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My Dadi

I walk into my grandmothers house. Its dark outside. The apartment still smells like London Yardley perfume, the one my beautiful dadi used to wear. It is quiet, yet somehow I can still hear Sai Ram bhajans echoing in the corner. It is empty, the staff aren’t hustling about getting fruit, water or completing some other task that was instructed to them. As I walk into the main living room, one where I instantly expect to find a gorgeous old woman sitting with a warm welcoming smile - I cant help but pause and reflect. Her bed is empty, the room suddenly seems a lot larger, the TV which is inevitably playing some random cricket match is turned off, and it hits - there is a hole in my heart that nothing will ever be able to fill. She’s gone. I miss my dadi so much!


On 16th of March, Dadi jaan decided to say goodbye to us and left for the heavens. What a woman she was! Full of love, full of light, full of laughter and full of spirit! I was lucky to spend so many wonderful moments with her. Growing up, every afternoon, I was at Dadi’s house. Every birthday outfit was bought by Dadi. Every dance show of mine was attended by Dadi - in first row mind you. However, I think the specialest period I have spent with her was after I graduated from School, I moved out of my parents house and lived with her for three years. It was in this period, that we got super close. I was also much older by this time, so Dadi spent less time taking care of me, and more time having conversations with me - about life, values, history, while of course always keeping me well fed :)

Today, as I look back upon her wonderful life, I want to share a few things that will always stay with me.

“You are god’s favourite”

As I child, I was always sick. Some cold, some cough, some fever. Then, when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, I clearly remember her telling, “puttar, you are god’s favourite. God only gives challenges to those who he knows can handle it” - It was with this naive understanding that i realised that life doesn't get easier, but we just get stronger.

Himmat-e-mardaan Maddat-e-khuda

My dadi was without a doubt the strongest person I ever knew. Physically and mentally. I think that entire generation is built of another steel. Even at her sickest, she would smile and say ‘Im alright. Perfectly fit and fine.” (In those words exactly). Its a different, almost unattainable kind of resilience she possessed. She always taught me to be self reliant - “god only helps those who helps themselves” - this is actually such an important lesson in the grander scheme of things. One mustn’t ever feel helpless - and Dadi was the epitome of independence. Even at 85 and very frail - she would NOT leave her independent life. She would not move into one of her son’s houses. Thats true ‘himmat’.


“Jhukna tera kaam nahi. Chalna tera shaan hai” -

One random afternoon chai time, we spoke a lot about values. And dadi said this line. She said, never do anything that makes you bow down your head in shame. She always told me to keep my head held up high - and bow down to nothing and no one, especially not my own actions.


When you are afraid, people will try and scare you

If there was one person who was the embodiment of fearlessness - it is hands down my grandmother. Nothing and no one could scare her. And let me tell you a couple of incidents - When my grandparents were married and young, my dadu would come home from work for lunch everyday. Dadu was very fond of meat. One day, dadi had accidentally burnt the ‘keema’. Dadu, frustrated at the burnt meal pushed the plate off the table in anger. It broke. A normal reaction to this kind of incident is to be a little startled. Nope - not my rockstar dadi. She calmly got up, went to the kitchen, got a stack of 5 plates and dropped them all in front of dadu. She said - “you break one, ill break 5. Use your words.” What. An. Icon!! She always taught me to be tough and strong and that spirit I will carry on forever.

Always full of grace, dignity and poise

As a child, my cousin sister and I would alternatively go with dadi to her ‘kitty parties’. A bunch of punjabi women playing housie and rummy and having chatty lunches. I always used to look at dadi get ready for these events. Perfectly matching suit set, pearls on her neck, rings on her fingers, gold bangles, matching earrings, perfume, purse, lipstick. It was the effort that mattered. And even in her last few months, when she was weaker and frailer - that effort stayed. Whenever stepping out of the house, there were earrings dangling gracefully on her earlobes and an elegant watch on her wrist. That kind of grace you cant buy - its inbuilt.

Ek baat tay hai - Ki kuch bhi Tay nahi

One of the days, we were sitting and having lunch, after a bout of sickness which dadi had recovered gracefully from. This was the first time Dadi started talking about death - which was very new for me. I hated it whenever she spoke about her passing because it made me shiver from inside. She said this phrase, “the only thing that is for sure, is that nothing is for sure”. I think about this a lot in life - there are so many things that are not in our control and there is nothing we can do about it - so the best thing is to live fully (thats the only thing in our hands).


My Dadi - my love,

A woman with grit, fearlessness, strength, courage and the purest smile. Who migrated in the partition of India, who was a musical gifted child, who was always ready to feed anyone who walked through her door.


My Dadi - my love,

Who spoiled us grandchildren whole heartedly. Who was forever ready to go out and have a good time. Who rocked chiffon sarees in her youth and rocked salwar suits later. Who was a certified ace rummy player and came back from the club’s card room each night having won big bucks ;)


My Dadi - my love,

A poet, a singer, a sitarist, a chef, but most of all - a grandmother that was so full of heart, selflessness and unabashed spirit.


This loss feels so deep. I have never felt this kind of a hole in my heart. Perhaps because I was not at home when it happened, perhaps because I was connected with her in ways that I do not understand. A big shout out to the wonderful T1D community in London, who soothed the raw wound with love and support. Who gave me a minute of respectful silence on the day of TAD when my Dadi’s funeral was happening back home. Who made the hurt a little bearable for the first few days. I cannot and wont be able to ever thank you enough for being there for me when everything felt like it was crashing.


To my dadi,

There wont ever be a day I wont miss you. There wont ever be a day that I wont think of you. I promise to make you proud, to dance through the darkness, to sing and fill the silence, and to live on the legacy that you so beautifully built! I sit here today wearing your watch, the one you so elegantly wore on your wrist, and every time I look at the time, I think of you - and I smile :)


Rest in peace my dadi jaan - I know you will always be my guardian angel. Looking and smiling from the heavens, playing rummy up there (winning ofcourse) and blessing us all with your love and wisdom.


I love you. I will always love you.


Appka,

Raja Beta..

This ghazal that dadi used to sing hits different:

Zindagi mai do hi ghadiyaan

Mujhpe beeti hai Kathin

Ek tere aane se pehle

Ek tere jaane ke baad






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