I spent the last weekend in Ludhiana (a town in Punjab) visiting my ailing grand mother. Biji as we all call her was the magnet that brought the extended family together. And when you realize that she had 7 children and they further had children and grandchildren, that’s quite a strong magnet.
My earliest memories of Biji are of me lazing around in her beautiful (now palatial) bungalow while she kept shouting at us to get up and out of bed. We would resist till we could and finally would give in. A visit to Biji meant yummy food cooked by her with love. I remember sneaking into the kitchen with one of my brothers (Harry bhaiya) to eat her freshly cooked sweet rice. She owned a row of shops adjoining the house and would always ask the sweet shop there to send across some snacks, usually the incredibly tasty samosa (fried wonton filled with potatoes) served with cholle (chickpeas). Always out to pamper us, Biji never missed a birthday. Since I can remember, my excitement for my birthday was marked with the expectation of the customary money token from Biji. In retrospect I wonder how she did it. A widow at a very early age with 7 children to raise, she single-handedly shaped their future and gave them the platform to go into the world.
And if you think I am finicky, you don’t know her! My dad would love to tease her that he was using her towel and she would give him quite a dressing down. Dare anyone underestimate her. Even in her late 80s, she could walk up 6 flights of stairs if the lift wasn’t working.
Losing her eye-sight in her later years was quite a blow to her. Her usual self reliant self was hindered but her spirit wasn’t broken.
It seems like her spirit has left her now. She lies there on her bed, unaware of the world. She doesn’t move, doesn’t twitch, doesn’t speak. She just lies there in a coma. Her frail self is now reduced to bones and skin. She breathes, but she doesn’t live anymore.
It’s painful to see her like this. She is my roots, where I come from. But more painful than seeing her go is seeing her being forced to hold on. Her soul seems to have gone but for our selfish need to have her around, we make her take medicines refusing to let go.
I love her. It’s as simple as that. And it just doesn’t seem fair.