixed in front of the great monument. Our glance shifted from the tour sheets in our hands to the actual sight. The hired tourist guide accompanying us said in an impressive tone, “The Globe Theater is three-stories high and has no roof. The open courtyard and three semicircular galleries together hold more than 1500 people. It is built from oak beams and a water- reed thatched roof. Over the stage, the roof is painted with twelve signs of the Zodiac.” We followed him through the galleries of the theater. The escort suggested that we rent a cushion to sit on as it can get colder in the seated area of the open-air theater. “Seats are arranged in the galleries in such a way that the performers and spectators can see each other at all times. ” The chaperon went on and on…The whole group kept together intently listening to his oration. The old sat on the wooden benches, kids were playing around,dancing, and singing.
In great excitement, I moved further as if hypnotized. The painted Globe’s canopy featured a painted sun, moon, and signs of the Zodiac on an azure background. This caught my attention. Two Roman Gods, Apollo and Mercury, have been depicted on either side of the Globe. Does the ceiling explain the interpretation of the Bible? Does it represent the essential phases of the spiritual development of humankind? I circled around the stage, trying to see the beautiful murals above and their significance. I wanted to absorb the beauty again and again. For a few moments, I was lost in my own world… I don’t remember how long I closed my eyes in salutation to the world’s greatest author.
When I opened my eyes, I saw an empty stage. There was utter silence.”Where have all the other tourists gone? How long have I been in this way? “My heart gave a shudder. In total shock, I searched for Neil and shrieked aloud for him ” NNNEEEIIILLL.”
“Granma, What happened? Why are you screaming ?”
Neil was shaking me up from my sleep.
” Did you see nightmares? You have almost come to the corner of the bed.”
“I dreamt we were in The Globe theater….” I stuttered for words.
“ Dreaming of London and Shakespeare?” I couldn’t figure out if he was being sarcastic.
Neil was peering into my eyes. “Remember, granma, you would say early morning dreams come true?”
“What time is it now, Neilu?” I can’t tell if I was incoherent.
“It is five in the morning… your dream is going to come true soon.”
I didn’t catch what he was saying. I was still living in my dream.
Neil pulled out an envelope from his jeans pocket. He handed over the same to me.
I opened the envelope in my confused state.
Two online tickets to London!!!
I couldn’t believe my eyes.
“Whaaatt?” I was coming out of my dazed state. “But, Neilu… how could you manage..…?”
Neil interrupted, “Remember grandma, for the past couple of years I have been working during summer vacation? I saved all that for our dream trip to London.”
“ Shaespeare’s birthplace and The Globe Theater? ” I wanted to double check.
“Exactly, granma.” “ I declare in this bond… if I fail to take you to Shakespeare’s birthplace, a pound of flesh from my heart….….…..” Neil proclaimed mischievously, emphasizing every word of the sentence.
Rhonda Byrne rightly said, ” When you want something, the whole universe conspires for you to achieve it.
Teaching poetry helped Vanaja Malathy to give her students a healthy outlet for surging emotions. As a doctorate inclined to academic writing, she found poetry writing helped to tap her imagination and find the sublime within the mundane.
Her publication history that helped prove her potential:
Her poems featured in The Nightingale Poetry Journal, The New-England Monthly Poetry Digest, The Poet’s Showcase, Poetrynation.com, The New International Poetry Digest, The Literary Yard, and the Academy of Heart and Mind journal.
Her Interview in the latest edition of Author Talks is published in The Literary Yard at
Amazing…we r really grt full to u….
Thank you for your appreciation. It matters a lot to the writer. A reader is dear to the writer
I enjoyed every bit of the real story . I could relate to it. Beautifully expressed and the joy of seeing a baby growing into a young man , a thorough gentleman too .
A reader plays a very important role in the professional life of a writer. He/she fosters a deep understanding of the subject. Reader’s comments spark an emotional connection.
Thank you for your constant support.
Interesting thoughts and imaginative
Feel great Niru for getting heard.
Thank you for being my reader, niru
Amazing narration. Could feel the emotions through the words!!! And ofcourse what a bond…
Omg! I sat here reading this tears rolling down my cheeks ! Knowing that little boy Neil and you- and your family made this story very very special to me. I am so so so very touched by Neil’s gesture – I hope you enjoy your trip ans write about it! I look forward to that!
And I must say what a special grandma you are!
Malathy it is said that what you really desire to getn u feel strongly abt it, you get it. I believe this with my personal experience.Your journey with your grandchildren is very special as you hv put in a lot in their growing years.Your love for literature n your passion for visiting
Shakespeare birth place has been fulfilled! What an amazing gesture speaks a lot abt your doting grandson!I enjoyed every bit of your story n happy that your ‘dream come true’.
Readers like you motivate the writers with sincere appreciation. I am fortunate & blessed
Amazing story telling! It must have brought back wonderful memories. I felt like I was with you visiting the Globe Theater. 😊