For my nano

Published: July 31, 2012
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Nano with Mariam and Akbar Taaya, who has been with the family for 50 years. PHOTO: OMAR CHUGTAI

It has been a while now since my grandmother passed away, and I can’t stop thinking about her. I just can’t seem to wrap my head around the fact that she is gone. 

My Nano lived a content life. She saw good times and bad times; got married really young, and saw her husband go off to a war just a few days after the wedding. She witnessed the creation of Pakistan and lived through the last minute inclusion of Gurdaspur in India, and the sudden helplessness that followed it as her husband’s family migrated to Lahore.

My grandfather was an engineer for the military, and at various times served all over Pakistan. Of note were postings in Karachi, Dhaka and Quetta. Him and my nano raised a family of four children who, while growing up, went to many different schools due to their father’s postings to various places. With every transfer, the young family would gather their belongings, say goodbye to friends in their soon-to-be-old-location, and set off for a new adventure ahead.

I remember my nano enjoyed teaching children; in fact it was her favourite thing to do. I recall sitting in a group of three, sometimes four, with a cousin and two of my maid’s children and she would give us English and Maths lessons. It was surprising how she was so fluent in English, even though she rarely spoke the language. She also loved teaching children how to read the Quran and I assure you, she wasn’t known to be particularly patient with children who didn’t pay attention to her lessons.

Nano was quite the personality to be honest. She could be rude and quite arrogant at times. At various stages through her life she had a troubled relationships with each of her children. My parents were charged rent, that too at market rate, when they had to live in a house owned by my nano and her husband. It sounds strange doesn’t it? My mother often wished that she had a better relationship with her mother, but their egos were about the same size, so that was easier said than done really.

There was a charming side to my nano as well. She was always well-dressed and she loved nice clothes and nice perfumes. Never once could she be seen under-dressed – she always paid particular attention to how she looked maybe because my nano had quite a social life top keep up with. For a long time she was the general secretary of a women’s philanthropic organisation and looking presentable was a necessity, not a choice. She was very fond of the charitable work the organisation did, and the regular lunch meetings, where she and her friends got to gossip, were something she looked forward to and enjoyed very much.

Unfortunately, nano’s health had deteriorated steadily over the last few years. She started to suffer from dementia, and there came a point when she was unable to remember even the most basic things. She went from weak to frail. When her husband of nearly 70 years died in March, her health started to fail drastically after. One evening she got rushed to the hospital because of a heart attack, I was there when it happened, and at that point I felt there was no hope left for her.

As nano lay in the ICU fighting for her life, I would find my mother praying to God to grant her a little more time. Praying for an opportunity to talk to her one and only mother before it was too late for them to talk. She requested God to not take her away. Not just yet.

Over the following months I witnessed my mother’s prayers being answered. My nano recovered beyond belief. She regained her memory, she started to talk again, she started to pray again and she was able to walk once more. It was incredible how quickly she had become her old self. A softer, wiser version of her old self.

Three of her children lived in the US, and they all came to visit her. She got the chance to be with all of them in the last two months of her life. She reconnected with all her children and this time with much more warmth – especially with my mother, who was at her side almost constantly throughout her last months. Nano had moved in with my parents during this time and she would wait for us  kids to come home in the evening. She would sit there and tell me that I worked way too hard and would praise my sister for pursuing a PhD degree. Her concern always managed to melt my heart.

Nano got better, and for some time it was as if this would be the new normal for us and her. Unfortunately, we were not destined to be so lucky. The time that we all kind of forgot about came and she left us early morning on July 5. She lived up until she was 88-years old and is survived by children, grandchildren and great grandchildren who have the utmost respect and love for her in their hearts.

Perhaps more importantly, she is missed terribly by the many, many lives she touched during the passage of her life and while I am incredibly sad, I can’t help but feel incredibly blessed for these last two months we all got to spend with her. It’s as if God himself intervened, and decided that she and her children deserved a little more time together.

It was time well spent and the memories formed will be cherished for life.

Read more by Omar here or follow him on Twitter @OmarChughtai

Omar Chughtai

Omar Chughtai

An avid reader of blogs who works as Lab Director at Chughtais Lahore Lab. Omar tweets @OmarChughtai.

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