Sunday 30 September 2012

The circle of life (without Sir Elton singing)

Two years ago someone who I loved very much passed away and on the same day someone came into my life who I love more than I know how to express.

A face only a Naniji would love
My beloved Naniji was the only grandparent I ever knew. She lived far away in India so I only saw her every few years, so my Mum used to send her photos of us all growing up. When I visited her aged 11 she had all my school photos and many others I'd never seen before that she kept lovingly in her special cupboard of valuables.

Even though I didn't see her often she was still the person I consulted on the big decisions in my life. It's from my Naniji that I get my love of tea - she never turned down a brew and teatime was a big deal in her house. Snacks, cakes, biscuits, savouries, etc. all laid out with endless cups of tea. This was all just a few hours before dinner !

I trusted her and found her wise, sassy and hilarious. Once during a family visit to a Rajastani palace we turned round to ask her a question and she'd raced on ahead of us to make sure she didn't miss the tour. She was in her late seventies and faster than all of us.

When Hubbie and I were struggling to have a baby she talked to me honestly, openly and without judgement. Despite her speaking no English and Hubbie speaking no Punjabi they watched cricket together enraptured and in complete agreement. She wandered off again when we'd gone out shopping one day only to be found over an hour later in a coffee shop watching the big screen with local lads who were fussing over 'Ma-ji' and arguing with her assertion that India would win until she was proven right yet again.

She was fearless and held her own with anyone. As a young woman she went away to study with the support of her husband who took care of the children while she trained to become a teacher. This was unheard of at that time and in that culture. In her subsequent career she taught in a small village school bringing education to children who would not have gone to school otherwise and retired as a headteacher and widow.

My Naniji was one of the lads, the matriarch and the cheekiest person in the room all at once. She adored ice cream and loved nothing more than making her children and grandchildren laugh. It is that cheekiness that I see in my son's eyes and the smile he has when he's getting away with something. I'm delighted that Naniji knew I was having a son. The obvious Asian preference for boys aside, we have a lot more women in our family so he was the first boy in a long time. The fact that she passed away as he was being born is far too poignant to bear. 

The proudest Naniji in the world
When I spoke to my Mum in India from the hospital bed she told me that everyone was so delighted about my boy. She couldn't wait to meet him and I desperately wanted her to see him before anyone else. I didn't know that Naniji was gone at this point, but everyone else did. When Mum told me all I could say was how sorry I was - I felt responsible for her losing her mother so that I could have my son.  She insisted that the whole family felt joy for his life instead of sadness for her death. 

Mum returned two weeks later and we surprised her at the airport with her new grandson. Their meeting was belated, but no less magical for being in the arrivals lounge of Heathrow. Now the mantle of Naniji belongs to my Mother and she wears it every bit as well as hers did. 

In the moments that my son is willful and argumentative (which are becoming more frequent the older he gets) I have to stop myself being angry and see him for the strong and independent soul he is. There are photos of him in which I see my Naniji's expressions - it's uncanny. 

I'm not asking anyone else to believe in reincarnation or Karma. For my part I believe that my Naniji leaving us was a Karmic exchange that gave me my precious boy. I know she would have loved him beyond measure and I hope he adores and values his Naniji as much as I did mine. 

Have a wonderful birthday son xxx


  1. Oh my goodness what a lovely tribute to both your naniji and your son.Your love for them both shines through x
    Popping by from Jennifer's 3 to read post

  2. Thank you Jess, really lovely of you to take the time to both read and leave a message for me.

    Yes, they are both very special to me :o)

    (and thanks to Jennifer too x)