Today is my Dadaji’s 89th Birthday. We could have been congratulating him and celebrating with him, he clad in his flowy cotton Kurta-pyjama and child-like smile, cheerfully clapping and singing the bday song along with us. Only thing is we can’t, anymore…
We lost him to a month-long battle with a hip injury on the 2nd of December. The separation was painful and I am still coming to terms with it. So it was a double-blow when I lost my Nanaji two days back, also to frailty. My Nanaji, with Urdu Shayris ever on the tip of his tongue and a carefree heart, was another gem of a person who left us with countless amazing memories to cherish. Our schools, colleges, or work-spaces, in all these years, never teach us how to deal with death, in spite of it being the ETERNAL TRUTH of our very lives. We don’t discuss death openly in our homes. We hear about it, see it from a distance, but do not fully realize what it means unless it happens to someone so close to us.
Death indeed is a great teacher and if there is one lesson that I have learnt in the last few days, it is about understanding what remembrance is. Grieving a loved one is a natural process and very much so. One must give themselves the time and space to mourn and cleanse the pain that the parting leaves. However , real remembrance of a person goes beyond mourning his parting. It would be in celebrating and if possible, imbibing the amazing qualities that made him the person he was.
When I look back, I realize there is so much that I have learnt from both these amazing Gentlemen by just observing them living their life all these years and it will take me a while to put all that in words. However, if there is one thing that could define them, it was their ‘Zindadili’- the endless love for life and every human being around them. Both my Dadaji and Nanaji were Indo-Pak partition survivors. They saw the place, they once called home, become part of another country which they were no longer allowed to inhabit. They were teenagers at the time, in the exciting phase of their school days who were now forced to build a new life from scratch in a place unknown to them. However, they took it in their stride and built a life full of love, devoid of any hatred whatsoever. No one could ever leave unfed from our home or without a hearty chat with Dadaji who could effortlessly strike conversations with anyone he met. ‘Hello Sir’..’Ram Ram Amma’, he would carefully choose the salutation to suit the receiver, however, always said with the same fondness. My Nanaji, the quieter of the two, would greet everyone with a gentle smile and if one was lucky then with a Shayri or two from his amazing collection. Both of them lived easy, stress-free lives, their daily routine filled with plenty of walking, spending time in nature and indulging in their hobbies. Like true Punjabis, they loved their food and ate it with absolute reverence. For many years, I heard the Panchatantra story of crocodile and monkey, customized Dadaji style with added description of the elaborate dishes prepared for the monkey’s bday party(Garma garam Jalebi…Samosa..)
Today it is yet another of Dadaji’s birthday but he is not here to plan the elaborate menu with us. However, I am sure he is having a wonderful time with Dadi and Nanaji up there. Happy Birthday Dadaji !
Meanwhile, I fondly and lovingly remember the two of them with a Sher that Nanaji recited to me on one of my visits to his home in Satna.’
ज़िन्दगी ऐन दीदे-यार ‘फ़िराक़’
ज़िन्दगी हिज्र की कहानी भी ..