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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

For You Didan....Rest In Peace.


Didan – a term of endearment. Many in Bangla call their maternal grandmother dida…I called, or rather, will still call mine ‘didan’.
The very first memory I have of didan is when she had come over to Delhi to our home to look after me, while my mother was expecting her second baby. I was somewhere between five and six years of age that time and it was the very first time that I had been away from my ma. Didan had come to look after me specifically for that reason – that I do not feel lonely and that I could get the love and care of a mother – she is my ma’s ma after all.
The first image I have of her is surely from then. I was alone at home with her, and she was telling me a story, trying to make me finish my food spoon by spoon. I remember she would try and try for hours on end and when I still did not listen, she would admonish me with that gentlest of voices, telling me that since I was not listening to my didan, she would have to go away. Most of the time that did the trick and I was back to listening to her. Of course that would be followed by a story and putting me off to sleep in her arms.
As we were growing up, our interactions with didan were more and more restricted to school holidays and vacations. We would look forward to visiting her in the house at Assam. It was always a joy – plunging into that treasure chest of stories that she always had with her, listening to all those childhood memories she would relate to us about when we were small, taking part in some childhood conspiracy and being on our side if we got caught – the typical ‘grandparent’ thing that every child looks forward to. And of course when we visited her, there were always those special dishes that only a grandma can prepare. I don’t remember all of that though, but what I still remember is that on those afternoons, when she would cook up something special for us kids, we would all be sitting together around the dining-table that was covered in an oil-cloth, waiting for her to come and feed us all, and the added attraction being the story to accompany the warm delicious food.
Over time those stories spilled over to an interest in books, and as my ma introduced me to the world of books, didan further helped me understand that world better by gifting me books and making me know how special they are. Today, my little daughter is already a book-addict, and I have didan to thank for playing a part in it.
I used to write to didan in Bangla, a script I hardly used with anyone but didan and maashi, and she would always tell me she loved reading my letters. In later years, the letters gradually disappeared and instead, we would sometimes end up talking over the phone, her soft voice always asking me how I was and what it was that I was doing, always trying to take an interest in my life and understand me better.
Years passed, I grew up and got married. She was very old that time, but still she made it all the way to Delhi, just to attend my marriage and give me her blessings, placing her hand on my head and telling me that her wishes would always be with me.
I remember last year when I took my daughter to meet her for the first time, it was such a special moment - my didan meeting her daughter’s daughter’s daughter - it was a really special moment. And I am glad it happened, she was so happy to meet her fourth generation.
I was planning to visit her again this year, but that time will never come now and I will always have that one regret, that I wanted her to meet my daughter again, to show her how she is growing up, but it was not to be.
The day didan passed away there was a bright moon outside my window, its glow somewhat dimmed by the clouds. I looked out at the sky and as I did so, a touch of that silver came down and settled on my hand. As a child I remember having heard that when someone passes away, they go up there to live in the sky. Was she up there that moment? Was she sending her blessing, her caress, down on me? I liked to think of it that way. And I closed my eyes and talked to her. I told her I am sorry I did not take care to be with her sooner than I had planned, I told her I loved her for all those times she had spent with me and those times she had been away but still her blessings and love were with me, I thanked her for blessing my daughter, and I told her that night, that if again I get a chance of meeting her, I would not waste a moment again, but tell her how much I love her.
That night as I went to sleep I looked out in the dark and smiled, thinking that from somewhere, didan was surely watching me.
I don’t know the truth or false of it, but all I know is, that for me, my didan will always still be very much alive, very much a part of who I am, and when my daughter grows up, I will tell her about didan and how special she was.