Tuesday, April 21, 2009

For N

I worry when the women in my life fall apart. I have been brought up, nurtured, tortured, cut deeply and healed almost exclusively by women. Both my grandmothers are immensely strong in their own ways. My pishi (dad's sister) lives a solitary and very full life in New York City. She's been battling widowhood since age 26, and very recently had to battle cancer as well. Mum started her life anew at age 42, in a country she didn't know, in a language she had never known. My stepmum....well, she married my dad. No, I'm not being ironic, he's great, but not easy to live with. He came into her life 17 years older than she, and a daughter in tow.
I have girlfriends who have picked me off the floor, literally and emotionally. Both jobs I've had so far have brought me in contact with far more women than men.
N is my great-aunt - my grandad's younger sister. As long as I've known her, she 's been the zaniest, most fiercely independent person. After her husband died and her three sons were living their own lives, she continued to live in a big house in what was then a remote place called Salt Lake. She loved the crossword, reading and whiskey.
She would be chewing gutkha all the time and we were all convinced she would get terrible ulcers in her mouth.
She didn't like having people over or going to visit. She would call me a lot, though, when I was living with the Gestapo. We'd talk, make fun of everybody in the family and discuss what romance novels we could exchange the next time she came over.
She was the only person I liked going to bookshops with because she was never in a hurry, never looking over my shoulder to see what I was buying or how much it cost. When I called her after my F.Y. results to tell her I'd got a First Class, the conversation like this.
She: Hello
Me: N, I got my results.
She: Who the hell is this??
Me: It's Tia
She: Oh. So, did you phail??
Me: Nope, got a First Class
She: Oh, it's all one and the same

At age 60, she decided to do medical transcription. She gave the preliminary test and passed with flying colours.
Then, about a year back, she had a stroke that left her partially paralysed. She now lives with her oldest son in Ahmedabad. She doesn't read anymore.
N was the brightest of my grandfather's siblings. She had general knowledge that was astounding. She was an artist - the walls of her house and the GP's had many of her paintings. Ganesh was her favourite subject to draw. Everybody called her eccentric, they couldn't understand why she lived alone and woke up at noon and stayed up most nights listening to jazz and sipping a stiff whiskey. She was dark and plump and had little hair. Imagine not having such a person in your life...
And now she's a 'was.'