nikki kuri (small girl)

The photo is central to this. Have a look.

It’s been twelve days and the effect of her passing has taken a toll on us all. It’s exhausting.


But life goes on, Allah ki houkam tha. 

Back to the photo. I took that back in December, and she has been exactly like that my whole life, always old.

Papa’s the second youngest in his huge ass family, the oldest brother being 20 years older than Papa. Uncle Yunus lived it up in his twenties, travelled the whole world and can speak most languages, now a retired headmaster. He has a library for a mind, knows the political movements of every country without Google or TV and a wealth of knowledge on Islam that he continues hoarding for. He’s pretty badass. As the oldest son, he’s taken it upon him to take care of the grandparents.

He insists on having the daily newspaper brought back to the house every morning. They do indeed have a TV in their small, well-kept house in Gujrat, but he prefered the paper. And as did she, my dadi.

Her name was Amna, fitting name for the most elegant lady I knew. She grew up in Jalalpur Jattan, small town 20 minutes away from Gujrat. She did not have an easy life. Growing up with little in those areas was exhilarating but difficult. She wanted to go to be a teacher. But she never complained. A devout Muslim, all she wanted to do was do whatever Allah has asked of her. It was Allah who gave her everything she had, and that was enough for her.

She married early to a relatively young man himself from their village, my dada abu. Marriage was no easier, with the joint family system. But she was grateful for a young, hardworking and caring husband. He took care of her, and she him. He cracked many a bad joke with her (he still does. and he’s pushing 100) and she laughed. Ying and yang. Everything about this marriage was arranged, all that blossomed was love.

Allah made her a teacher for her kids. They had one daughter, five sons, one died a horrific death by disease. Tariq. She always remembered him, always. That was the first real bullet to her heart. Yet her emaan stayed strong, resilient. She never missed any of her prayers or her fasts. Always read Qu’ran, always spoke kindly to and of others. Always gave more than she had. Never asked for more than she had.

She may have never made it to college but with her persistence and whooping all of her kids made it into university. The teacher at home. And finally, they had more incomes rolling into her house. The kids got married to just as devout wives, one by one, the grandkids came trickling in, one by one.

Always grateful, through thick and thin.

And guess what, great grand kids started trickling in. There was divorces, family drama, money fights and all of that good stuff, too, over the years. She was never the one to bad-mouth someone, always found excuses. Covered for people who didn’t deserve it.

And then there’s her quirks. Incredibly health conscious, yet would take you up on the Coca Cola. Always wore her gold earrings, necklace and bangles (and would give out to me for not doing so too). Her Punjabi, vibrant and rich. The stories in Punjabi coloured with her use of language. She’d tell us about the family we missed when we were in Ireland growing up, about when Ayesha was a nikki kuri or when Tahrin was a nikki kuri. Or indeed, when she was a nikki kuri.

She was so organised, so independent, she even saved the money for her own funeral.

Look at the picture again. What have you just realised? Never made it past 4th class. Yet she reads the newspaper more than you do. She could have written their politics column, with her depth of understanding of politics. She never let us nurse her, fetch things for her. Ever. She never worked a day in her life, yet managed to save money for the family, even for her own funeral.

She owned the space she was in. The home was her palace. She took whatever we gave her and multiplied it.

Dadi is the woman I hope to be. Insha’Allah. But she’s set the bar so high.

May Allah grant her jannah-ul-firdous, because trust me, if anyone belongs there, it’s her.



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