Wo Naani Kee Baaton Mein Pariyon Ka Dera
Wo Chehre Ke Jhuriyon Mein Sadiyon Ka Phera
Bhulaaye Nahin Bhool Saqta Hai Koi
Wo Choti See Raaten Wo Lambi Kahaani
Although my nani never narrated stories to us, (not that I remember), she definitely did regale us with real life incidents. She was a brave woman who along with her husband and brothers made it to this side during the partition. My maternal grandparents had also, like my paternal granparents, left every single thing behind in what is now Pakistan. They witnessed butchering and massacre which is enough to scar a person for a lifetime. But they also carried with them memories of happy times, when the money and jewellery would be just lying about, cupboards full of it. There were personal godowns of dry fruits and grains. These were part of palatial houses with infinite rooms, marble flooring and plush interiors. Those “facts” were so difficult to digest they seemed like made up stories for they were being told to children who heard of such things only in their Amar Chitra Kathas and Tinkles. My grandparents would talk to each other in Pashto even now.
“Nani ke ghar jaaoge to motte ho ke aaoge” is what my nani and mom always used to say. It was true also. It was almost as if the visit’s sole purpose was indeed to fatten up the children. We had delicious food with loads of butter – the home made white butter that I so love. We also had an angeethi – the actual thing made of clay and it used to take ages to get heated up and then to cool down, but the result was fabulous tandoori rottis. Their cutlery and tableware included a lot of brass. I distinctly remember that my sister and I used to fight over who would get to drink in the heavy brass glass. It used to take enormous effort to just hold it.
Being the first grandchild on my maternal side, I was always treated somewhat specially. As a kid I used to hate the regular stuff that all kids hate – veggies like Karela, toree, parmal, kaddu, tinde etc. but when my nani made it (using shudh desi ghee) the end results were so delectable that one could live on those forever. My maternal grandparents stay in Gurgaon – the actual gurgaon which existed much before the glitzy Gurgaon came into picture, much before there was life on the other side of the highway, much before there was any inhabitation on either side of it. In those days it was practically a village, for all the neighbours had buffaloes and tabelas! Almost all the houses were made of mud instead of cement (like my nani’s) decorated with the dung cakes that were so characteristic of a village then. Thankfully my nani’s house wasn’t a buffalo barn, but we sure got amused everytime we would go from Delhi to Gurgaon (the distances were so much more inspite of being the same physically).
I met her about a month back after she had recovered from some brief illness. She seemed to have recovered just fine and was attentive, alert, taking meals and medicines properly. That was the last time I saw her. Just when I was beginning to think that maybe my mother’s mother and I do look a lot more similar from a particular angle (seeing the B&W pic that hung on their wall), her sudden death took her away from us. She suffered from pneumonia and it resulted in multiple organ failure. She had been through much more serious medical situations and had always made it. We had not even thought that some minor illness would result in catastrophic consequences. Such situations are so pathetic. When the doctors tell you that there’s nothing else you can do except wait for the person’s death, it is the worst feeling in this world. A maternal cousin’s marriage was scheduled for a week later. My nani had gotten new dresses made and would have seen the first grandchild wedding. Unfortunately it never happened that way.
My mom took it bravely and so did the whole family. After the cremation we all tried to concentrate on remembering the good times instead of weeping inconsolably. We even laughed. That was something I could not even imagine doing, given the situation. My grandfather lost his mate of about 60 years. Life will never be the same for him ever again. It is very disheartening to see how someone who was alive and well could turn into a “body” and then soon into a “picture”. I can never forget the way my mom looked at her mom when seeing her for the last time. It forced me to think in a particular direction myself and I knew that even though I don’t even want to think about it, it’s a grim reality of life. When I look around I realise, we do have our hearts full. But full of the memories and of the love that she gave.