This is a piece that I wrote on a person who always inspires me. I posted it on Facebook and got so many wonderful responses, I simply had to put it in my blog. I'd love to know of your stories about such family members...
The nicest thing about going back to Calcutta (never Kolkata) for even a short break, is the chance I get to have a cozy natter with my mother’s eldest sister, sitting on her balcony in the mellow evening breeze. This time was no different. Yet, she was a little more frail, her voice even softer, her characteristic still-black hair now cut short and the ubiquitous printed white saree replaced by a more comfy housecoat that Bengalis call ‘sharadeen’ or ‘all day’.
Amid the hullabaloo over the epochal passing of Jyoti Basu — some seven years older than my aunt — her thoughts were on a different tack. Not for her any self-pitying notions of mortality or decrepitude. “There is no one left to call me Dipu any more,” she said with a wistful smile. “One by one, everyone of my generation is gone. I’m not far from my 90th birthday, after all. No one of my age to talk to, gossip with, laugh with...”
“There’s always your children, your younger sisters and all of us cousins and grandchildren. We all love chatting with you, listening to your reminiscences,” I protested stoutly. “But you don’t call me Dipu,” she answered. “I’m Ma, Didi, Boromashi, Boropishi and Dida to everyone now.” That is indeed the case. Even in the midst of a close-knit extended family that has always admired and loved her, her age has left Boromashi isolated in a way none of us can remedy.
But as usual, she has thought of a solution. Something that never would have occurred to me. “I have told Rahul (her eldest grandson and my nephew) that his newborn daughter Anjulie should call me Dipu,” she announced with a note of glee in her voice. “Isn’t that perfect? My first great-granddaughter can’t call me by any of the names you all do, so why shouldn’t she just call me Dipu?!”
With nearly a century between them, there cannot be a more appropriate new friend for my aunt than a wide-eyed little cherub, too young to be constrained by inhibitions about seniority. Hearing a child’s voice calling out “Dipu!” will definitely make the weight of Boromashi’s nearly-90 years slip away like a school satchel at the beginning of summer holidays.
As usual, a chat with Boromashi has given me a unique gift — an age-lifting miracle that has nothing cosmetic about it.