From Ma, With Love is a campaign celebrating recollections of feminist tales and lessons, passed down to us by our mothers, this Mother’s Day. The first edition of this compilation has 16 heartwarming stories. ‘Nani — A Stoic Through It All’ by Shantanu Kishwar is the ninth story in this series. You can download the entire publication here.
“When I came back home every evening, I would look in the mirror, put a smile on my face, and only then would I go and see him. I didn’t want him to feel like I was burdened and couldn’t handle things,” my Nani told me.
When she was in her fifties, my Nani’s life changed quite drastically. Her husband, my Nana, had a stroke which left the left side of his body paralysed. He had retired from the railways by this point, but she was still working as a haematologist at Gangaram hospital. She couldn’t afford to retire yet, and so, for the coming years, balanced a full-time job at the hospital and his care with strength and stoicism.
My Nana did whatever was within his control to make things easy for her; he too was worried about being a burden. He had lived a very active life up till the stroke, but accepted this forced restriction without too many complaints. He made few demands from then on — an occasional visit to the Railway Club for a South Indian dinner, sometimes pakodas at odd hours. Nothing more.
They didn’t live out retired life as they had once planned, with their mobility and activity significantly curtailed. Barring the odd trips to visit their children, their home in Delhi was where they spent their days in each other’s company. I don’t know what she had expected life to be like, but for over two decades she uncomplainingly took what life sent her way. She stood strong through it all, even finding time in between to pamper and discipline her grandchildren in equal measure.
After Nana passed away in 2012, she found ways to give meaning to her life, which for a long time had been devoted to his care. She rediscovered her love for painting, has travelled far and wide, kept up with her fondness for Solitaire, met with old friends, and continues to dote on her grandchildren. She remains as she always has been, accepting each day as it comes, never too bothered with whatever remains outside her control.
Life will bring a lot of challenges my way, some may be immensely difficult. My Nani showed me how to deal with things like those when they do come. She taught me what resilience looked like, by meeting a tough situation with only grace and strength.
A couple of months ago, I spent some time in hospital with a family friend — it was easily the most challenging week of my life. Through it all, I kept the idea of her taking care of Nana for all those years, in my mind. I was in a situation where I continuously felt out of my depth, but that image of Nani kept me going, one day at a time.
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