Death and dying

Death of a sister

I was about to walk out of the house to work this morning, when my husband said, “I’ve just got a message that Niru has died.”

Niru, his oldest sister. The bain of sisters-in-law, the terror of daughters-in-law and a much-loved grandmother and aunt. Mother, sister and friend. A lady who lived in three continents (Africa, India and Europe) and in her final years, lived between the UK and India.

I didn’t know her well. Living in two hemispheres, two different lives, two different cultures.

So I asked my husband about his sister. He reminded me that he’d had little to do with her, as when he was born, she was already twenty years old and about to have her first baby. Busy with her own life, first in Tanzania and then the UK it wasn’t until late childhood that he began to get to know her.

Photo Isha Mistry

She ran a shop, and was a housewife. She loved the old Bollywood movies. She had the look of her mother— in later years the resemblance was quite startling. Niru had the Mistry sense of adventure. She and her husband used to drive to India travelling with convoy with several other families. This was in the era when it was still safe to do so. There are grainy photos of them pulled up somewhere in Iran (except she called it Persia) on an edge of a dusty road having a picnic.

Her heart was in India, every year she and Tacko went back for a couple of months Tired of the UK winters they wanted sunlight to seep back into their bones. India gave them warmth, vitality and put spring in their steps. It was a reminder of the exotic trip that they had then; it was a reminder of their heritage – it was home.

Her last trip was to India a couple of months ago. A car accident, hospitialisation for a few weeks and then a long flight home. It all took its toll and last night she passed away. For her siblings, it’s a sad wake up call, for her children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews they have lost their Ba and their Foi. She spoiled them and scolded them and loved them in her rather stern style.

We’ll get to know more about her in coming days when we go to the funeral. The old photo albums will be brought out. There will be reminiscing and recriminations and tears. The five brothers and the remaining sister will wonder about their own mortality. And we’ll see the new babies in the family and be comforted by the rising generation.

Photo Isha Mistry

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