Naani passed away due to a cardiac arrest on the night of 7th and 8th June, 2014. I received a phone call from my sister at the early hours of the morning, informing me about it. The first thought that crossed my mind was how my mother would cope up with this loss. By then, I didn’t know what happened to Naani. I could only imagine my shattered mother feeling homeless, guideless and still to sail through 30-40 years of her life, now without her mother. I talked to my mother for less than a minute and before I could think anything about the situation or what to do about it, I found myself in metro, traveling towards Kashmere Gate ISBT.
It was a long and hot journey of thirteen hours from Delhi to Jammu. I was continuously popping Flunarizine to avoid any migraine attacks and was regularly in touch with my brother to keep a check on what was happening at the home.
Naani was cremated while the bus I was traveling in was passing through Jalandhar. I didn’t expect them to wait for me anyway. I was more concerned about my mother rather than blaming anyone for not waiting for me.
If for a moment, I try to think what would be my life without my mother, I know it wouldn’t be as peaceful as it has been till today. My mother has always been a pillar of my life and she always stood in favour of my decisions, no matter how wrong she thought my decisions were when I declared them.
The way I am would not be possible without my mother. Similarly, the way she is would not be possible without hers.
The first memory that I have of Naani is that of a few days after my third birthday. I was dressed in a blue frock, with two plaits hanging at my ears sewed to my hair with red ribbons and my lips were shining red because of the lipstick I was made to wear. My mother was very fond of dressing me up as a girl. I don’t know the reason. Maybe she always wanted a girl as her first born. Her love for girls showed in the fact that she nicknamed me with a female name, Preeti. So, there I was, dressed up in a girl’s dress standing before my Naani. She looked at me and said, ‘Aww, who is this little girl?’
Yes. I blushed.
I clearly remember her face from that day. She was nearly fifty years old. There were quite a few hair making their way on her head through the gates of old age. I don’t remember much from that day other than her face, getting old, but still young. I wasn’t aware of the people’s habit of dying back then.
Over the years, as I grew up, I couldn’t differentiate between the love of my mother and mother’s mother towards me. I was the eldest son in my paternal family so the love and attention seemed logical. In my maternal family, my mother was the only daughter of her parents and I was her first born. In a sense, I never found myself short of love, affection or attention from both my maternal and paternal families, until I came of age.
When I was six, my mother was pregnant for the third time and only I know how eagerly I was waiting for a sister. She hadn’t done an ultrasound but we all hoped and prayed for a sister. When her due date approached, I was sent off to stay at Naani’s place, which was not quite far from our home.
I remember the day my sister was born. Naani had told me about it and wasn’t I happy? I wanted to go home right then and look at my sister. Next day, Naani took me home. After pouring her love on my sister, she sat near my mother to ask about her well-being. I, on the other hand, looked for the first time at my sister. She had such tiny fingers and toes. The scene is still fresh even after 24 years that it seems as if it happened yesterday. I was so scared to touch her. I was scared that her fingers will detach from her hands if I touched them. She squeaked and crackled continuously and Naani had tears in her eyes.
I loved the way Naani cooked paranthas. Nobody has managed to match the exact taste of her paranthas till today. I yearned to visit my maternal home just so that I could eat paranthas cooked by her. I usually ate a parantha extra than I normally ate when she cooked.
When I stepped into teenage, her head had turned silver. She was a grandmother of six grandchildren from her sons and three from her daughter. But, it was me who used to pick lice from her head which she acquired from her grandchildren while telling those bedtime stories every night and often ending up sleeping with them on their beds.
A decade later, when I was 23, my relationship with all my relatives was disturbed because of a stupid business decision by my father who always thinks that he is the smartest person on the planet and everyone else is a born fool having no right to question him.
For five years, I didn’t talk to anyone in my maternal family. A lot changed in me during those five years, physically as well as mentally. Slowly and gradually, unable to accept me the way I was, they casted me out. The day she died, I reached Jammu at 9:15 pm and at 9:30 pm I was at Naani’s place after almost a half-decade.
A few eyeballs rolled as I stepped in. Nobody expected me to come there. I was searching for my mother. I spotted her, lying on the floor, talking to an aunt. As soon as she saw me, the emotional floodgates opened up. Without caring about anyone’s stares, grunts or whispers, I rushed towards my mother and grabbed her in my arms before she broke down. She was emotionally unstable, totally shaken because of Naani’s sudden death and she was not ready to accept the reality at all. I kept my arms wrapped around her for a long time and listened to everything she had to say. I met my uncles and aunts as well, but that was only a formality.
It’s been weeks since Naani passed away but I can still feel the sadness in my mother’s voice. The wound is still afresh. I am not good at handling public display of emotions anyway, though I cry a lot whenever I get a chance alone.
As far as mothers are concerned, 2014 started on a bad note. Two mothers lost their and both these mothers were highly attached to their mothers.
Yes, a mother is irreplaceable. A mother is incomparable. You are lucky if you have a mother. Make sure you pour your heart out to her. Make sure you tell her that you care. More than telling, make sure you show her. Listen to what she has to say, for she won’t be there one day to say anything to you. Understand her concerns and work hard to sort out the differences in thinking, if any. Make sure she knows everything you are going through because even if you don’t tell her, she knows already. Give her the love and respect she deserves. Make her laugh and tell her to take things lightly if she doesn’t tell it to you herself. Tell her that you will always remember her the way she remembers her mother.
Remember your mother whenever you see any mother caring for her child or even when you see any woman caring for her husband or father or brother or boyfriend because ultimately all of them are mothers in making.
I can comprehend your concern for your mother at a time like this. There is something about nanis and paranthas. My son jokes about his entrepreneurial dreams of opening a restaurant called Nani De Paranthe.
Well, all the best to him! 🙂