“Y.Or the granddaughter of a family that knows war and trouble as if it were the back of our hands. Creating hope where no one is is part of our heritage. My grandmother, on a recent phone call, softly, firmly said the words that I had spent so much time grieving over the condition of the world and epidemics, and feeling sorry for myself.
She was OK, as she often is.
The youngest of nine children, and a teenager at the time of India’s independence, my grandmother spent her entire life dividing the country. His house was bright before his eyes. The family survived the sight of their eldest brother, who knew war was coming. When they were evacuated by the mob and the rubble of their village from the only house they knew about, they stopped to pick up many of their neighbors. To do so, they had to leave all their possessions behind. My grandmother said bluntly, “People dominate everything, and I hold this family memory firmly in my heart to bring me down into a world where people don’t always do the right thing through the weak.
Even then, the tragedy was no stranger to my grandmother. Her mother had suffered from dementia since my grandmother was a little girl. Her eldest sister raised her. And before she turns 20, she will lose her military brothers to war and one sister to illness. He died shortly after his father’s house was destroyed, when he came to Himachal to rebuild from scratch.
“But how did you do that, Granny?” I asked him when I was 12, just beginning to realize that a house could be torn down with so much violence. My recollection of this moment is particularly clear: wearing a light blue silver shirt, tossing golden brown potatoes in mustard oil as he made dum aloe a Kashmiri dish. At first it was not easy. We struggled and we mourned, “they told me.” But we knew grief could not bear us. So we formed a community. We bowed to each other. We were kind to those who We didn’t know and soon they became our own. We shared stories and tricks. We learned courage from our history.
So often trauma destroys families. The split is largely non-traumatic. My favorite aunt permanently injured her back and refused to tell us the story, because she doesn’t like to miss that time in her life. And yet, the rest of my grandmother’s family are the happiest families I’ve ever had. They have a smile and a helping hand for everyone. The relationship between the other siblings is so strong that I have never seen them fight in three decades. My great aunt, when I visited her in Delhi seven years ago, said, “If we didn’t let the pain get closer, it tore us apart. And that was not acceptable to any of us.”
This hard-won strategy stayed with me last year with all the lockdowns and global grief. I have called my mother and my family more than ever because I know that pain can bring a family closer, even when they are far apart. I have realized my little blessings that my grandmother did not have: face time and zoom calls so that I can see the people from whom I am thousands of miles away from TV shows and movies to keep me entertained and entertained Do More than anything, I had poetry, and I had the time and peace to write it.
The last time I spoke to my grandmother, she told me about the morning after the fire: When she woke up, she heard the birds singing as the sun rose. He was still on the road and he remembered how strange it felt that the world just kept moving – the sun rises and sets, it flows in the rivers, new boundaries are formed around it. Is unaware of “No one has taught me how to live in the moment,” he told me. “I knew nothing about my future. We had no faith in it. Only hope, strength in our hearts, and determination to create a new life.
As I write this, the sun has risen on a cold February day. The trees outside are bare bones of their own but the leaves will soon grow, and that’s something I can count on. Like my grandfather, I don’t know what the future holds. There is still darkness to be had. But I know that I want to face him with the same hope and determination that he has put on all these years on a new road that he did not yet know.
Where Hope Comes From: Nikita Gill’s Heart, Mind and Soul Lalling Healing Poetry is published by Trapeze (14.99). To order a copy, Visit GuardianBookShop.com.
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