I step into my 29th year with a huge loss. A hollow space in my heart, that cannot be filled in a lifetime. My Sanu Fupu is no more. The loud laughter, her caressing touch, that gentle stroke on my hair, the excitement in her face when she saw me. The mirrored excitement in mine. All, no more.
Fupu would greet us with, " My beautiful, loving bhadai, bhadainis" and squeeze us tight. She would rub her hands on our cheeks and infront of her neighbours and friends, call us out ,"Look at my bhadaini, isn't she beautiful?". We would go red. This was long before, I knew what "beautiful" meant , but it felt real good hearing it from her. Even as an adult, everytime I met her, Fupu brought out that 6 year old in me. We would put our arms around, jump on each other like we had scored a penalty goal. That's how we did it. It breaks my heart, how I took it for granted. How I yearned for my future children to be greeted by Sanu Fupu, and feel what the 6 year old in me felt.
Her place Dhapasi, my bhai would call it Dhapapasi, was a laughter therapy spot for all ages. You would know where she was, just by following the trail of her laughter. We didn't have many relatives back then in Kathmandu, so Dhapapasi was like a Mama Ghar. Pusai would take us for a ride in his bicycle. There was a little seat attached in front, for our toddler cousin Roji. She would ring the bell, while we would scream "Faster, Faster!". We would scream, as if there was a ghost following us. We heard a lot of ghost stories then, that they live by the sand, by the river. In those days, Dhapasi was a dead town, so sparse, you could hear your own echoes, it's hard to even imagine all that now.
There was one thing, Sanu Fupu said with conviction, " I am marrying off my daughter to your lil brother, you all better take a good care of her", followed by her classic guffaw. We were too young to understand. During Tihars, Fupu would put tika on Ama and Ama would receive bhai masala on my father's behalf. Sanu Fupu and Ama share a special bond. They go far back to their farming, harvesting village days in Gorkha, to their first visit to Kathmandu together, to fupu getting married, having Rosi, building their own home, to the last time fupu packed us bags of beaten rice, beans, gundruk, snacks to take to UK. Fupu's Ama, Thulo bajai's mantra was, "Daani lai kahile Haani hudaina Nani", (One who gives is never at loss). Fupu followed that religiously, she had a big big heart. She treated all of us unpartial love and care.
My Ama is a kind who will constantly remind us of what our relatives have done for us since the day we were born. She would tell us, "Thulo fupu carried you around, Sanu fupu wiped your brother's ass, Saili fupu did this, Luri fupu did that, Don't forget your Patey Fupu, You all have to take care of your Fupus when they are old". Times were setting, tables were turning , but the time just abruptly froze. Our time never came. May be that's why it pains more, the untimely passing, to hear Fupu walked to hospital and she never returned. 20 days of suffering in ventilator, alone. For an outgoing butterfly, who loved having people around her, she left, without a soul aside, without a word to hear or share.
Most of our close relatives built their homes and dreams by working hard abroad. Fupu and Pusai built their empire working their sweat off in Nepal. My Pusai trusted Fupu with his life and she saved every penny and turned his hard earned money from 1 to 2 , and 4. Pusai had recently retired from forces as a DSP, days of togetherness and retired relaxed life awaited them. May that's also why it hurts more, to know Fupu missed the part to taste the sweetness of their hardwork, to see her daughter be independent, live her dreams and someday hold and tickle her grandchildren.
My heart cries out for my Sanu Pusai, who for me, is an epitome of patience and respect. In times, when fathers called mothers "Ta", he used to call fupu "Hajur" including us, yes the 6 year old us. Pusai would reach out for his pocket, and pull out either a Hajmola, White Rabbit or Love birds sweets. Always, every single time we met him. I really thought Pusai must work in a sweet factory. He would wash fupu's clothes, encourage fupu to lead local Ama Samaj, and support her endeavors. I want to remember that my Sanu Fupu was dearly loved by my Pusai. She was a maker, a homemaker, a matchmaker, a leader, a fearless woman who guided her sisters, supported truth and even moral policed her 40 yr, 50 yr old brothers and older in-laws.
I mustered courage to call Pusai. He whimpered and cried like a little boy, " I couldn't save Sanu". My heart sank. Pusai repeatedly cried, " I could not save Sanu I could not save Sanu". We both could not keep it together, "Pusai, we did what we could, You did what you could". Baini Roji was in a sombre silence, that killed me more. I mustered a breath, " You are not alone, I am here, We are all here for you and Pusai". This lockdown, the helplessness of not being able to fly and be their for Pusai, Baini and Fupus. All of this has been a hard pill to swallow.
Another sleepless night. Series of flashbacks and memories, I guess that's all we can hold onto. Fupu asking me to get her a algae-green tartan shwal. Me ridiculing her," I can't just get it for you, what about the other fupus?, What's the rush? You are the youngest." The fupu bhadaini banters. Me telling fupu, " Don't worry if not my brother, I will take Roji with me", to that her "Moraii! Lanchata?" "No way! would you?" followed by her classic laugh. Us singing at her place and dancing at Loshar, who knew that would our last song, our last dance together.
I could write a book on this heavy loss, the impact Sanu fupu has had in my childhood, in my upbringing, for the woman I am and aspire to be. When I lost my Buju, it was big wake up call for me, about self love, discovery, to live life by my terms. With loosing fupu, it brings home, the need to be more mindful, heartful and grateful of my loved ones. To feel and give more, to find time and energy for my loved ones, more than ever before.
My dear Sanu fupu, I hope you are garbed in the algae-green tartan shawl, I never got a chance to get you, I hope you have found your peace, I hope you are in the loving arms of your Ama, Baba, and SasuAma. I hope you are surrounded by light, joy and infecting those around you with your "gatata" laughter and kindness. I hope you know what a meaningful, fulfilling life you lived, the lives you touched. I hope you know, you were dearly loved, and next time we meet, I shall caress you , I will hold you and greet you with," My beautiful, beautiful Sanu Fupu". I love you.