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Thursday, 15 August 2013

The Best Love Story

My Nana died of leukaemia in his early fifties. Often my Nani would turn framed photographs of him over to face the wall instead of us. I once asked why she did that and she responded that she missed him too much. She, herself had cancer and in the last stages when the pain was too much too bear and the doctors would not give her anything stronger for fear of killing her, she would call out to him, "Sabir Sahib, mujhay aa kar lay jayain. Yah log mujhay thang kartay hain."

My Nana and Nani's love story was always the best love story for me. I  loved to hear how Nana handed over his Harley Davidson to his older brother and bought a small two-person car so that he and Nani could drive around Hyderabad Daccan on their own minus the chaperoning eyes of his sister before they got married and all this in conservative pre-partition early 1940's India. I loved to hear of how he and Nani both planned on going to England to study medicine. He to be a doctor and she a nurse. The story always ended on a low note when Nani would recount how she turned down  the scholarship she received because her father who despite having himself  spent a number of years studying at Lincoln's Inn; asked her not to go, she obeyed. Each time, she recounted that I felt a surge inside me, a wish that she had defied her father and followed her dream.

Nana eventually joined the British India Army. Nana and Nani married in a hurried ceremony in 1947 with their world falling apart around them. With the creation of Pakistan, most of their family migrated to Pakistan under horrendous circumstances. Nana's parents were killed and his sister went missing while on a train to Pakistan. Nana and Nani spent the first year of their marriage in Hyderabad Deccan looking for Nana's sister because someone mentioned that they might have seen her there. They never found her and when they moved to Pakistan, Nana lost seniority in the Pakistan Army as a penalty for joining a year late.

Nani would always recount their years in the Army like fairy tale years with adventurous postings and interesting people. Now that I am older, I appreciate her zest for life and her love for her man because instead of enjoying their various postings, she could have moaned the hardship of the constant moves and the instability of their lives but to her it was all one big adventure with her love.

But the fairy tale years did not last for long, Nana was diagnosed with leukaemia and died when he was just fifty-one. Even that the two of them turned into an adventure. Nani had a beautiful colonial house up in Abbotabad (yes, the now infamous Abbotabad of Osama Bin Laden fame) perched on a mountain overlooking Abbot house (Abbotabad was named after the british guy who owned Abbot house) and the two of them would pack a picnic lunch with sandwiches and a thermos of tea and drive around their property in their volkwagon chasing the Sun to keep warm.

I often wish that Nana had lived longer so that Nani and him could have gone on that trip to Europe that he had promised her but aren't all the best love stories, tragedies?

My Nana was a strikingly handsome man and because he died before my birth, the only image I have of him are framed pictures in my mother's and my Nani's home. Forever young; forever handsome!

I am fast approaching forty now and find myself increasingly nostalgic for my Nani, her friends, her cooking, her home and the love she gave so many of us. I don't quite believe in an afterlife but for Nani I do hope that Nana and her are together. For some love stories, even an eternity together would not be long enough.

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