I was always in awe of the two ladies who always were different from anyone else I knew in my grandparents’ generation. My mother and her siblings were definitely a bit wary of them and I guess that rubbed off on me. However, I don’t remember ever being reprimanded or spoken to in a harsh tone by the sisters of my grandmother. They were strict and led disciplined lives but were never unreasonable or austere.
For whatever reason, neither of them got married and lived with each other until the end. I remember their home in Fraser Town with the large tiger skin carpet complete with the head of the tiger. There were always the most interesting things in that house, from the artefacts picked up around the world to the rare collection of wonderful books in the dining room shelf.
Both were extremely active, teachers by profession, and conducting home tuitions until very recently. My interactions with them were always wonderful and their command of English and world affairs fascinated me to no end. Unlike most people of that generation, these were two practical people. Not once did the do the usual emotional blackmail of me not visiting them, that they’re old and dying and that our generation doesn’t care for them…blah blah bah. Whenever we met, which wasn’t very often, we conversed like we had met the day before and all they would say was ‘Do come by when you have time. We know it’s not easy with your work and personal commitments, but know that there are two old ladies to visit when you can’. I loved that!
Almost everyone in that family circle who ever fell sick would land up in their house. They pretty much looked after anyone who needed any kind of care. All this was done as routine – as part of their lives, never once feeling that they were doing a favor or that they were going out of their way to help. Eternally cheerful and full of good humor, these were role models of a rare calibre. Nothing bogged them down and nothing was insurmountable.
My first grand aunt died a year and half back. Her sister died on April 26th this year. I think the passing away of the elder one took a lot out of her. She had wanted her body to be donated to the medical college and I went there on 27th morning to pay my respects to a great human being. Not that I was every close to them (mainly because I hardly saw them), but seeing her lying on the stretcher brought a few tears to my eyes. The inevitable finality of it all hit me and the fact that she was the last of the siblings of whom my grandmother was one.
To their dying day, my grand aunts were strong independent women, cherishing life and spreading happiness and positivity all around. I will miss them and think of them often as I attempt to lead my life the way they did; trying to make a difference in an uncomplicated manner. As I write this piece, I can’t help but wipe a tear from my eye as I realize how much people really mean to us and we find out only after they are gone. May their souls rest in peace.