A light, gentle hug that expresses so much and has a deep scent of lavender: my grandmother is a person that matters so much to me. Nowhere in the world could you find a better role model. She is smart, loving, caring, and also a great cook. My grandmother’s name is Indira Nair, the Vice-Provost and Professor of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. I call her Ammama (Malyalam for Grandmother) or Grandma Inda. If you go to Pittsburgh and ask someone who she is they will know.

I may have been adopted but everyone in my family says I have the same face as my grandma from my nose down. Her skin is slightly lighter than me. Her eyes are filled with a young child’s spirit ready to be free and fly. Her hands are a chef’s dream. When cooking they work busily making my favorite Indian foods. Her hands are soft and rough at the same time. There is red bindi in the place of her third eye marking her as a married Indian. Always dressed in traditional Indian garments and a neat French braid going down to the back my grandmother is what she looks like and then much more. She has the softest touch even when she hits me ever so slightly on the arm when she knows I’m not using my brain. Her voice mixes between an Indian accent to an American accent. The American accent gets stronger the longer she lives here. Her voice weaves in and out of Malyalam and English. She turns to me with a slight smile and makes me guess what she says. It’s her way of slowly teaching me Malyalam.

The very reason I love my grandmother is because she pushes me to do what I may have thought I couldn’t do. Like when we play Scrabble and I just throw up my hands and say I’m going to lose anyway. Well since I started playing the way she knows I can, I have actually won a few times. She is very patient with me when explaining things. It makes me proud to know that she has taught a lot of people in her calm encouraging way. It makes me happy to know that if anyone wanted to they could learn from my grandmother because she is patient enough to teach them. A lot of people who meet her are intimidated because they are struck by awe of how smart she is. She is often referred to as the women who will tell you exact quotes with the name of the book and the page number. This may be an exaggeration but it’s not far off.

The first time I met my grandmother, I was six. I didn’t really get her. Maybe I was too young. I quickly learned that I could literally ask her any question, questions that had stumped both my parents. She always knew the answer. After I started asking her questions, whenever I saw her she would teach me a new way to do a math problem in a different way. Ways that college students knew. With her patience I got it. I can’t wait for her to move here at the end of May after school. Just imagine how much I will learn with her just a walking distance away from my house.

by: Shinenn Nair