The memory is almost as old as I am – when I received a spanking for having ventured out of my classroom and into another. I also received a toffee and a hug as soon as I reached home and another spanking in the evening as I messed up with my homework, only to be put to bed with a fairy tale and a kiss.
Those are the fondest memories of my childhood. Those are the moments I cherish most and those are the times I will never forget. And those are the experiences that contributed to my growing up in an atmosphere of love, compassion, discipline and a lot of fun.
And, no, it was not my mother who was responsible – it was my ‘bhua’ – “Kuki Bhua”, who had taken it upon herself to see me through those years. She played with me, she took me out, she sneaked me ice cream even when I had a cold and was the first to step in when I became victim of my mother’s sometimes furious temper.
She discreetly made sure I was at ease in the school where she was one of the teachers and where she proudly brought chocolates to distribute among my classmates, making me their hero.
Then she fell ill. I was still in school when that happened. It was the power of prayer that intervened and she recovered, raised her two bright children, made sure they settled well and had their own families. We remained in touch, although we were thousands of miles apart. Several family functions came and went – I made it to a couple of them, but most I missed.
Then it happened again – the deadly illness came back – but once more she recovered, the fighter she was. Doctors said she would live to a ‘ripe old age’ and ‘play with your grandchildren’, and she did.
When I last called her up, almost a year ago; she said she was not well. However, she said she ‘could walk’. But something in that tone made me feel the worst was inevitable. She called me a few days later, spoke at length and said I should take care of myself. That was, I feared, the final goodbye. And it was.
Today, as the family bids her farewell, I am miles away. But I know she understands. She knows I am as much her favourite nephew as she is my favourite aunt.
I miss you, Bhua. I know you are watching from up there. You had a great life, you were a perfect bhua, the best mother, wife, sister, daughter and, most of all, a super human being.
God doesn’t make them like you anymore!