Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Missing Nani

We called her Nani (grandmother) due to her old age and because our mother insisted that she should be addressed respectfully.
No one was allowed to question who she was. She had been living with us, since the time I could remember. She helped around the house and kitchen, although it was not expected of her. But she insisted on taking up few chores, because sitting idle and wasting time was sacrilege in her eyes. She made the most amazing dolls with cotton balls and pieces of cloth and as a young girl I remember having a basketful of dolls in all shapes and sizes made by her.

One day she said ‘There are distances in countries but there must not be distances in hearts.’

She was sitting beside me while I was grappling with my Math, as usual. I remember picking up my measuring scale of geometry and putting one end of it upon my chest and another upon hers.
‘Nani, the distance between my heart to yours is two feet.’ I said jokingly.
She was cutting mangoes and she waved the knife at me playfully and then she added gravely, ‘ Distance of hearts are not measured. You only feel such things. If you feel there is no distance, you don’t feel the separation.’
She had got up with a sigh to put the sliced mangoes in the refrigerator, and I still remember the cold sigh that had escaped her lips, along with the crackle of her old bones.
I often pondered over her words, realizing what Nani meant by having distances in hearts. It is the love gone cold. It is running after material comforts and letting the close relationships wither with neglect.
Personally she had lost almost her entire family in the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war. However, we had come to know that she still had few relatives who lived on.
She never talked about the loss of her immediate family that comprised of husband, two married daughters and a mother- in -law. Maybe the pain was too much to bear, but she often talked about her nephew and a brother who had settled down in Karachi, and talked of them with much love and longing. But as far as I could remember they never made any effort to get in touch with her. She lived on memories, sighs and I often caught her staring pensively towards the door.Hoping that someday, some loved one might come back, and moisten up those arid eyes.
But no letter, no postcard ever arrived for her.
However, despite the apparent desire in her eyes to go back to her roots, I never saw her crying or complaining. She maintained a stoic calm and whatever time was left from her namaz (prayers) she kept herself busy around the house, arranging the linen cupboard, cutting vegetables, cooking something special in the kitchen or making dolls.

One day a letter arrived for her, with the postmark from abroad. She wept with joy while her eyes scanned the words hungrily.
Her brother had asked her to come and live with her. He had arranged for the tickets, visa and other requirements for her travel. We were all very sad at the thought of her leaving us but we were also very happy for her. Her happiness was extremely contagious and we couldn’t help basking in that warm glow emanating from her.
Nani left one day for strange shores, amidst loads of tears and promises to remember us always. We received a postcard a week later, informing us about her safe arrival to her destination. Months, years and then more years passed. It took away the edge from Nani’s memories but we did talk of her now and then, remembering her with fondness...

However, nothing could have prepared us for what we heard, five years after she left. The news of her missing from home.Nani missing? Where did she go?

It so happened that one day she had left home after a rather bitter quarrel with her sister-in-law and never came back. The police couldn’t find her, the relatives couldn’t trace her. After few weeks they even began to look for her body, assuming she was killed or met with an accident. But she couldn’t be found.
It’s been twenty years now, since she has gone missing. Something tells me she is still alive. I don’t feel it inside my heart that she is dead.
Perhaps, the distance that she spoke of had not settled inside my heart even after so many years and I could feel the vibes, of her living somewhere.

She must be around eighty years old now, assuming she is still alive.
And wherever she is, I pray that she is safe and peaceful.


Pallav said...

You can count on my prayers too. Extremely touching story :)

Elisabeth said...

what a strange and sad story Nazia. I think when people disappear and you are left wondering it is worse than facing a death. It leaves you filled with doubts and hopes and pain.

Nazia Mallick said...

I agree Elisabeth!

...and from all your words, I would pick up "Hopes" We all live and are able to bear 'life'largely on hope...

Nazia Mallick said...

Thank you Pallav.

Christine Robinson said...

This is a very moving tale, Nazia. We have those chapters in our lives that are never fully closed, and it leaves us with a mystery... a question with no answer. I hope that supposing the best for her has made it so.

With affection,

Nazia Mallick said...

Thank You Christine, for your very thoughtful comment.

Yes, I suppose there is always the prayer that may the best happen to those who go missing, if all else fails.

awyn said...

A very moving, beautifully written story, Nazia. That you still feel a connection, that for you the distance between your heart and her heart is the same as it ever was, may be her speaking to you, from wherever she is. Thank you for sharing this.

Nazia Mallick said...

Annie,it is always a pleasure to hear from you.Thank you for stopping by and connecting.
What you say is true. There are but so few people who come into your life and leave their mark deep inside your heart.It is something to do with their truthful heart.

Basque-Land said...

It is always so spiritual to read a story like this. That your Nani taught you, prepared you somehow for her disappearance and if not that her leaving for whatever reasons. Hold her in the light of your heart and see her smile; her spirit will never disappear. I am deeply touched.

Nazia Mallick said...

Yes Rozanna, I do agree with you.

She is definitely there somewhere.

I am often saved and guided in my darkest hours and I feel that it is my Nani and my mother's spirit that is guiding me.

I feel blessed.


Last night you wrote your sonnets in  Braille: the commas, parenthesis, ellipses engraved perfectly on my skin- and  I  ...