Sunny: Hanging on to childhood memories

Sunny Singh
Novelist and university lecturer

Favourite thing: Grandmother’s prayer beads

These are my grandmother’s prayer beads. I spent a lot of time growing up with my grandmother, and she was in sense sort of my mother as well.

I was in South America when she died. It was pre-internet and all that, and I was travelling so the news only reached the place wherever I was after I had left it, as the message was forwarded. I didn’t know until I landed in Delhi about a week after she died.

These were beads that I associated with her because she always had them. She wasn’t particularly religious, she didn’t do much with them but she always had them.

“We don’t hang on to things that belong to people who died…”

We don’t hang on to things that belong to people who died because of the idea that you’re supposed to let the person go slowly. It’s not an immediate thing, it’s a slow thing, but one of the things my mother had received were these prayer beads. She passed them to me and I’ve had them now for about 20 years. They travel with me. I always take them.

“They kind of remind me of my childhood now”

At one point they used to remind me of her, now I’m not quite sure what they remind me of, I mean they’re just something I hang on to I suppose because they kind of remind me of my childhood now. It’s less about her rather than just the whole childhood memory that I still hold.

Woman holding prayer beads

Do you use them?

No, no, they just kind of sit there. Kind of what happened with her because she didn’t really use them; I don’t remember her using them. So now they sit in my house.

There are 108 beads and the idea is that you have a particular prayer or a particular mantra that you go over in your mind and you move each one. It’s quite similar to a rosary.

These are traditionally made off a hollowed-out seed and I can’t tell you what the tree is but they’re not particularly expensive. You can pick them up for probably a few cents, a few pennies.

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