My grandmother was a remarkable woman. She had poise, she had charm, and she had dignity. But Grandma was largely unschooled. She was the daughter of a very rich man and she was brought up as a princess. Her father was known as the cattle king. At the age of thirteen she was married off to a wealthy ship-chandler who was much older than her. He treated her with love and adoration and he taught her much. As she was largely illiterate, he taught her the basic rudiments of reading, writing and arithmetic. Grandma learned how to count and she learned about money from him. All this happened more than a hundred years ago.

My Grandfather was generous with her and he gave her many luxuries to enjoy. He built her a big house and he furnished it with beautiful pieces. There were huge mirrors, cupboards full of silver ware and a grand piano as well. The family had a weekend house by the sea. Grandma was chauffeured in a large car to the department stores and to her friend’s homes.

Riches to Rags

The sad part of Grandma’s life was that hers was a story of riches to rags. My grandfather died young and unfortunately, her only son did not manage the family business well. Coupled with the fact that there were people who took advantage of his youth and inadequate management skills, it was not long before someone else acquired the family business. Grandma lost everything. She had to sell her property, jewellery, silverware and everything that had a good value to it so as to raise funds to help my uncle. I was a child at the time and I can recall seeing the silverware laid out on tables for people to view with the purpose of purchasing them.

Quality, Elegance and Style

When we were children and even as young adults, whenever Grandma walked into a room we all stood up. She was, of course, the matriarch of the family. We all adored her and we respected her. Grandma was also a very elegant woman. She dressed well and a cherished memory I have of her is that she always smelt so nice. She loved perfumes. Often she used a charcoal brazier, sandalwood and other incense to fumigate her clothes so that they would smell good. She was neat and her room was always tidy and beautifully arranged.

My Grandmother loved good food and she was fortunate, when she was young, to have cooks in her house to whip up great meals. Later, her daughters who had mastered the art of cooking from the cooks prepared great food for her. Her eldest daughter was a fabulous cook. But it was Grandma who supervised, monitored, commented and in a sense trained her to be an excellent cook. Grandma made the best semolina halwa and I can still picture her sitting on a stool by a huge wok over a charcoal fire, stirring the halwa mixture.

My Grandmother loved entertaining and when she was a wealthy woman would host parties in her home. She also organised big weddings for her daughters and for my cousins. It was on these occasions that she demonstrated her attention to detail and her high standards of quality. Everything had to be excellent. Many of us have acquired these qualities from her. She was a very inspiring role model. Her graciousness and the way she conducted herself were impressive.

She Was Exceptional In Her Graciousness

Despite everything that she had to endure, Grandma held herself with dignity and treated everybody graciously. Even in periods of great adversity, she conducted herself in a gracious manner. I end this post by recounting an incident where she displayed great courtesy and graciousness.

Many years ago one of my cousins was to be engaged to a man whom she had been seeing for some time. An engagement party was organised and friends and relatives had been invited. Much excitement rippled through our household which is where the ceremony was to be held. Trays of flowers and gifts were prepared. There was food, the family specialities including the almond milk that was served at these special events.

We waited and waited but the prospective fiancée (whom we shall call H) and his family and friends did not show up. Eventually H’s father and a couple of other people appeared to inform us that H had changed his mind and had decided to pull out of the engagement. My cousin and her mother cried, no, howled their eyes out. Other members of our family expressed anger and some family members went into a huddle, embarrassed and outraged as our friends were present. But Grandma held her head high and she approached the father and the other people quietly and said, “Thank-you for letting us know.” She also invited them to have something to eat and drink. She then turned to all of us and told us to eat the food that had been prepared.

She was amazing! She was gracious and she presented herself with dignity. She forgot about herself and the embarrassment this had caused her. She forgot herself but only thought of others. Grandma treated H’s family and friends with kindness, consideration and good manners. Grandma treated us with love and through her behaviour she portrayed class and distinction. This was one of the best lessons that I learned on what it means to be gracious.

At a moment of rejection, at a moment of humiliation and embarrassment, Grandma responded with grace and dignity. Likewise, in all areas of work and life, when we are faced with defeat, when we have lost an argument, when we have lost a campaign and when we have failed in a negotiation, we should respond in a gracious manner. Grandma, thank you for the lessons you taught us and for your guidance and love.


  1. Dear Ms.Zaibun,

    It’s a pleasure reading your favourites and experiences. As , I have come to know you , you are just like your grandma . Your face is full of smile . I have seldom seen people who smile nowadays . I suppose we all forget to smile .

    I will pick up from here . Thank you for being a fried and for sharing these with us.


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