I had only heard her sweet voice on phone till then. She would talk to me in Hindi addressing me as Aunty! When we met in person, we gelled along very well. Her company was very soothing and fun-filled in an unknown place with strangers all around speaking in an alien language. She would be my interpreter whenever the need arose. In a couple of days, I was re-christened as ‘Pi’ coz Kakima or Chachi sounded Eeks!!! She became my Bangla teacher and I owe my first exposure to Bengali alphabets to her. She partially filled the void that Sindhu’s (my sis) absence had created in my life. We were the best of pals and would quarrel over trifle things too. She seldom forgot that I was her Aunt and treated me like her peer. She is not to be solely blamed for that, perhaps I give her that much of space and privilege. I too become a kid with her and seamlessly enjoy myself in her company. She would keep a close watch on all my activities and criticize or compliment me on everything, be it accessories, apparels or even my ways of doing things. She always found my way of munching food funny and imitated it. (Well, that’s how my Dad ate and I have inherited it from him, can’t help it) We share common interests like crafts, drawing, painting, baking etc.
She is our niece and we fondly call her Ummi. A strong bond tied our hearts when we lived together in the first 8 months post my marriage. Whenever Abbas and I went out, we would always take Ummi along with us. I recall a few incidents and would like to jot ’em for posterity.
Abbas and I were going for a dinner party with his friends. By default, Ummi was to be tagged along. Now my FIL is a bit conservative. So, I had a worn short top and parallels I guess. When we left the home, I draped myself with a big dupatta. And just when we came out of the gate, I secretly handed over the dupatta to Ma. It seems that FIL came to know and he freaked out on Ma saying “How could you let your DIL go without a dupatta?” So Ma instantly made up a story that “No, she had a dupatta in her bag which was better so she gave this back.” When we were at the party, Bhabi (co-sis) called up and told me all that had happened. So she told me to give a missed call to her cell when we reach apt gate. She would throw a dupatta from the window. All that was religiously followed and I entered home with a dupatta draped around. By that time, things were cool anyway. Guess what Ummi did. She directly went to FIL and said “Daadu, Pi ka dupatta bag mein hi tha”.
Bhabi had gone along with Ummi to her friend’s house to invite for Ummi’s Birthday Party at home. As soon as the friend’s mom opens the door, Ummi says “Ma, have we come to invite them for my bday? No need Ma. Anyway they will not bring any gifts” Needless to say Bhabi was embarrassed to bits.
She addresses Abbas as ‘Pa’ (Derived from his nick name Tumpa) and me as ‘Pi’. Whenever Abbas would scold her if she did any mischief, she would come to me and say – “Ye kaise ladke se shaadi kiya hai tumne Pi?” (What kind of guy did you get maried to?) I would say “Kya karu? Main agar Pa se shaadi nahi karti, to main tumhari Pi kaise hoti?” (I wouldn’t have been your Pi had I not married Pa) She had solution for that also – “Didi ka aur ek beta hota, aur to tum usse shaadi kar leti…” (Wish Didi(her granny) had another son and you could marry him”)
I finally got a job and I was being sent to a different city for the Initial Training Program. Everybody would ask her “If your Pi goes away, how will you stay??” She would shrug her shoulders and say “So what? It’s not a big deal” On the eve of my departure, I went out with her to buy some stuff and she told me “Pi, I want to tell you a secret. But you promise me that you won’t tell anyone” I agreed. She said “You know Pi, I have kept a photo of yours hidden in a secret place. When you will go away, I will bring that photo out and cry whenever I’ll miss you.” and tears flowed down her eyes and in-turn from mine too. I was stunned to see a softer side of a girl who is a brat otherwise and portrays herself as emotionally strong.
I dunno from where she picked up the lines but she would always say “Pi pi pi, aaj to tumhara batwaara hoga hi hoha”. And when I had twins, BIL said “See Seema, Ummi’s words came true”. During my pregnancy she would always say she’s gonna have two sisters. My in-laws were hoping for a grandson and her words would catch on their nerves. Her dad admonished her and asked her to say that she would have a bro and a sis. Poor her, repeated what her dad asked her to say. And then she slowly whispers her secret to her Pi and Pa that she knows its gonna be two sisters. And why she heartily wishes for two sisters is because they would play with her. She doesn’t want brothers because they would go out to play and pick up bad habits like smoking… How thoughtful of her…