One fine Friday morning, miles away from home, I woke up to a few missed calls and a “Call me back” text from my brother. Any untimely or apparently urgent call from home can make you go weak in the legs. Now this was a phone call I was dreading for the past week. So with a lot of effort, I steadied my trembling hands and dialled home. My grandmother had passed away, I was informed. This piece of information shouldn’t really have been a shocker as my grandmother had been battling a debilitating illness for years now and had deteriorated over the last week but somehow it took me a while to process this and as I held on to the phone on my ear, it gradually sunk in that I wouldn’t get to see her ever now. While I broke down under this agonizing revelation, I tried to recount all the memories of her.
Miles away from home, my mind tried to salvage all memories of her. Memories that were hazy, fading.
She looked like a vision on those chillaikalan mornings, hunched over her Quran, her lips quivering with faith, her gaze transfixed behind her thick gold-rimmed glasses. Sometimes a silent prayer escaped her lips as warm sigh. Her faith was beautiful, almost poetic. She didn’t trust God blindly, she trusted Him like she could see Him, with the greatest certainty. And as I saw her age to a state of fragility, her faith matured into a rock-solid entity. She had the softest of voices but she asked “namaz parthe? (Did you pray?)” with a sternness that was so compelling. The breakfast started with her presence with a large nun chai flask by her side. She poured us freshly brewed tea and slathered our bread with butter and halfway through this display of affection if you somehow happened to object to ‘too much food’, she’d say “aes che ne zaaye karaan (we don’t waste food here)” while her fingers tore the left over pieces of bread into crumbs to feed her regular diners, the birds. At every meal she used to look at us disdainfully, for she thought we hadn’t been fed enough. The day ended when she checked on us in bed to see if we were warm enough, which, for some reasons, we never were for her.
Those elaborate endearments she used to shower us with, those eloquent Kashmiri prayers she used to say aloud for us, remain etched in my memory like old songs. No one could evoke such love over a video call when she smothered the screen with her kisses. Even when her memory was failing her, piece by piece, each day, she somehow never forgot to ask me how my exam went. A hoarder of memories, she was a great narrator of stories with aphorisms which she tried to instil into us. My grandmother was a woman who preferred brevity, she was a woman of few but powerful words. She was a woman who enjoyed sunshine and company. She was a woman who pitied rickshaw pullers because we might be too heavy for them. I remember how she taught us to escort the bugs that had strayed indoors from the garden to safety. It was, after all, murderous to harm any creature of God regardless of its size. Though she never said it explicitly, she always taught us what’s right and what’s not through her actions.
Her frail bones were pillars of strength for the entire family, her diaphanous skin marked with prominent veins had the sweetest fragrance of home. She was a shrine in herself, of devotion, of compassion, of love. I never thought I’d be eulogizing her miles away from home because one of the things that pained her most was her loved ones living far away from her and as I lament her absence here, I’m sure she smiles upon us from a world she always believed was more enduring, more permanent. May we meet in Jannah.
Allahu yarham Nanuami.
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