Yesterday, January 1st 2011, at 8 a.m., I lost my sweet, gentle, darling dida (nani). Yes, I am broken once more, lost yet again. Beloved wife of an upright police officer, adored mother of three girls and six boys, the much pampered baby sister of six elder brothers and of course wonderful, special, loving grandmother to eight granddaughters and two grandsons. Why yes, great-grandmother to two great-grandsons.
She was purity personified and I don't say this just because she was my grandmother. I say this because she had a heart big enough to fit in the whole world with space for another. She had an innocence that remained intact till the very end. She saw no evil, heard no evil, spoke no evil, knew no evil; believing in the innate goodness of all God's creatures and creations. Her smile was guileless and her home an open house.
We knew she was dying. It was long over-due; her pain and suffering were unbearable. Bed-ridden for six long years, the last two years were terrible with the last two months being torture. This death is a happy release for she is now eternally free from the pain that she suffered wordlessly, with only a prayer on her lips.
Her powers of memory and recognition had begun to fade a few years ago and in the end, it was just the one son whom she recognised, my mama who lived in The House that will always be to me my Maamaa'r Badi. It was heart-breaking to be addressed as 'Didi' by her and many a-time I brokenly asked asked her, "Dida, can't you recognise me? It's me, your Laali (her special name for me), your first grandchild." She would screw up her face in concentration, trying to drag back memories of that once much-loved name and face, and drawing a blank, she would look up at me with an intense pain in her eyes, almost a guilt at not being able to recognise me...and that would kill me even more.
This is not the grandmother that I would like to remember. The grandmother that I remember delighted in a cup of tea, sitting out in the winter sun. The grandmother that I remember was a jolly, plump woman always wrapped in a red-bordered, white sari with oiled hair pulled back in first a plait and then a bun; hair which was still richly jet black even while her three daughters and long since started colouring their hair to hide the greys. The grandmother I remember was an endless supply of nimki, naarkoler naadu, tiler naadu and chirer mowaa. The grandmother I remember personified Kali Puja for us and she lived for it...it meant a huge, yearly family reunion; it meant working tirelessly yet joyfully, to appease the Great Goddess; it meant song, dance, laughter and adda. The grandmother that I remember meant a bosom full of warmth, a smile full of love and a treasure-box full of stories. The grandmother that I remember was full of blessings and good wishes for all who came her way.
However, I can't help but remark, that while her own world slowly faded away from the pages of her memory like delicate watercolours left out in the endless monsoon, she never once let go of the three names she held most precious to her heart and existence, her 'Takrur, Maa aar Swamiji'...known to the world as Sri Ramkrishna Paramahansa, Maa Saroda Devi and Swami Vivekanand. Every free moment would be dedicated to Them in prayer and song; she would go about her daily household duties with Their names on her lips; and finally, as she lay in bed, bereft of the power of memory, it was Their names that she chanted over and over and over again.
And that is why, I will pray that the loss of Jan 1st 2011 does not foreshadow the events and emotions of the year to be. Jan 1st for all the disciples, believers and followers of Sri Ramkrishna's Vedanta Mission is an extremely holy day known as Kalpataaru. So it is only fitting that my dida's soul took flight on a day when Takur granted His disciples bliss and benediction. My grandmother's soul received the same.
And not just that, but her shraddho, the ceremony conducted by the sons of the deceased, falls on the 11th of January...the day before the birth anniversary of one of India's most beloved sons and Sri Ramkrishna's most favourite disciple, Swami Vivekananda.
Yet again, I am so intensely awed by the soul's journey. My father passed away on Saraswati Puja, his soul received water from my hands on the birth anniversary of his idol, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and water from my brother's hands on Maghi Purnimaa. My dida passed away on Kalpataru and her soul will receive water from all my mamu's close on the heels of Swamiji's birth anniversary.
Two blessed, gentle and pure souls. Can it be any more clearer?
And I know that I am indeed fortunate to be able to call these two spotless souls my family, for have I not been touched by them? Blessed by them?
Goodbye my darling dida. Did you give baba my message? Are you part of the heavenly choir that breathes sweet, cool winds onto Earth's brow? Did you know that you were loved till the very end and beyond?