Thursday, September 5, 2013

Obituary: My larger than life Bari Ami Jee

My grandmother never let me grow. I was always a kid for her. She would treat me the way she treated me on my first day in the world. I am 28 and father of a kid. For my grandmother, I remained her first grandchild till her death. When her body was being lowered in the grave, I was telling myself that my childhood has ended today.
Enjoying a light moment

Bari Ami Jee, as we affectionately called her, was a women of old times when competency of a women was not measured in terms of her degree or hobbies. She hailed from the time when women had to do house chores, agriculture and tending to the cattle. She did everything. No one has ever heard her saying that she is tired.

I can still recall the days when she would have to travel a long distance on foot to reach a Tonga stand to go to bazaar. She would always take her white cream coloured leather bag for shopping. On her return, she would bring marudna (a sweet delicacy made by grains, gurr and dry fruit) and naan kabaabs. In those times, naan kabaabs were a luxury. Very few would afford them. I still remember the taste of those naan kabaabs wrapped in a newspaper and packed in a shopping bag.

She was very active. She would cut crops, come home, make meals, tend to cattle and then visit her friends’ houses in the village to help them in their household chores.
To her daughters, she was a strict mother. My mother and aunts are early raisers. The grandmother would wake them up every morning before the sunrise and tasked them with cooking and sweeping. My mother and aunts became excellent house managers. They all are doing great in their houses because of grandmother’s tough training.

She was generous. During the last ten years, arthritis has reduced her movement to a cot in one of the six bedrooms of her sprawling bungalow. A table laden with medicines of all sorts remained near her cot since she became arthritis victim. Her social contact to the world was reduced to making telephone calls in the morning, receiving relatives from various financial and social backgrounds and attending telephone calls.

She would religiously make telephone calls to her brothers’ homes. All her bhabhis – some have become grandmothers - remained obedient to my grandmother till her death. No one dared to speak in a loud voice before her. She would call their landlines in the morning and ask them about their daily life affairs and what’s happening in their neighbourhood. She would rebuke them if they were found sleeping in the morning or their kids had missed school. One of her Bhabhi was a late raiser. She would often cough clear her throat before picking the first telephone call in the morning from her bed so that she sounds like a woken up person.
Bari Ami Jee with her grandsons.

My grandmother enjoyed a commanding position. Her brothers and their wives would often come to her to settle their domestic disputes and seek her advice concerning matrimonial affairs of their children. Her nephews and nieces would often come to her to complain about bickering between their parents. Bari Ami Jee could solve all sorts of domestic problems. I have seen her making couples retreat from decision of divorce.

My grandmother was an early riser. No one has seen her raising in the morning. She would wake up before everyone and sleep after everyone has gone to their beds.

She was an exceptionally good host. People who would come regularly to him would be treated as if they had come for the first time. When grandmother was young, she had to make meals for large number of grandfather’s guests quite often. She never wrote any recipe or remembered food equations. When my mother had to entertain large number of guests or a small number of guests on a very short notice, she would go to grandmother to seek her advice on handling the host-emergency.

Bari ami was generous. She was a giver. We had not seen her taking anything. When she was crippled with arthiritis, she had stacks of money placed below her pillow. Some notes were stuffed in a purse which was meant to carry Zakat money. Every morning neighbourhood kids would come to her to say good bye before going to school. They were given new crisp notes of 10 or 20 daily.

There are many widow mothers in the family. She provided them sustenance. What she gave to them was a tightly guarded secret. No one, even her children, knew what she gave to the needy families. A few weeks before her death, she had given up the hope of living. We tried everything but all in vain. I hit an idea. I asked her in a conspiratorial tone that what will happen after her death to all the orphans and widows depending on her. Sensing the gravity of the situation, she told my widow aunt to take care of the needy families as good as possible. I had sensed from her reaction that she is about to leave us.

Bari Ami Jee had a hot tempter. When angry, which she could become at all the times, she would express herself in choicest Punjabi curses. We enjoyed it when someone else was the recipient. I would often hide outside her bedroom window to hear her angry tone punctuated with Punjabi abuses. People who had been summoned by her for their wrong doings would first come to my mother seeking her intervention. My mother would go to Bari Ami Jee and would cool her down. The summoned person would enter the room after hearing my mother speak and Bari Ami Jee respond.

Newly-wedded daughter-in-laws and children visiting her first time were given expensive fabrics and cash, respectively. When she was hospitalized in Combined Military Hospital Jhelum, a doctor accompanied by his children, visited her room. She whispered into my Khala’s ears to give Rs 1000 each to doctor’s children from her purse as she was seeing them for the first time. My aunt explained to her that it would look awkward giving cash now and that we should invite the doctor and his family to our home when she recovers. My aunt’s explanation convinced her.

Bari Ami Jee was managing the affairs of estate, domestic workers and family matters so well that it never occurred to us that such matters existed. It was only after her death that we realized the magnitude of responsibility she had to carry. We never even knew the names of our domestic helpers. All my aunts and uncles are settled abroad. They would return to their homes soon. My widow aunt and my mother will have to stand in Bari Ami Jee’s place.

She remained hospitalised for a week. Continuous taking of pain killers for a decade had severely damaged her kidneys. It was two days before her death that laboratory test showed chronic renal failure. She was on artificial life support system. She breathed her last after seeing and recognizing her son and daughter who had come from abroad just two hours before.

1 comment:

  1. Khurram Shehzad MalikSeptember 8, 2013 at 10:23 PM

    She was a great woman.I am a neighbor of her but when ever i meet her she treated me as her own grand child.