My grandmother’s gift by Dr Priya Virmani



Art by Jean Cocteau

My grandmother’s gift


It’s a simple set of earrings

nothing fancy

or ornate as such

just a common floral design

set in gold.


Small, delicate earrings

that my grandmother gave me

without occasion.


I remember

my own bewilderment

at receiving them -

real gold?

when I was not even a teenager

so not yet a ‘big girl’

for such ‘real’ things.


My school then would allow

only studs

or plain rings

around the earlobes

so I questioned Dadi

with gleeful surprise

as to what I had done

to deserve them

even my Birthday

was no where in sight

and she said,

‘you just keep them’,

and I felt all grown up

that she didn’t choose

to give it

to either of my parents

for safekeeping

but chose instead

to gift it directly

to me.


And today

when I found them

after all these years

I became a child again

and memories,

that didn’t go yellow

at the edges like aged paper

that goes brittle,

came alive -

in this neat little box

with the earrings

are the sag

of her upper arms

and my clasping

playful sway on them,

her wrinkles - the fragility of life

and how I would plait her hair - the durability of footprints,

her homemade

ghee scented cooking

when I stayed with her

during vacations,

her resoluteness

when she would tell me

in no uncertain terms

that only a brother

would complete my family,

her smile

when she would see my father

after even the shortest

interval of days,

her crushing, crippling sadness

when my father died.


The earrings speak -

with them I rehear

the little, loud prayer bell

that would

resound each day

when she would come to stay.


When my father died

so much was taken,

milked like it is

when opportunity grows

tentacles of greed

and disrobes the word kind

from human-kind

and then my grandmother

herself was taken.

And this time what she left

became the loot

for the family

that survived her,

that I chose

to stay away from.


So this pair of earrings

is the only

surviving gift

I have from her

but in it are many gifts

that my memory opens -

so many stories

that sing

and this one gift

becomes many

and becomes

most poignant-shaped,

love shaped

grandmother to

her granddaughter.



Priya Virmani, Author, International and TEDx Speaker, CEO of Travel Company Ame-Luxe and founder of children’s charity Paint Our World. She received the ‘She Inspires Award’ in the House of Commons in the Houses of Parliament in London in 2019. Also, in 2019 the U.K. named her as ‘An Asian Giant - A Contemporary Icon and an Exceptional Woman Inspiring Change’. Her book published recently, The Smallest Stories to Extraordinary is a resounding manual of inspiration for trying times.