You know, my family? Pretty awesome set of women.
My paternal gran was a refugee from Sahiwal, Pakistan. Her family lost everything in the partition. She married a promising engineer and had four kids. She was a widow at 26. She raised the children on her own, not wanting to return to Punjab from Mumbai, because she would have had to marry one of his brothers. She lived a lonely life and loved me to the core. I lost her in 2000.
My elder bua married a widower with four children. She was self-made, strong and never asked anyone for help. She became a widow after five years of marriage. She raised her step children and managed the household on her own. She battled depression throughout her life. She was the first one I came out to after my mom. She wrote me a letter and in it, she said I love you no matter who you love. I lost her in 2019.
My younger bua paved her own path. She never cared much for the world thought of her. She chalked out her own destiny. She never complained. She made her wins for her family and her losses her own. She loved once and wholeheartedly. She saw her husband through his worst and was with him til he died. After, she was lonely and devastated. She was a poet. She understood me in ways no one ever could or has. She was my father. I lost her in 2021.
My mom is naïve in the ways of emotion and she is who she is. She has no malice in her. She is self-made. She married at 19 and by 20 she began working and never stopped until her retirement. She did the best she could, having two children to raise on her own because my father stopped working when I was 2. She battled against his alcoholism and shattered dreams of love and fulfillment. She braved cancer and she built her own home. The only one in my family to do so. She accepted me for who I am without any altercation or drama. I came out to her at 16.
My sister, another woman who loves me to the core. She followed me everywhere as a child. She looked up to me and gradually after I told her to find her own path, began forging it on her own. She never looked back. She worked and she battled her own demons – always privately. Because she took after my elder bua – she never breathed a word about her losses or her sorrows. When she married she did it because she wanted to.
My maternal grandparents rocked. They were the only couple I saw the happiest in each other’s company. From them, I learned that true love did exist. The kinds you only read about in romance novels. They were open-minded and funny. I lost my granddad in 1995, and my gran mom in 2003.
My furkids – Bonzo, Rolfe, Diana, Zoe, Zach and Xena. The loves of my life. I lost Bonzo in 1996, Rolfe in 2001, Diana in 2005 and Zoe in 2013. They have been my children and I have wanted none of the human kind when I have them.
I can go on and on about the rest of the tribe. My cousin sister, Natasha, who stood up for me at weddings and get-togethers, my jeej, Ignatius, who accepted me without an eyebrow raised, my niece, Danica, who has been my friend more than my niece, my maasi, who loved me like a son.
Finally, my partner, Anand. He and I don’t see eye to eye on everything, except the things that count. He stuck with me through thick and thin and showed me that marriages are not made by rituals and paperwork. The testament of love has to be unspoken and realised solely on emotion. There is no mountain that I shall climb where I know he will not follow. There is no tragedy he will go through where I won’t be there holding onto his hand. Love is not easy. But love is also not a fantasy. It does exist, even in the bitterest of lows and the cruelest times.
This is my family. If you knew us when all of us were together, you really could understand what it means to be a family. Now that I have lost so many over time, few of us remain, but yea, if you are included in our fold, trust me, you will know what it is to be loved.