Geeta Thakare nee Pratibha died yesterday 6th April 2019, on the first day of Hindu Calendar, after a brief illness. For the first time, I am writing about death in my family. My thoughts are uncoordinated, and many, many events from life are rushing in front of my eyes. She was lucky that she died after a brief illness and did not need any long-term support. She died on the Gudhi Padwa day which is a special day for Hindus, and she was born on the Laxmi Pujan day 67 years back. What more does a human want?
Jaya and I met Pratibha and her family way back in 1976 when we moved to Model Colony in Pune, where they also had a home in the same building. For the first couple of years, she would be mostly busy in the birth of her children. She had good support in Mumbai; hence her husband Deepak mostly lived alone during that phase. Once she came to Pune, we started occasionally meeting, saying hello. When we became, a family is difficult to tell. But when Jaya and I were sharing our grief with misty eyes, yesterday as we came to know about her death, we realised that Pratibha was always family.
We came to know a fascinating anecdote from the time of her birth. In those times, the birth of a girl child was not much welcome (I am not sure how much it has changed even today); her birth was a great event for celebration, as she was the first girl child to be born in her family after a gap of one generation. She was the lucky one, the charming one.
Unfortunately, we don’t have any memories of childhood as we met much later. But from day one we knew that she was people’s person. It was fun to see her charming the people she met; she would become close to people in real quick time. Children from both our families grew together, and she became a sister to both Jaya and me. She grew up in a family of strong personalities, her father and brother who were both doctors. Her mother was bedridden for a long time; this must have made Pratibha a responsible and caring person while she grew up in Thane near Mumbai.
Life is full of coincidences. Her husband died more than a decade back; he had a heart event while travelling to Mumbai and a fortnight later he died. Pratibha also had a heart event while going to Mumbai last Monday. She may have had an inkling about the seriousness of her health condition. At home in Mumbai, she rested that day without putting a double lock on! She must have thought just in case! Why did she have a heart attack without signs of acute pain? She did not have diabetes, but when I checked with some doctor friends, they said that such events are common.
When one writes about a professional person, usually many incidents about decision making, management style etc. are shared. But Pratibha was a full–time housewife, and to me, house wife’s job or a role is the most complex one in this world. Housewife has to handle many things which include strict budgets, tantrums (everyone except the housewife has a birthright to throw tantrums), managing social occasions and contacts. Illnesses in the family are usually are expected to be handled by the lady of the house. I have seen Pratibha doing all these things with great aplomb and a smiling face, always! Her health and illnesses had always been a second priority as usually happens in our families. The mother is never supposed to be ill. Once in a while she came and chatted with Jaya to take some suggestions; it was more of R & R. Next day she was always seen with a smiling face. The chat was only done to recharge her batteries.
Was she fond of chatting with others? I used to always tease her about information she had about our neighbours. Someone’s child is not doing well in studies, and someone‘s husband is not happy about his job. I jokingly called her All India Radio, head of news division! She would accept such teasing sportingly; once she had taken a one week course of Vipaschana! Vipaschana course has very tough rules which control the food one can eat, sleeping and wake up times and the most important was that people were not supposed to talk to each other. They had only to listen to the discourse given by the Guru. I asked her about the course and how it helped her. But knowing her love for chatting, I was pretty confident that she must have broken the rule of “No Speaking”! I asked her about the details of her roommate. The roommate was a doctor from Pune. I asked her for more details about the doctor’s specialisation and where she stayed and so on. Pratibha never realised that I was pulling her legs. After Pratibha finished sharing the details, I asked her, “Pratibha, when you were not supposed to talk to each other, how do you know so much about the doctor?” She understood the ruse and smiled at me and said, “Now I know why you were asking me so many details about the doctor?” But she would accept all such things very sportingly and with a smiling face.
She was very fond of cooking and would love to feed others with her tasty CKP food. She was very proud of CKP cuisine. Whenever there was a discussion about CKP food, she would always say “we don’t cook it this way” or some such statement. When she said “we”, it was understood that it meant the CKP way! We are brahmins, and in the local language, Brahmins are called Bhat. I always teased her that we Bhats were the best! She sportingly accepted my teasing when her daughter, Mukta, got married to a Bhat!
She was a proud mother of her son, Ashwin, when he joined NDA. She was even more satisfied when he became a pilot. But she had that a little anxiety that the mother’s face about their Air Force pilot’s sons. Recently, she had proudly invited us the attend the show of Suryakiran squadron in which Ashwin flew during NDA passing out parade.
She went through a significant health issue more than a decade back. Jaya and I could put in our two cents to support her. But once the treatment started, she showed her discipline by rigorously following the treatment to overcome the health issues. She maintained the same regimen until her last day. But in last year she had a fall and fractured her arm. That put her in great misery, needed support to even maintain her hair. But she continued to handle life with a smiling face though in pain.
Her mission for life was to help anyone who needed support. In between her stay with her son, she would come for a few days to be in Pune. She would stay at her home, then for a few days, she would stay with different friends. She took a great liking for her grandchildren and helped them grow into lovely kids. She would help them with their studies too. A few weeks back she came and stayed with us, she was all the time telling us about the grandchildren and their anecdotes. The pleasure of being with the grandchildren always reflected on her face. When we asked her what difficulty did she face because of painful hand? She said, “I don’t feel the pain when I am helping the kids.”
I was wearing two rakhis which she had tied to me, one was the recent one, and the other was from the previous year. She asked me, “why have you have not removed the old one?” I said, “It reminds me of my responsibilities; I keep them lest I forget the meaning of Rakhi.” But during her last battle, HE had sent an invite. Power of our love and the bond was not strong enough against HIS command!
Sis, book a flat for us opposite you, up there. When we come up there, we can’t stay elsewhere! Yes, and we would keep the flat doors open all the time!