Memoir Writing - Family Tales 2

When I was about nine, I practically saw my grandfather’s sister jump into the well. I called her Nanima. I was brushing my teeth, and just happened to go outside, when I saw her take the plunge. I ran to my father and told him, nobody believed me. Then they came with me to check, on repeated forcing and prodding, and saw her swimming inside the well. A swimmer cannot drown. I thought perhaps they knew she was good at swimming and therefore hadn’t paid heed to my words. They wouldn’t take her to a pond (we were in the city, there were no ponds in the city, those luxuries only existed in the village), therefore she had jumped into the well – to swim. Then the entire morning was spent in fishing her out of the well, with everyone crying ‘mad woman’ out loud.

She was about eighty nine years old then, and wasn’t in the right state of her mind. She would quarrel like a child, throw tantrums and accuse all the family members of plotting to murder her. She had grown too sensitive with age. If offered pills for cough or cold, she would shout ‘Don’t give me poison,’ and cry out loud. My father and his brothers treated her well, entertained her whims and fancies, and played her imaginations- I salute their tenacity.

I remember a particular incident when Nanima went missing early in the morning, at dawn. She usually slept on the cot beside my bed. That morning she was not in her favorite cot. She had vanished- not in the bathroom, not in the kitchen, not on the terrace, not in the garden, nowhere to be found! My brothers had already searched for her around the colony and asked the neighbors twice. We panicked, and had almost called the police, when my sister shouted, ‘Here, she is!!’ She was hiding under my bed. We were just so frustrated, oh my god. On being asked why, she said she was hiding from us- I could never understand that reply.

Here’s another. It is a super hit memory of Nanima that even today, our extended family members talk about in almost every gathering, and laugh all over again. Every single time. The memory is of the time before my parents’ marriage. Certain superstition prevailed then in villages that it was very ominous to even accidently see crows mating. You are sure to die in three days. The only way to nullify it was to spread the false news of your death for one day, and reveal the truth the next day. Ridiculous!!

And Nanima did just that. She had her house help send telegram to all the family members posted in different parts of Odissa that she was no more and they were to mourn her death. My father along with his brothers were stunned by the news. They thought how it could happen to someone so hale and hearty. They nevertheless made all the arrangements for the cremation and the funeral procedure. They arrived in the village with friends and family, in jeeps and buses, with loaded fruits and other essentials.

The climax was yet to occur. My father pressed the calling bell. Just imagine who had answered the door. Nanima herself. I can’t even imagine my father’s reaction then. He was pale, stunned, as if he saw a ghost. Hillarious! Then when the entire story was revealed and out to scrutiny, some rolled over in laughter, some shouted ‘I won’t return to the town without cremating you! Die, now!’ and some were just so frustrated by all the futile efforts they made in the purchases and the hectic journey.

Linking this memoir to Write Tribe.


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