Love, this one word creates so many sparks in my heart. So many memories come flooding by, taking me on an emotional roller-coaster ride. I can’t seem to remember the beginning, however hard I try. And I don’t seem to be a part of the end too. But I have all the memories from the things in-between, all those moments I spent with her, all the little tiffs we had, all the stories she had told me, all those bhindi-fry in my plate filled with her utmost warmth and love. And I have her story – the story of her life that she spent by giving joy, care, love and warmth to all.
It was monsoon of 1941 and the house seemed to be in a frenzy with marriage preparations. Little Bhagyam was 12 years, brimming with ideas and dreams about her life. She was clad in a new crimson saree, with jasmine flowers adorning her hair, her new bangles jingling as she moved her hands to adjust this new kind of attire. She sat in one of the rooms chatting with her sister’s kids, unaware of the web that was being spun around her, to be meant for her well-being. Her sister, who was constantly ill, had kids that Bhagyam loved from the very beginning. In fact, she also had to share her mother’s milk with one of her sister’s kids due to her sister’s illness. Now maybe soon after today’s prime event of her life, Bhagyam would be a mother too. But she had to wait, for she had to attain puberty to conceive a child.
Three years after marriage, as Bhagyam blossomed into a lady, was all packed and ready to leave for her husband’s place. She looked beautiful, her heart filled with so much expectations, anxiety and all the emotions at the same time. It was soon after she reached her husband’s home, her dreams came crashing down. Her husband’s family didn’t want a bride who could love and nurture the family, but a nurse who could take care of the ailing and dying man who was now, her husband. He was almost a decade elder to her, suffered from tuberculosis (untreatable at that time) and had only few months, maybe a year or two to live in this mortal world. She was devastated and baffled by the challenge life had thrown at her, yet her loving heart made a resolve to care and support the man who needed her at this juncture.
Within a year, Bhagyam became a widow and it was only then, her parents realized their terrible mistake of getting her married and brought her back home. Despite feeling dejected, Bhagyam now looked forward to raise her elder sister’s kids who were left to be raised at her place now.
At 15, Bhagyam now learnt tailoring and other life skills that helped her earn some revenue for her family that consisted of her parents, her sisters and the kids. She unconditionally loved her sisters and their happiness meant world to her. Affectionately the children called her ‘CHITTHI’, meaning Aunt which kind of stuck to her personality till the very end. Chitthi was a living embodiment of love, sacrifice, truth, warmth, care and all those positive attributes one could ever find in the dictionary. Chitthi now was around 30 years, when my Nani – Chitthi’s younger sister – got married. Soon, my Nani had 3 kids (one of them being my mumma), who too addressed Bhagyam as Chitthi and that’s how eventually everyone addressed her as Chitthi.
In the few years, Chitthi was known for her caring and selfless attitude in the vicinity. Her advice mattered, her solutions worked and her unbiased love was sought by all. She spent every penny earned on her elder sister’s kids, as they had lost both their parents. She loved them dearly and their needs became her primary motive for her survival. She was also equally loved and respected by her in-laws and their extended family.
Very soon, her elder sister’s children had a family of their own and they had all begun a new, enthralling life. Their preferences changed and all their decisions involved their family, leaving Chitthi out of it. She was never jealous or deterred by the changing equations. My Nani and Chitthi are perfect soul mates, for each understood the unspoken, unheard conversations made by the heart.
Forty years later, my Chitthi, Nani, Nana and the children moved to Bombay. Chitthi’s circle grew here too, because of her ‘Never Say No To Anyone’ nature. She gave her 100% effort in all the situations, she respected people for what they were, without ever expecting anything in return.
