FEB 08 – “Hey ram, hey ram, hey ram….”
This was the very phrase I had heard my grandmother chanting, over and over again, when I met her last month. Little did I know then that these were to be the last words I’d ever hear from her, that the meeting was to be our very last.
The demise of someone very dear to you is always a difficult reality to face. It can sometimes be quite impossible to accept. In moments such as these, we are equipped with very little that might enable us to face this harsh reality, and yet face it we must for we cannot run away and hide.
“Have you eaten?” she had asked me for what was to be the last time, and I had simply nodded. I had seen, even then, that she was getting weaker. Her health, at 86, seemed to have worsened considerably, she looked more fragile. But when I heard of this great loss last week, I was left speechless; that last conversation with her kept playing in my mind—over and over again.
My grandmother was born in Hemja and had never received any formal education. After coming of age, she had been married off. Her husband, my grandfather, was Bhuwaneshwor Koirala, a popular mystic from Pokhara. Upon entering his household, she had done all that she was expected to. Khen Kumari Koirala had successfully played out the roles of daughter, wife and mother. Later on in life, she was to be a beloved grandmother, and even great-grandmother to many.
Grandmother’s life was not without its hurdles, though. My grandfather, who was more inclined towards the spiritual life than the domestic, left home after a few years of marriage as he went ‘seeking for truth’. His search for inner meaning took him to many an ashram, and while he was away, it was my grandmother
who bore the myriad responsibilities of taking care of the family.
Her readiness to accept all circumstances that befell her, the solid resilience she carried in that small, fragile body of hers—these are things I remember most about her, qualities that have inspired me as well. In a way abandoned by her husband, she never expressed an ounce of frustration, always holding grandfather in the highest regard. She respected his search, his religiousness, like he was seeking the truth on her behalf as well.
When her children had grown up, grandmother left home and joined her husband at an ashram near the Fewa Lake. There, she
assisted him in his meditations until grandfather’s health began deteriorating and the two moved inside the city of Pokhara. Grandmother continued to devote herself to his care even here. She was always at his service and tended to followers who came to visit him—by then, a well-respected spiritual master—at their home from all over the country.
When my grandfather passed away five years ago, grandmother was naturally bereaved. But even when she was left alone, she said she still felt thankful for having been able to look after her husband till the very end.
Now that she too is gone, all I have left of her are snippets of memories from the times I visited her. Each time I visited, she’d give me a token, of one sort or another. And delighted to have her grandson over, she would toil away in the kitchen, preparing my favourite dishes.
As I dwell in these memories, I realise that life and death, even as they seem so wholly opposed to one another, are connected by an indelible bond. Life brings along with it a promise of death, and death seems to take everything away. I wonder where death leads to, exactly, but cannot find an answer. What I know for sure though is that my grandmother will always be a reminder of the purest forms of love and devotion to me. Even as I live the distracted, diluted life we all live in these modern times, I am sure that my grandmother will forever remain with me. This is the legacy she has left behind. An enduring legacy of love.