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Monday, March 15, 2010

"Nani"

Her old, shriveled face bursts into a delighted grin as we walk in. First she engulfs Mamma in a humongous embrace that reeks of motherly love. Then I feel the two frail arms snaking around me, squeezing me into a tight welcoming hug. Over the next few minutes, I witness an old lady metamorphosing into a little girl – her delighted shrieks, her adorable enthusiasm, her joy on seeing my mother, and my mother’s daughter – me.

Nani, I am asked to call her. Because that is how her grandchildren address her. Almost immediately after we have entered their cozy duplex apartment, Nani begins her journey down memory lane, recounting little anecdotes of how Mitali (Mamma) and Dolly (Mamma’s best friend – and Nani’s daughter) were always inseparable. How often the families met, either at our ancestral home at Colonelgunj or at the Army Headquarters, in Allahabad. How both Mitali and Dolly had beautiful hair – and how well Mitali has managed to maintain it. How much fun those good old days were. Nostalgia, nostalgia and more nostalgia.

Then, over dinner, she asks me what I like to do. How I spend my free time. I tell her that I write. Her eyes light up, reminding me of a little girl once again. “Tum likhti ho, beta? You write?”, she asks me. “Main bhi likhti hoon. Maine kuch kavitayein likhi hai, tumhare Nanaji ki death ke baad…Tum sunna chahoge, beta?”
I nod, partly because I am genuinely interested, but more because I see an earnestness in her eyes that I cannot refuse.

The next morning, as I enter her room, her face brightens up again. “Can I read my poems out to you now, beta?” she asks, almost as if she’s been waiting to do that since our conversation at dinner. I smile, nod, and sit down on her bed. At once, she pulls out a sheaf of yellowed papers. Then she pauses. “Beta, tumhare Nanaji mujhse bahut pyaar karte thhey. Jaan dete they mujh par. Jitne din wo thhey, bilkul mujhe Rani banake rakha unhone. Kabhi mujhe koi taqleef nahin hone di unhone. Main unko bahut miss karti hun, beta. Unhi ki yaad mein maine yeh kavitayein likhi hain. Zyaada kuch nahin hai, tukbandiyan hain bas”, she says. I ask her to go on.

Then, one after the other, she recites poems that are simple, but straight from the heart, and therefore beautiful. For those few moments, she isn’t just Nani anymore; she is a woman, a wife, who is still very much in love with her husband, who still dreams about him from time to time, who is probably waiting for the day their souls will reunite in heaven. At one point, she is overcome by his memories, and her voice breaks, and I am worried she’ll begin to cry. But she regains her composure, and finishes reading all the poems. “How did you like them, beta?” she asks, reminding me again of the little girl who asks for approval for one of her childlike creations. I tell her I loved them, genuinely meaning what I say.

Over the next two days, I witness Nani in her different moods. Nani when she is worried, Nani when she is annoyed, Nani when she is lovable, Nani when she is ecstatic. One day, I catch her baby-talking to someone on the phone. Curious, I ask Mamma who it was. Mamma smiles, and tells me that it was Rosy Mausi, Nani’s younger daughter, who is due to arrive that afternoon. Why the baby-talk, I want to know, when Rosy Mausi is a mother of two grown-up boys. “Because she is Nani’s youngest child”, Mamma explains. That strikes me as funny, but also very endearing. Then Rosy Mausi arrives, and once again, I witness that little girl in Nani taking form, this time at the joy of meeting her “baby” after a gap of one year.

The night before we leave, all of us – Nani, Dolly Mausi, Rosy Mausi, Mamma, Dolly Mausi’s son, Saurabh, daughter-in-law, Sakshi and I - get together in Nani’s room. Saurabh Bhaiya and I bring out our video-cameras, all set to capture those moments for keeps. We coax Nani to sing. She obliges us, in her aged but still surprisingly melodious voice, with Geeta Dutt’s “Na jaao saiyaan”. Thirty seconds into her performance, she bursts into peals of laughter, remembering some incident about Nanaji and the song. Then she sings a number of other songs – most of them Punjabi folk numbers, and Rosy Mausi sings along with her while Dolly Mausi makes funny faces to entertain us. Then, when Saurabh Bhaiya plays the video on their TV, Nani gasps at how old she looks. The day ends, amidst feelings of love, captured memories and laughter.

The next day, Mamma and I are scheduled to leave Ahmedabad. Nani feeds us one spoon of curd each, as a good-luck gesture before we embark on our journey. And she asks us to come down for her grand-daughter’s wedding. We say our good-byes, and leave.
*******************************************************************************
I do not know when I will see Nani again, because schedules are tight, and times, uncertain. But I do know one thing – for those three days that I was in Ahmedabad, I witnessed an old lady on one end, a little girl on the other, and a young woman somewhere in the middle of them; all three of them blended into one person - Nani.

Much Love,

Me.

10 Words Of Wisdom (WOWs):

Polo said...

I was watching "Schindler's List" last night.
Though irrelevant to your post, it made me realize that photos/documented events/objects don't help remembering people and the pain/joy they went through...but just the memories and emotions we have help keep people close to your heart!
Always remember - "Carpe Diem"

Mishree said...

"Baatein,Bhul Jaati Hain,
Yaadein,Yaad Aati Hain".....

Shaiz said...

very well written... nice attention to detail :P

Smriti said...

Beautiful! :)

Hatikvah said...

A lot of heart, A LOT OF HEART...

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