We were sitting on the terrace; it was a cool, sweet night. Now when I say terrace, picture a large one. But it’s only on the right side that the takhat is placed, and several white chairs are set surrounding it, and there are a whole lot of plants lined at the other side by the wall. So we are all sitting together, talking, enjoying, and it’s ultimate family time.
There’s dadi. There’s taye abba. There’s tayi ammi, my mom, my dad, my siblings and I (we’ve come to visit). And I’m probably just, I don’t know how old, but a school-kid. Then they’re talking about aams (mangoes) and we’re probably eating them as well, when I remember this joke about kairis (unripe mangoes, them green ones) being hara-aams. And I tell them that. Dadi doesn’t quite hear it, she was very old. Taye abba asks me to relate it to her, he’s so adamant that I do. And so I go to her and tell. What do I get? A HEAVY (as heavy as it could be from her, the darling old one) SCOLDING!
Psst. How’s kairi haraam? What Allah has made halal, how can that be haram? We eat mangoes, don’t we? Are we eating haraam?
No, daadi, I don’t mean kairis are “haraam”. I just meant they’re “hara” “aams”! Dadi mock-slaps me. Taye abba is laughing. I am bewildered. And I look at them confused, pleading for help. They’re all enjoying it. Probably for a while they got scared too, because dadi had actually minded that. And ammi goes like, why did you have to start on this one? And taye abba encourages me again to explain it “better.”
Anyway, dadi didn’t quite get the joke. So it was on me. And taye abba, very mischievously, had done it. And right now I love him at this thought. I miss him.
Taya abba, baba, baray abbu and chacha. These brothers would all joke and tease around, and still they were those dignified sorts, utterly respectable and similarly lovable men MashaAllah. Taye abba passed away last month after staying for eight months in coma. He had had a brain hemorrhage and then he had disappeared like that for all this time. Like he was and he wasn’t. That’s another story though… For another time. Maybe. Or maybe not. I am not sure how much I am willing to say but you see, today I am going to write a bit. Until I am stopped.
Basically, it was around this time some seven years ago, that dadi died. It was Ramadan [Fifteenth]. And my parents weren’t here – they had gone for Umrah. (Like when taye abba got his attack, his son and son’s wife weren’t here – they had gone for Hajj.) So nana (my grandfather) and aani (my aunt) were staying here at our place. This was so long ago, man. And then I was sleeping and just the day before we had opened our fast at Taya’s where Dadi had been staying. Because like, when your parents aren’t there and it’s Ramadan, then your relatives kind of call you for Iftar parties and set your pick-and-drop and try to lift you up, etc. It’s a good practice, btw. And we (kids) had already been to Chacha’s and Phuppo’s and Baray Abbu’s, etc. Then we had gone to Taya’s. and that day, we had actually kind of freaked out because Dadi looked too unwell. Now, dadi was already half-paralyzed. It had been months since her stroke attack (it had first happened at ours, months-months ago), and she had those pipes attached and her hands and feet had swelled so much. When we saw her that evening, the weird sounds coming out of her throat had terrified us. They did. And my sister had asked Taye abba that maybe it was too serious and dadi should be taken to a hospital again. And Sara Appi (another cousin who had also been invited, because, well, her parents had gone abroad too) went towards her bed and sat there and held her blue, swollen hand and caressed her. and I stood there and called her again and again, coaxing her to see and respond somehow. And we were almost crying. And we stood near but I didn’t kiss her like Sara Appi was doing. And then we had come out of that room (and maybe Sara appi came out last, maybe) then we had Iftar. Then that night I was sleeping at my own home and my sister woke me up and she was crying loudly and I had just woken up, I couldn’t understand anything. Then I was like, tell me what happened. And she called my name then stopped and I pleaded her to go on and she only said “daadi” and I screamed “what happened to dadi?” but she won’t say anything because she couldn’t and then I ran out of my room and there Samar was crying too. I probably ran to Nana or maybe Aani and I know that I had never cried that much before.
The next morning the entire family, etc. had gathered at Taye abba’s and everyone was in the same state. I remember the day like nothing else. and baba had called and he was so impatient to return and he was told to offer an Umrah for her there instead… etc. and then in that room where dadi was laid and many women of our family had gathered to recite the Quran, samar had came with her phone turned on speaker and announced that baba would like to talk to dadi and then baba had talked. And I remember how almost everyone in the room had uncontrollably sobbed and I had heard baba break.
The next time I saw baba break was on taya abba’s situation. When he got severely ill. It was September 17th last year and the first nine days were so damn tough. We knew nothing because it was this moment or that. And the doctors had given up and we were hoping, praying and we wished for Faizan bhai to just make it here. He was his only son. And taye abba had even planned a grand party for their after-return as to celebrate… And it was so unexpected. So hard. So bad. So something, anything that you can put in words because I can’t?
Anyway. If you’re reading this right now it means I pulled the courage to post it which should be a great thing because I am not sure I will, as I write. So you know, excuse the mess.
there’s so much more about taye abba that I can say. About dadi, somewhat. I remember her love. I remember her talks. I remember scenes with khala begum, her younger sister who had died before her. I remember how dadi looked like on her funeral. I remember when she was here, when we heard this naat together… When I recited too. I remember combing her hair. I remember her Ensure milk supplements, and her packet of medicines from before her big sickness. And I also remember the flowers printed on her shirt, basically not their color but a glimpse, like how a memory is and isn’t? Her photo from after she got wheelchair-bound, and when Anna Phuppo was here and she had insisted on taking a family photo. that’s our only major family photo. There’s dadi in the center and her sons and daughters and their spouses and all of us so-many-cousins and even some cousins’ kids which is to say another generation MashaAllah and everyone’s happy and everyone’s smiling.
I think my dadyaal (dad’s side of the family) broke when Dadi died. Because before that we were connected like something else. And wherever dadi would stay (she would take turns, and I remember requesting that it’s our “baari” now and that she should come – we would all do that) the other family members would unite. It was gatherings after gatherings and always were really nice.
Taye abba was the next key-person, the ‘eldest’ they all relied on. Someone who had a reputation for being loved by all of us because he chose to be with a person according to their age and caliber. I remember him planning a family picnic some four years ago (when my sister was getting married) and it was on our request that he had called and made the preps then and there (from our place – he and tayi ammi had come to visit. He was sitting in the lounge on a cushion by the wall). We had (run to mama’s room and) jumped in glee.
Also the other time when he brought gajar ka halwa because I had topped in my exams. Then his favorite thing of all time: he used to be like, ye tou pharray rakhti hai. Maria, tum cheating karti ho na? And he used to do this every time. I used to say, of course taye abba, I hide my notes here and there and there. This was our thing. But one day I was like, no taye abba, I don’t cheat, and he had called me the other day and apologized because had I taken it to heart? But he was that one and only person in my extended family who most valued my academic accomplishments. I used to call dad at his office to tell my results since school and later taya would call me specially, and congratulate me, and make it beautiful, always. From there to university. Last Eid he gave me extra Eidi because I had done something and he was proud of me. Right now I am thinking of how proud I am to have had that kind of person in my life. He made it obvious every time that it mattered to him, what I did, what any other cousin did.
I have other things in mind too. The opposite-word-games that made our childhood, the conversations in the car, the times when we were kids and went to their office and ordered chicken tikkas for lunch.
When he renovated his house, there was this huge abstract art painting in his lounge. And he knew I was fond of abstract and he would say, this is your favorite, isn’t it? You get it?
We had a nice time.
I am not sure what to say now. I gotta stop.