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Poornima Joshi

Princess diaries

Poornima Joshi | Updated on April 15, 2020

Surviving Self-Distancing – Day 17

She’s a vision; through songs and stories and a red-cover book she won for a prize for topping her MA class. I was born a few months after she, young, not even a month into her much talked-about wedding, died. Today, when I was trying to shut out the oppressive day and the depressing dusk, I put the radio on. And there she was, in a song – Rani beti raaj karegi.

Ranididi is the princess in me; maybe she’s me because I was still being born when she died. She was the only sister among of four brothers in this extraordinary family that lived down the street in a raucous melee of cooking, cleaning, fighting and sunbathing Jusha Buaji in an iron cot with springs which was convenient because Buaji had Parkinson’s. Her beautiful, fair hands wouldn’t keep still, they trembled but they could be tucked into the mesh in the iron cot. Lallu Dadda had found a large hat to keep the sun from her eyes. Sometimes when Bawa took me along on his twice-a-day visits to “see Jusha”, he would adjust the hat as they talked. Buaji couldn’t have talked much but there was conversation as I remember.

Phuphaji was literally a barefoot doctor. He would wear a pair of khakhi shorts and treated everyone around free of cost. Lallu Dadda too became a doctor and ran a clinic with Bhabhiji and Dimmy Dadda but that was much after they were still fighting over who would sit with Buaji and who would sneak out, gallivanting around town. She would wear her pants and hide and laugh behind Dilli-wale-Bawa who wanted to marry her off to a groom of his choosing. She had other plans, you see. So she studied for her MA, looked after mother, fought with brothers and came dancing down the steps to our courtyard. “I passed,” she shrieked, inviting a burst of galis from Dili-Bawa, Bawa’s younger brother who was married to Jushabuaji’s sister and lived in Delhi.

Bhaskar Anandji, the tall Anand Margi who was Papa’s dearest friend and comrade came often to have a meal and sleep sometimes in Bunty’s bed would describe her singing. Khamaaj is a thaat and a raag and he would explain it with a song, “O sajna, barkha bahar ayi,” he would sing in his deep voice. “She could sing it well,” he remembered. Bhaskar Anandji was a Malayali but because he joined Anand Marg, he spent a lot of time in Purulia, Bengal and could speak fluent Bengali. “This song is originally Bengali. Beautiful language, when kids are peaking, it’s sublime,” he would say. But Ranididi’s theme song was “Rani beti raaj karegi” which would mostly be interrupted by Dimmi Dadda saying, “bahut raaj ho gaya, Rani beti. Ab ghar ja ke Ammaji ko dekho.”

And so it went, Phuphaji treating everyone, the kids fighting and carrying on till Ranididi found the man of her dreams, Nirudadda, an Armyman who was Kavita’s Taiji’s nephew I think. Amma went to make sweets for her vidai the day after the wedding. She was stunning, in a red sari, ready to go but still cleaning up after her mother, a commode in her hand before the rituals began for her departure. The mother’s prolonged illness, the father’s fading health had somehow tied the family even closer together. Phuphaji wept so bitterly that Amma remember getting choked. She ran home, without even saying goodbye. She came to visit I think just a few days afterwards and brought a babasuit for Chaneen whose birthday falls in March end.

In Dehradun where Nirudadda’s family lived, here were celebrations for a long time after the wedding. They then went to Haridwar in a scooter, young, together after a brief courtship. A truck came hurtling from the other side and crushed her. The news came while Durgesh Chachaji was bringing his bride back home. She was still in her early 20s when she went. There’s a lot more but I’ll stop at her going. And coming to me as a song on a dark day.

Published on April 14, 2020

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