On Sunday morning the phone rang and it was my dad, which is not unusual….for those who live far away from their loved ones, they know the fear and dread of the phone ring either too late in the night or too early in the morning, but this ring was welcome…it was my dad, on a Sunday morning, I guessed for his usual chitchat, which is always welcome.
And then conversationally he tells me, “your mom and I went to the village today and Choti Bua is no more” for a second I didn’t react and then the flood gates of memories opened up.
In last few years the phone has rung late in the night quite a few times bringing bad news but this time this supposedly normal call affected me more, I am compelled to write about my Choti Bua, my thoughts and my emotions are overflowing and no words can completely describe her and her vivid personality, even I didn’t know till now how much I was awed by her.
Choti Bua was my dad’s younger aunt, even though she was my Dadi Bua (Grand Aunt), I grew up calling her Choti Bua like my dad.
Me and my brother spent each and every summer vacation in our ancestral village, more at her house then our own grandparent’s home, since hers was a Palatial Havelli, with all the amenities even the occasional appearance of electricity and the old fan breathing humid air once in a while, it was this home where all the cousins would go up to the chat (the Terrace) and count the stars..It was her house where we would look forward to pooja (prayers) because she would always have some Prashad (sweet offerings) and it was her store-room full of various grains which we would take in small hathelis (hands) and run out to get Kulfis (milk popsicles) in exchange.
There is no end to the things we did because she seemed to have everything which as kids we possibly could want. She seemed to have everything, but fate had dealt her wrong cards to begin with, My Choti Bua, got married at a very young age and got widowed shortly, came back to her paternal home stayed there throughout her life before departing in her late eighties. She didn’t have any children and she had to stand up against her own in-laws.
Don’t get me wrong, fate might have given her, her share of tragedies,but she didn’t buckle in, neither did she spend her life crying and being dependent on others, she was one gutsy lady, standing straight at 5 ft 8 inches, back straight, clad in a white saree, beautiful and loving, she was a figure to reckon with till the day she said goodbye.
She took care of her younger brother’s family, loved his kids and us as her own, and she was the uncrowned queen of our Khandaan (Whole family), which was quite big, she was one of the five siblings and she ruled each household with an ironclad fist, no decision could be made without her final approval within our family as well as the whole village.
In the days when, women were illiterate and considered weak and poor, she fought a court case with her in laws for her fair share and she ran the whole village with her strong will power, she might have had a simple living, as my dad called her a “Yogini”, but she believed in Karma, she epitomized diplomacy, politics and strength to each and everyone.
It’s quite strange, I cannot visualize my own grandmother’s face but I can describe my Choti Bua’s face with the all the crisscross lines and the smiles..I have not even thought about her in the last few years, I got busy with my own kids and forgot about my own childhood, with its own people and milestones and memories. While creating and carving a world for my own kids, I forgot I had a childhood too, and then a phone call reminded me of all.
I didn’t cry a lot, though their was a void in my heart, I had more peace remembering her, remembering my antics in my village, walking through, going to anybody’s house, eating whatever came in our hands and overall enjoying carefree days with the knowledge,Choti Bua’s house is there and so are her farms and her hand over all of us.
My heart is singing the same carefree tune, I can remember my own ghar today with a lot of love and fond memories.. I hope each and everyone of you have had one such Choti Bua in your lives, who could move you to your core and be an inspiring figure….