My Nani passed away last weekend. Yes, while the world was busy ushering in the new year, my nani, lonely and sick, quietly left for the next world. I was offcourse part of the world, out on dinner with husband and daughter. We were probably enjoying our three course euro meal when she was calling out to the neighbours for her last sip of water. I had not even cared to call her up to wish the new year. She anyways could not hear well enough to comprehend much of what I would have talked on phone.
Nani was a tough nut. My mother,an only child moved to a different state to be a part of my Dad's family when they got married. And then, Nanaji passed away barely an year after his retirement. That was 15 yrs back. Since then, Nani had been on her own, living all alone in Nanaji's ancestral house in Old Delhi, now better known as Delhi-6. As the years passed, her health began to fail. Numerous efforts were made by us to bring her to Allahabad to stay with us, but she never stayed beyond a week. Her attachment to her place, her home was probably greater than to us. And we could do nothing other than helplessly watch the gutsy woman from Punjab getting reduced to a bunch of bones. Nani was immensely proud of her punjabi roots. She dressed fashionably, wore sleeveless blouses and chiffon sarees at a time when they were both unheard of in Allahabad, which is why my mom never had any. Her punjabi taste was most prominent in the way she tied her hair with a false braid, which had colorful hoops in the end. As a child, I sometimes tied it to my hair to make it look longer. And to top it, Nani had an impressive collection of cosmetics- lipsticks, vanishing creams, compacts, stuff that looks basic today but it really fascinated me then, especially since my mom never used any of it. Not just that, Nani was so very house-proud. And she had reason to be.. her house was always so neat and impeccably clean. When we visited her during summer vacations, she had a tough time keeping the house together. She would often compare us to our Mom, telling us how quiet and well-behaved mom was as a child, and how hard it is to imagine that she could have such naughty kids as us.
Now that Nani is gone, I have this terrible urge to travel back in time and spend some more time with her. It is queer how we realise the value in things the moment they go beyond our reach. Her voice, which was only a phone call away all these years, her cute wrinkled face which required me to just fly for 2.5 hours for it to light up with joy is now lost forever. All I have are memories, and one of my fondest is undoubtedly of her efforts to teach me cooking. No, I never learnt, but she did succeed in getting me make rotis. The perfectionist in her drove me nuts in the pursuit of making the roundest, softest roti, but it left me with a skill I would use and take pride in every single day for the rest of my life. Talk about gifts, eh? I wish I had the sense to learn more from her, she was such a wonderful cook, one who could even make the normal dal so tasty that we would be left asking for more. I never told her this, but I so want to, as so many other things. But it is too late now.. I will still say the only thing that makes sense anymore.. R.I.P.