My mother got married and had me in an year. Chitthi was my mom’s masseur, my care taker and more than a mother figure to my Amma. With both my parents working, Chitthi, Nani, Nana and Mama were always there for me. Through my life, if chitthi had been away from me, it was always because she was called to help, guide or babysit either by Chitthi’s extended family, or by my Badi-Ma, or even by my father’s extended family. Chitthi was there to pick me up from my kindergarten, carrying me on her hips till we reached home. Chitthi was there to feed me every morsel, she exactly knew what I liked and disliked. She was there to play with me and she even stitched me many of my iconic dresses. She was my very own fashion designer. In few years, as I reached my teens, she was my go-to person.
She loved me unconditionally and always gave away to my whims and fancies. At times, I also argued with her, questioning many traditional beliefs and she would always answer every question patiently. We had a gala time in the afternoons that comprised of her narrating the stories from her past, talking about her ups and downs, etc. Many times, me and Nani would also indulge in watching movies or cooking up savories and delicacies with her.
It was 2011, my Chitthi was in her eighties when my cousin got married in Chennai and Chitthi chose to stay back with my badi-ma, as she was a widow and had to stay alone now. Chitthi missed us terribly and we missed her too. But Chitthi had always preferred to help the ones, who needed it most rather than her own preferences.
In early 2014, Chitthi came back to Mumbai with a sole determination to attend my wedding. Her health condition looked worse, she had told me and nani that she wished to stay with us in Mumbai and didn’t want to return to Chennai. We agreed and assured her that she shall be with us and I spent some memorable times with her. It was my Nani’s and Chitthi’s sole dream to see me in the wedding attire, to beam with pride and joy to see their dear girl married. I got married on the 2nd February and they were beyond elation. Days passed and on 15th February, Chitthi felt weak unable to get up from her bed. Doctor was called and he informed the family that it was almost time.
Unaware of all this, I was taking one step at a time in getting familiar with the new home, people and surroundings. As per the ritual, me and hubby were to visit my place on Friday, 21st February and I was eagerly waiting for it. However my parents spoke to my in-laws to enquire if we could visit a day earlier and I was overjoyed. Upon reaching, I was shocked and disheartened to see my lovable Chitthi lying almost lifeless, just breathing without the aura she had carried in her. However, when my mom informed her that me and my hubby had come, she raised her hand and blessed us for a good future. She even remembered my husband’s name. I was devastated to see her in that state and wanted to stay back to nurse her back to health. Unfortunately, I had a job interview the next day and we had to return to my husband’s place.
Next day, as I went for the interview, my chitthi passed away peacefully, leaving us all shattered. Unfortunately, as per the rituals, being a new bride, I was not allowed to take a last look at her serene face, her mortal body. I hate those rituals and regret having not rebelled at it, had I done that I would have taken one last look at her.
Later, I was told that she had actually held her life together to attend my wedding and that of her husband’s distant relative. She kept on asking if the wedding was over and only after both the weddings she went on to being immortal.
So, for me, CHITTHI always symbolizes love, she is the candle who can spread light for others by burning herself. She never felt that she had to sacrifice. She found joy in giving and in her giving, the people around her thrived. She was childless, but she had lots of children to call her own. She never became a mother, but was more than a mother figure to all, especially to my amma and mama.
She was my CHITTHI! She was the most purest form of selfless love I had ever seen!
She is the love that I would always seek!
She is the love that I want my children to be!
She is the love that I wish I could be!
She is the love that the world should be!
SELFLESS, UNTOUCHED, UNWAVERED, GIVING, GLOWING AND ALWAYS ETERNAL!
I WRITE THIS POST AS A TRIBUTE TO HER, FOR ALL HER SACRIFICES, FOR HER ALWAYS-GIVING NATURE, FOR HER SPIRIT TO LOVE, FOR HER SPIRIT TO LIVE AND MOVE ON.
For you taught me the meaning of LOVE i.e. GIVING
LOVE YOU CHITTHI, ALWAYS!
We’re a bunch of 30 writers across the globe, coming to you with 30 different pieces on Love. In the month of February, we will be celebrating different colors of love, together in our own ways. This blog post is my entry to the blog hop. This blog post is a part of the Petals of Love Blog Hop hosted by Swarnali Nath