My dear Taruna,
Deeply regret inability to come for your wedding. I am not upto the mark physically to take the travel in the cold. Also I have issues with marriages which I will share in course of time. Anyway I would like you to know I did not attend Punu Bhaiya’s wedding even though I was extremely happy that he and Rima got married. It was done in a simple manner in a temple during lockdown. I wish you to know that I have little interest to attend marriages even though I love to meet my relatives. Marriage (not rituals) per se to me is important but a small part in the life journey. My love for you is not equivalent to my attending or not attending your wedding ceremony. You are Pradeep and Namrata’s daughter and that is a special relation I have with you, other than the fact that I value you as a person.
I am writing to share your father, the way I knew him. This is my gift to you for your special occasion. I was in Adipur when he came to bring Punu, Tunu and me to Delhi. I do not know how he was told by Ashok as somehow that question did not come to my mind ever. Pradeep acknowledged me before he met me as his elder brother’s wife so as family. Their fathers were brothers which made Ashok and Pradeep first cousins but Pradeep always considered Ashok as elder brother and thus as Ashok’s wife, my age, looks or background did not matter to him at all. As elder brother’s wife I was also elder to him in relation. As an Indian born I do not need to go into the recognition of such a relation but Pradeep had that acceptance by default.
I am trying to recollect a time which happened in 1977 which is once upon a time for me and long before you were born! The facts are a bit blurred like I am not sure whether the train from Adipur to Delhi was direct or there was a break in between. As Pradeep was there I was trouble free so even if it was break journey it was a smooth journey. Thanks to Pradeep’s acceptance of our relation I took the relation just as naturally, as it is inborn to me to be old.
Punu was four and Tunu was three. Pradeep became their Pradeep Uncle. My comfort level was not only what Pradeep thought of me but also that the three of them were comfortable with each other. Even with my selective memory, the visual of both the kids sitting on his shoulders is vivid. He would be not at all perturbed with this and continued sharing the huge Asani family with me during the train journey. Through him I virtually knew all family members even the extended ones even without meeting them. He probably knew a bit about me from Rita Chachi and Pammi Dadi (his paternal Aunt) as they had come to Adipur when Mummy (my mother-in-law) had passed away. Sheve Chachaa, your grandfather had come too but I did not expect him to relate anything. He was a person who lived in a different world. As Sheve Chhacha was not interested in family life, Pradeep had to take the onus of pitching in to support the family at a very young age.
Pradeep had a loud voice to match his physique. Punu Tunu used to think of him as a giant man with a booming voice. For me he remained a gentle person even though I knew he was capable of beating and possibly getting beaten. I knew of a story about him which again I cannot remember how I got to know. It deserves to be shared here. One of the extended family sisters was having issues with her husband. Pradeep beat up the brother-in-law and broke a few bones, took him to the hospital where he was put in plaster. Pradeep carried him home and told the sister to take care of him as he would not be able to go out for three months. I do not even remember who this sister was and even if I remembered I would not name her.
Lata Chaachi, your grandmother and Rita Chhachi both were concerned about me so they would send their sons to look me up. It used to come on Pradeep to tell me and guide me about things available around the place we lived and invariably get them for me as with the two children it was difficult for me to move out. He would never eat anything as I was not a good cook by his standards and he was blunt enough to say that and it was fine with me. Later when we moved closer to Motinagar house it was Baby, your Bua (aunt) who was my constant guide for all material things including the clothes I wear. There was upheaval in my life at that time. Pradeep was the last to hear about it as everyone was scared to share with him but eventually when he did get to know it did not take him a minute to come and confront me that why I had not shared with him. Incidentally that day I was down with 104 temperature and hardly in a state to respond but in hurt and anger (hurt of not knowing and anger probably due to his helplessness as he could not brake a few bones of his elder brother) Pradeep realized this only when I would not even sit up even after fifteen minutes of his monologue. Then he just accepted the situation and never spoke about it. I respect his discreet silence on the matter.
In course of time Pradeep got married. I was extremely happy with Namrata coming in his life. No other woman could have settled with him. I will always remain grateful to her for making a life for Pradeep. She made a home for him and that home was always open for me which is why we got a chance to have a lovely relation. I have always enjoyed meeting Muki and you.
Punu, Tunu and I moved out of Delhi in 1981. Whenever I would go to Delhi I would go directly to Motinagar. Once I did not have train reservation so Pradeep came to drop me at the station and within minutes he got me a reserved ticket. I told him to teach me how to do this and he replied, ‘I am here, I will always do it’. He left this earth at one time and I never got to learn how to get a reserved ticket in a jiffy.
If I have to name a single person on whom I can depend on for anything in the world, I want you to know that Pradeep would be that person.
I am sure his blessings are very much with you as you enter this new phase of your life even though physically he is not with you. As you start your new life I wanted to share a bit of your father which is little known to many even though he was an open book person.
I do hope you will not take to heart my absence during your marriage ceremony physically as my wishes and love will be with you always.
Lots of love and wishes,