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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Maji, it's Your Birthday! Happy Birthday Maji!

I have been blessed to know each of my four grandparents.  I've been further blessed to see my parents through the eyes of their parents.  If you've had the same good fortune, you will appreciate the level of understanding and compassion for your parents that comes from trying to understand what they were like as kids and seeing them as adults relating to their parents.

A child needs a grandparent, anybody's grandparent, 
to grow a little more securely into an unfamiliar world. 
~Charles and Ann Morse

When I was in grade four, my family lost my Nanima, my Mom's mother.  Losing her was my first formative experience with death and dying.  It was one of the first times I realized that my mother was someone other than my nurturer, provider and champion.  I began to understand her role as a sister and a daughter and the responsibilities that came with that.  My Nanima was a beautiful woman with a captivating smile.  She was a leader in our family in a way I will always admire.  She led with a quietness that was calming and reassuring.  She was kind and filled with faith.  As a kid, one of the best things about going to khane was going to say hello to her and getting a hug (and a candy!) She also watched All My Children everyday and I think she would be happy to know that Susan Lucci finally got her Emmy!

I am so thankful for my Sadru Mama and Gulshan Mami and their three kids Gulla, Shelina and Nafisha who took amazing care of Nanima and Nanabapa.  Not only did you love and take care of them, you always left your doors open at 681 Seneca Hill Drive and happily welcomed her 7 other children and their children so that we could visit her and enjoy her.

The summer between high school and university, just weeks before the death of Lady Diana, my Nanabapa, beloved patriarch of our family and my Mom's father, passed away.  He lived into his 90's!  He was a tall, strong man and he walked with his hands behind him in the small of his back palms facing outwards.  There was something about the way he walked that made him that much more approachable.  Whenever I remember him, I picture him walking that way.   If you ever met him you will know that his hands were full of character and he had these amazing fingers.  When he used his hands to gesture, I swear those fingers did something to make every point stick with you.  Nanabapa commanded respect and lead with an inner confidence that matched his outward authority.  He was a vibrant part of life at 681 Seneca Hill Drive and I have fond memories of picking cherries in the backyard with my cousins while he carefully supervised us and helped to teach us about the fruits of our labour.  (Pun completely intended!)

In the last part of his life, after surviving a heart attack, he lived with my Bahadur Mama, Khatoon Mami, and my cousins Aashif and Karima to avoid going up and down the stairs on Seneca Hill.  Aashif, a lover of fashion, would get him to wear these great sweaters and shirts.  Nanabapa never looked better, even after having had a heart attack!  I am so thankful to your family for nursing him back to health and giving us a few more memories (remember that photo we took after lunch at BCE place?) and making sure he felt loved.

Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family.
- Anthony Brandt

Just over a year after losing my Nanabapa, we said good bye to Bapaji, my Dad's father.  I'm laughing as I type this because he was one of the funniest men I have ever met in my life.  My Bapaji was a rebel to the end and his sense of humour melted your heart.  He adored my Maji (Dad's mother) and I remember watching them play rummy over and over again.  He would get so agitated and fiery (yes that's where I probably get it from) when she would beat him at a game of cards.  A few seconds later you would catch him stealing a glance at her and you know that he was thinking "I love that my lady is so smart!"  You also saw his fiery side every day at noon when he watched Bob Barker on The Price is Right on CHCH Channel 11.  He would get so annoyed when contestants didn't win that brand new car, over spun the big wheel or messed up a bid on the Showcase Showdown.  He never yelled or screamed but he had this way of kissing his teeth, dismissing you by turning his hearing aid off, waving you away with his heavy hand and giving you a look to tell you that he was over it.

Thank you Bapaji for loving Maji so deeply and often times making her laugh so hard that she had tears streaming down her face.

My Maji turns 88 today!  Happy Birthday Lady!  Maji is a tiny woman. I can comfortably rest my elbow atop her head. Nonetheless, she has a huge presence and influence in our lives.  Her body may be beginning to fail her but her mind and her wit are sharp!  She has an endless amount of stories and memories to share with us.  Maji had an arranged marriage at the age of 15 and gave birth to her first of 10 children when she was 17.  She was a midwife in her community for many years and is an expert in soothing baby massages.  Lucky for us that she has 17 grand children and 14 great grand children to practice on!  Thanks to my Maji I've learned that the Toronto Public Library has an extensive selection of mystery books in Gujarati.  I know how to string a tashbi and it's fumko to render them almost unbreakable.  And I know that one can consume ridiculous amounts of salt and still live to be at least 88!

Mom and Dad, today we celebrate Maji but I also celebrate you.  Thank you for taking better care of Maji than you do yourselves.  You have sacrificed your evening walks, vacations, your careers, your privacy, the foods you love to eat and your time with us so that we have been able to get to know her, love her and be loved by her.  Now you are grandparents and the lessons we learn from your patience, endless amounts of energy and enthusiasm are your legacy to Karim, Minaz, Vanessa, Aneez and I.  We love you.

Here's a picture of the beautiful birthday girl taken at her 88th birthday party this past weekend.  Looking good!


Anonymous said...

Hi Faiza,

Some really wonderful memories of the grandparents here! Thanks for bringing them all back!


Anonymous said...

Hi Faiza,
Thanks for the tears and laughter 1st thing in the morning! I agree with Aneez, thank you for bringing them back with your memories....

Shireen xx

Shamir said...

Fantastic post Faiza with a trip down memory lane!

Happy Birthday to Maji and love to all who have been fortunate to hold our grandparents hands in times of happiness and sadness.

Will hopefully post a video for Maji tonight with the boys, k?

Anonymous said...

How reflective and thoughtful Faiza. We have all truly been blessed by knowing our grandparents (and even a great grandparent)and for their prayers on our lives. You'd be a wonderful granparent...but that mean you need to havea child NOW!!! - Tashi xx

Tima said...

Thanks for the memories Faiza. As I read about bapa, I suddenly see him with his hands folded behind his back.

Farah said...

Beautiful post, Faiza. Thanks for sharing your memories...they made mine come back in an instant!


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