We are a BIG family on my mom’s side. Big enough to have made a huge and sprawling mansion, feel tiny when we got together. The field (yes, you read that correctly; field, not garden) was larger than a standard football field, and that was not counting the vegetable patches on the other side. These vegetable patches grew enough food to sustain our whole clan the entire winter season, without us needing to buy vegetables from the local grocer. That mansion itself is over half a century old and was built when my mother was learning to balance herself on both feet. Since then the mansion has seen four generations of our family. The tall and robust walls and large gates have protected us. Occasionally, a thief or a trespasser has infringed. Those incidents have contributed to the many legends, which make that mansion a ‘home’ for me. Though when I think about it as home, central to it is he – Bade Mama.
Bade Mama – literally translates as older maternal uncle in Hindi. I have 4; but since he was the eldest, he earned rights to the title. He was the eldest of the siblings, my mother the youngest and they were separated by over a decade. When my Nana – maternal grandfather – passed on, Bade Mama became the patriarch of our family and quite effortlessly fit into those shoes for all of us. For the many years that followed, it always appeared to me, that he had a simple, uncomplicated life. Of course, as I grew older, wisdom started to trickle in, and ignorance was no longer bliss, the notion of ‘simple, uncomplicated life’ was also debunked gradually, if not day over night. I learnt to realize, that his life was as complicated as everyone else’s (sometimes more), but his easy demeanour didn’t necessarily indicate the extent of his challenges.
In fact, he reined us in, during all our problems. In difficult and dark times, he lit the torch and carried us through till the end of the tunnel. In happy times, he led us too. He infected us with laughs because of his ability to find a joke in absolutely anything! We learnt to laugh at ourselves, cause he always made it look so effortless to laugh at himself. He was the person that got the party started, and often needed a LOT of cajoling to agree to call it a night! He loved stories. Listening to them, and telling them. In a strange way, he was a character – both, lovable and loving. It didn’t matter if you were 80 or just 8 – when you met him you didn’t escape being stirred by his simplicity.
Maybe we ignorantly took the comfort of his presence for granted. He had always been there to depend on, and we all just assumed, that is how it was meant to be. He went away sudden. He went away soon. Just like that, one morning, he wasn’t there and we were suddenly just left with that. At first, the shock numbs. Then it starts to sink in and hit home. Finally, one accepts things exactly for what they are, and moves forward. Each one at their own pace.
5 years on, I have learnt to swallow the loss. Today, I can look back and reflect on the happy moments instead of holding on to the pain. 5 years later, I have finally found it in myself to write what I would want to remember him by. The void remains. The family patriarch we lost that morning wasn’t replaced. He never will. Our time together was cut short, but what I do have in abundance are the memories, the laughter, the values of forgiveness and inclusiveness and the value of love – cause he embodied love with no conditions.