She was born in 1906 when there was no Pakistan but one whole Mother India, Des, as they call it, which they still think is their home and I believe they have every reason to do so. She delivered my second last uncle during the partition time, that is, 1947; when Pakistan came into being.
Today, she’s a mother to 6 with another 2 who died at an early age, a grandmother, a great-grandmother and now also holds the honor of becoming a great great grandmother! That’s how old her story begins.
I type this as her granddaughter which makes my relation with her absolutely easy for you to sort out. My father is the youngest of all and his eldest brother; my uncle would be around the age of 80 by now, MashaAllah.
Her exact age would remain a mystery to everyone as it is to every person of her generation. Nobody took a serious account of the ages at that time. Though what is written on her identity card is the mere proof and a satisfaction of her age that we have. Noting it down from there: she was born around 1906 and is now, Alhumdulillah, 107 years old.
Life has been the simplest of the simple for her, with hardly any vision left right now, one can call her a blind person. I remember, about 4-5 years ago, she said to me, in her language which I can’t speak fully but can understand like a pro: ‘I think you’re the beautiful of all, Sarin’ , leaving behind my 3 other siblings rot in the pool of jealousy. Heck, they could merely digest it that this had already become a joke for a lifetime: She can’t see Sarin, so imagine the irony. She called you beautiful; one can understand why she did. ha ha ha.
That never bothered me.
She would occasionally cry when she realize she has seen her daughter-in-law, grandchildren, great grandchildren pass away before her. That saddens her. & today, she is as well prepared for her demise as the soldier on the battleground is, when the war to fight the non-existing peace is only seconds away.
It’s been more than a year that hints of her loosing bit of her senses have started showing. Rest assured, and to be very frank, she hasn’t lost it. But there would be a randomest of the random day when she would create a panic among everyone, telling them that the end of her life is here: she has seen the angel of death. Sometimes, she would tell a story of children dressed in white she has seen. & she would ask for a sacred bath that day. She would ask whether her piece of cloth is ready in which she shall be wrapped and sent away.
Dadi, as we call her, is nothing but all praises for God, for Allah. If the giant family tree is blessed today, it would be because of her, if we’re succeeding in life, there would be a part she must’ve played in it, unknown to us.
She still lives in her ancient home, where they shifted to after migration. It’s a village, about 45 minutes away from my city. Which we visit occasionally, where the whole family gathers on the events ranging from weddings to funerals to the most important of all: Eid-ul-fitr , a religious festival which marks the end of the Holy month Ramadan and Eid-ul-adha (celebrated by Muslims worldwide to honour the willingness of the prophet ʾIbrāhīm (Abraham) to sacrifice his young first-born son Ismā’īl (Ishmael) as an act of submission to God’s command and his son’s acceptance to being sacrificed, before God intervened to provide Abraham with a Lamb to sacrifice instead –wikipedia).
I believe it’s only her who’s holding these family ties together till now or else, trust me, no one has much of the affiliation with each other and I share ‘no special’ bond with this huge family of mine. Yes, I love them, I enjoy them, I respect them, it’s the same bloodline but the differences divide us at times and the mindsets are the broken bridge in between.
“Do In Rome As Romans Do” –is the best way to explain my behavior once we’re in the premises of my father’s childhood home. But how hard can one try, right?
To be very honest here, I don’t know why I’m typing this. There is no need for me to flash this around; no need to present it to you all that Dadi has become a living legend, for me. I write when the words really just keep pouring out. This is one of those times.
I see her, I sit with her on her battered char-poy ( Manji, as they call it, a hand woven bed) and sometimes I would compare my feet with hers, fascinated by the immense resemblance, I was told I had my Dadi’s feet :p or sometimes, I would play with her flesh of skin which hangs from her arms and round the elbow. The loosely hanging skin is more like a kid’s play-dough. One can mould it as whatever they wish. & like most of the times, she would be unaware of her surroundings.
The normal greeting is alwaayysss the same. Which starts with a Salam (hello) followed by the introduction of who you are. We tell her we’re whose kids and then the name. At times she gets it on one go and sometimes, my aged cousin, who’s more of a caretaker of her as well, would have to explain it loud and clear telling her to welcome us and pat us with her hand to give us love and blessings. The common gesture of the village, I’ve noticed; You pay your Salam and then lower your head down to receive the unconditional love from the elders.
Not to forget the times when she would ask me if my father is around so she can sneak in her hukkah (single- or multi-stemmed instrument for vaporizing and smoking tobacco), her ultimate addiction which all of my uncles living in the village are also addicted to, except my father who once tried puffing it and ended up fainting. She would not smoke/puff it in front of my dad, for she knows he dislikes it and doesn’t approve, but everybody knows what the story behind the scene is and she would laugh.
Dadi, without even doing much, is a lot closer to me than I had ever imagined. 3-4 months would go by, I wouldn’t see her. Never had the heart-to-heart talks with her since that was completely out of the question but there’s something which just kept us bonded. Her undying love for us, her countless prayers, her advices on how I should stop studying and focus on doing more holier things, the sound of her kid-ish laughter on every question I would ask from her – everything is reasonable enough for me to love her.
If I am going to end this blog with a little sadness then that would be her thinking that the every goodbye kiss *I* give her is from my little sister. & she tells my dad about it almost every time that the little one kisses her and then she would laugh, again with sheer cuteness. Damn it!
Since 1906 and still counting: I found my living legend that lived one century and hopped to the next one, did you?