Saturday night, 11.50 PM, turned out to be a tragic time inside my residence.
Twenty minutes after this time, my mom was wailing and my dad & I stood silent, about to burst into tears.
It was an end of a journey for someone; a journey she led for nearly 50
years. Out of which, a considerable part, was spent in utter misery. It
was my Bua ji (paternal aunt), who stayed with us.
As a child, she was not welcome within her Grandpa’s house. However,
she battled it out. As she grew up, it was clear that she was suffering
from dwarfism,meaning her limbs and other body parts were smaller than her siblings.This was nothing less than a blow to the family. And if you are someone
who knows Indian people, you will know at how those oldies target
taunts and other unwanted comments at such cases.
She battled all of this and even at that time, and in such a condition,
she completed high school (a big feat in those days for girls). She was
fond of white clothes in those days. When my dad’s eldest brother was
married, she found a new companion in his wife; they were nearly the
same age. At this time, they both scoured Mumbai. This was a slightly
better period of her life.
But as luck would have had it, she faced another blow in life,
something that devastated her life forever. One day, sometimes in 1993,
while the house had some guests, she went to the kitchen to fetch the
regular refreshments. While she was carrying the tray, she slipped on
the wet floor. Owing to which, both her legs stretched and bones in her
lower back misplaced and began rubbing against each other, all this
while crushing a nerve that went down to her legs. This resulted in the
paralysis of the lower body. She underwent two major operations in
Mumbai’s Bhatia Hospital, one which had her back slit open diagonally,
and the other which had her lower back split horizontally.
After the operation, the doctor advised her to be on bed rest for at
least 4 weeks. This would allow her wounds to heal. Little did anyone
know that this rest would stretch lifelong? After 4 weeks, he gave mom
sandals that supported the back and asked her to make Bua ji walk with
support. However, Bua experienced excruciating pain while walking and
after a week of trying … she realized she couldn’t any further.
After this and months of hospitalization, Bua caught the bed for life.
Everything from her bathing to her regular other stuff was done on the
same bed. Of the many women in the then “joint family”, it was my mom
who went forward to do it for her. Though bed-ridden, Bua was the same
old, cheerful Bua that everyone knew. She helped the house in whatever
ways she could, she chopped vegetables, kept note of the Groceries and other
such things. She had battled it out with her handicap. As if to
silently proclaim, “Come what may, I am not the one to be withered.”
As the Joint family broke up, and we shifted onto our new home, she
moved in with us. In this new home, she found a unique freedom. Though,
she continued with the vegetable chopping and helping around. Being the
eldest in the house, we consulted her in every affair of the house. My
neighbors and everyone in the area respected her and called her “Bua
ji” and the term stuck to her. Ladies, in the area, would often visit
her house to talk to her. And this way, she had a bit of smile on her face too.
Since the past 18 months, she started becoming very frail. She lost the
cheerful look and became very gloomy and sick. She suffered from bed
sores in her back and in the lower portion of the body. As her
condition worsened, around the same time last year, we had to have her
hospitalized. At that time, seeing her condition, we had lost all hope.
But she proved us all wrong and recovered. However, she still she did not recover completely, it continued to worsen. Her bones weakened and getting up and laying down became difficult for her. Owing to the misshape her body had developed, she couldn’t lie on her stomach. Now, she developed a hunch back and couldn’t lie on her back either. Lying sideways too became difficult
for her, owing to the pain in her bones.
The bed sores continued with wounds so deep, you could literally insert
your finger in them. The doctor came everyday for changing the
bandages. One wound healed and two more developed. It was a very
painful view to the eye. She developed chest infections and her lungs
began to contract. She suffered from chronic asthma and also from
On her last day, at around 9:30, she started having problems with
breathing. The doctor was rushed for and she requested her to give her
the same injection that she had been given the day before. The doctor
obliged and she had immediate relief. After about an hour, Mom went up
to her and asked if she’d like to have something. To which she said,
she’d have mashed Potatoes with a little salt n lemon juice. Mom brought it and fed her, she ate about half a potato at that time and had water. She was given
support pillows and offered a blanket as well.
After that, like everyday, I went to see if she was OK. I saw that her
eyes were open, but noticed that she wasn’t blinking. My heart skipped
a beat, but I decided to wait. A few seconds passed and she wouldn’t
blink, so I went near her and moved her. No reply! I called my parents
and they too tried to get an answer from her. Nothing! The doctor was
called again. She tested her nerves, tried CPR. Checked again. Nothing!
And finally she was proclaimed “dead.”
My relationship with her was more of a friend. It was for her that I
shifted my PC to the drawing room. This was because she stayed in the
drawing room. She was the first person in the house to know about my
girlfriend and also the first person to talk to her. While I worked
late nights, we used to talk. If I’d get hungry and go to the kitchen
to make something, she’d call me and ask for it. Even though, she
didn’t eat more than a spoonful.
In the later stages while she was sick, she’d call me to make her sit
up with and setup the support cushion behind her. 5 minutes later,
she’d want to lie down again. We had our share of fights and all. We
used to quarrel over her taking too many medicines, her prolonged use
of the urinary bag and other things such as that. She told me stories
of her experiences as a child, about her friends, about her experiences
during the blackout in the Indo-Pak war. All this was thrilling as well
as proved a great get away from work.
As I write this, I sit in the same drawing room as I sat before. Only
difference now, is that I am alone. But strange enough, I am not lonely
here. Probably because, I know she is with me. And so, I am not leaving
the drawing room.
This lady, in my house, taught me how to fight, how to ignore comments,
how to “get over” stuff and ultimately how to walk on. She fought her
dwarfism, her critics, her disability for 50 years. She was no less
than a hero for me.
I am not writing this post seeking sympathy. I am writing this post to
share the biggest inspiration of my life. A lady, probably because of
whom, I am what I am today.
R.i.P Bua ji