Ever since I was born, I have had four mothers. One, my biological mother, was ‘Mamma’; the second, my aunt, was ‘Ammi’; the third, another aunt, was ‘Maa’; and the fourth and the best was ‘Amma’.
Amma was a kind of a far-off relative, but, as they say, people you live with are often dearer to you than people with whom you have family ties.
Despite the distance in relation, I was closer to Amma, as a child, than I was to my own mother. Before my schooling started, nobody used to be at my home in the mornings, so I was sent to my aunt’s house, where Amma also lived, and babysat me.
She was the one who used to defend me when my strict aunt scolded me; who consoled me when I cried. She taught me the art of storytelling and even more, the art of listening to stories. Her stories were the wackiest, most unimaginable, yet truer than life and full of morals. The characters ranged from elegant princesses, to gigantic giants, to crows and twittering birds. The scenario was so fairy tale-like and yet, so familiar.
She was one of the best cooks in the family. My mother tries hard to recreate her ‘kaleji’ recipe every Eid, but despite her being a good cook as well, she is never successful.
Amma’s death in 2007, as an old, white-haired woman nearly seventy years of age, punched me in the stomach and knocked the wind out of me. She had been there for as long as I could remember, and it seemed unbelievable and almost, silly, that Amma would die one day. I later discovered that she had been suffering from cancer. But back then, I was unaware of this. Though, I always knew that death is inevitable, but I never, in a hundred years, would have expected that Amma would die so ‘early’. Her death was the biggest loss I had to face, and not only for me, was it the loss of a priceless, amazing person; it was a loss for the world!