My grandmom. She passed away today.

She had 93 long years. She lived a happy childhood – second of 5 sisters and 1 brother in a happy household. She married happily, to a handsome man, in to a rich family. She lost almost everything in partition, turned into a nearly penniless refugee far away from home, her families split across states. She brought 5 children into the world, but lost her husband and the eldest to the country I live in. They needed to earn to get the rest of family up off their knees. She raised her kids, educated them, got them married, moved towns, made a new house, had grandchildren, saw them grow up, move out. She had her husband return home, to finally live with her, after 30 years. She, they, fell in love again. They lived a few happy decades, again. Then he cheated her again, dying in his sleep while she was terminally ill. She was always the stronger one. She survived, she strived, she smiled, and kept her huge family together. She’d been ill for over 8 years. She’d been first declared “about to die” 5 years ago. He’s been gone 7 years.
Her eldest left too, slipping away from her while in this cold land halfway across the world. She couldn’t see him, in death, like in much of her life. Yet, she lived on. She didn’t fight anything anymore, but she never understood giving up either.

Today, finally she left us. Long after most of her body had given up. Long after many of her senses had stopped working. Long, long after the doctors thought she would go. Long after we went from dreading her death, to celebrating her life.

They’ll be happy together, up there. Sharing jokes, scheming, gossiping, hugging when no one’s watching.

Thank you, Mama! For being the strongest person I’ve known. And for being that, living like that, with a beautiful smile and an unparalleled spirit. For saving me from dad’s beatings, and papaji’s scoldings. For spoiling me with your pinnis and paronthis. And for that ₹100 and mishri you quietly placed in my hand every time I left home.

Enjoy, wherever you go, Mama. And give papaji a kiss on the cheek from me.

Continue reading Mama

Going home

Tomorrow I’m heading to India. A 12 day trip, all of it planned to be spent in Karnal. No plans, yet, of travelling, meeting friends, or spending any nights away from home.
Feeling a bit weird. It’s been a while since I did this, since I spent time there.

In 6 years since we moved to the UK, I’ve made a total of 5 visits home – once when grand dad passed away, then one to see F&F, next after our wedding, then for my sister’s wedding, and last for R’s sister’s wedding.

It’s almost 5 years since I visited to meet family outside of an occasion.
It’s been way longer since I stayed in Karnal for anything over a week.1

Continue reading Going home

Sad, Glad.

My grandfather, lovingly called Papaji by everyone from his grandchildren to his younger brother, passed away last week.

We were close and the news of his passing broke me. I did fly down to pay my last respects, attended his cremation and spent time with my grandmother, but nothing has been able to remove that big black hole he’s left. However much I may try, smiles refuse to linger, brain suddenly breaks for jaywalks into past and tears start bubbling up.

His passing was sudden – he hadn’t been ill or weak, other than the frailness that comes with age. And more than anything, it is that suddenness that hurt the most. I didn’t get to say good bye, to hug him one last time, to share a few old thoughts, to thank him, to be scolded by him one last time… to do those small things that help provide closure on a long and treasured relationship.

However, in that suddenness of passing, is also a sense of satisfaction. He passed away peacefully in his sleep having spent his last morning just the way he liked – chatting to ma, flirting with grand ma, soaking in the sun and reminding dad of sundry chores. It was during his afternoon siesta that he chose to leave us, with a smile on his face. I wonder what was he dreaming that brought that smile on. At least, it is clear that he didn’t suffer any pain in his passing. At his age, in late 80s, this was a blessing.

He had lived a long life and varied life – born as the eldest son to an extremely rich landlord in what is now Punjab in Pakistan, lost a little family and all his possessions during partitions, spent 30 years working in the UK away from his wife, mother and kids, and then came back to spend his last decades as the patriarch of a large and loving family. To pass away peacefully at the end of it is just the way he would have liked it.

Yet it hurts. And not just me. My sister, my younger cousin siblings, dad’s younger sister and grand dad’s younger brother – all people who had been really attached to him, all people who were far away when he passed away, all people who didn’t get to say their good byes, all people who quietly sob in a corner whenever left alone.

We all miss you Papaji. We all inherited your strong head, now is the time we need your strong heart as well.


Your grandson.

Continue reading Sad, Glad.