Was thinking of my nana (mom’s dad) today.
He was a body-builder and a hunk of his times, with eyes that turned greenish-blue when angry. Seeing those eyes turning greenish-blue however, was a rare sight because he rarely got angry.
A poised gentleman who loved nature, food, and his wife more than anything else.
Yes, he loved his wife even more than his children.
His wife (my nani) was a psychiatric patient. She lived mostly in her own world, staring at the walls.
Six months in a year she remained a mental patient; and then six months she was super active and absolutely normal. She cooked delicious food for nana, but was never sweet in her way of talking to him. She was like that with everyone – straight forward and blunt.
While she was unwell and down, staring blankly at the wall, nana took care of her needs like a father would do to a child – bathing her, helping her pee and poop, feeding her. My mom says, when my nani was young, he would also change her sanitary napkins while she was menstruating.
He adorned her with ornaments, dressed her up in beautiful Bengali handloom saris. During Durga puja, he booked an auto rickshaw and took her out to show puja pandals. She couldn’t understand or feel anything. But he did that because he had immense love and empathy for her in his heart.
On warm afternoons, sitting at the veranda of his Assam-type home, with nani sitting next to him and blabbering nonsense, he would tell me with a youthful gleam in his eyes, “I went to marry your nani in a steamer boat, across river Brahmaputra to the city of Dibrugarh. She was young, white like milk and pretty. The bride’s family welcomed us with countless firecrackers. Oh! What a fabulous day it was.”
Then he looked at my nani and smiled shyly, as if she would reciprocate. She didn’t. She kept blabbering “nothings”.
Every time I looked at them, I felt happy for nani as she found a selfless partner in life – the dream of every woman. But, my heart pained to see my nana dealing with the tough challenge in life with a broad smile on his face.
We never saw him cribbing about anything. He always said, “In life, never look at the people who you think have more than you. Look at the ones who have less. You will see how fortunate you feel.”
He practised gratitude each day.
Today I wonder, as a lonely spouse, he could seek solace outside; he could have sought another woman. He could have poured his frustration on the ailing wife and five children. He could have done anything because he was a lonely man!
But, no! The day he breathed his last, he was eighty two then, married for more than fifty years to his woman. I sat beside him. Nani lay on the cot next to his. As usual, she was blankly staring at him, while he passed away.
Her caregiver had gone. She didn’t know. She passed away the next year.
Till his last day, he cherished her. Till her last day she didn’t reciprocate.
Marrying someone you love is easy. But, to continue loving the same soul without any complains is the real challenge. I wonder at times, are they together now? Hanging around arms in arms in some celestial garden? Smiling at each other and loving each other the way they should have when they lived? Unburdened with any physical disabilities that impaired one of them from giving back love to the one who deserved it most? The endless debt settled finally?
And then, the very next moment I smile within myself. When has love allowed itself to fall within the boundaries of a balance sheet which equates debts with returns?