We entered their living room and reached the dining area with the bar on the side. I was very young, 26 years old. Now I feel that I was a kid myself but I already had M in my arms. She was about 15 months old. This was the first time we were invited at their home. I was a bit shy, nervous and excited at the same time.
My first impressions of Shama je`s family was that it was very unconventional. Shama Je`s daughter was clinging on to her as M was clinging on to me. Later I found out they are almost the same age, both born in 1994. Bazmi Saab was holding the Bar front as well as the kitchen. I found it very liberating to see the reversed roles and that too with such each and comfort. I am not saying I was ashamed to be a homemaker but most of the Indian families back then that was the trend. It is still there quite a bit and its also part of the culture.
But this felt very refreshing to me, because it felt so effortless and real. They welcomed us with such warmth that I immediately felt at home. I had heard things otherwise from people about her. But to my utter surprise, I liked her a lot and the whole family and my first interaction with them. And that`s when I also learned my first lesson for life, that never to trust anyone but your own personal experience. Me and R are also poles apart but we agree to disagree so many times, and that`s fine.
Then my second experience with them was when they gave us a visit to bring sweets for Diwali, the starting of the Hindu new year. It was a late Sunday morning, I think, might have been a holiday as well, I dont quite remember. Anyways we were at home. M was taking a nap and then the door bell rings. And there we saw standing at our door was this family of there. I made Pakoras with chai and we all enjoyed it. Back them I didn't know Bazmi Saab was a foodie too and now Shama je too. Again something stayed with me, they mentioned while they started off to visit us, their daughter had dozed off, so they went back home so that she can finish off her nap.
Again a very non-conventional type of thinking. I think they also called us for that, again my memory sucks. But this little thing I have never ever seen happen in families, especially Indian families.
Now, so many years have passed, we moved here to Zürich in 1999 and every now and then we have seen Bazmi saab, I always tried to ask about Shama je and kids and genuinely I wanted to meet here. But anyhow, there is a time for everything. Like every other Diwali, I have a house full of family-friends. So this Diwali we invited Bazmi Saab as well and he said we will be there!
There are diyas and lights everywhere, the daal is bubbling and so is the Gatte-ki-subzi, my evergreen menu for Diwali is this Rajasthani delicacy Daal-Baati-Churma, clinking of glasses, laughter, some background music and dark and windy outside by my soul is filled with warmth, love and gratitude to have my table full at Diwali. I always take a moment or two to cherish this organised chaos and sigh with love and feel nothing but blessed.
Bazmi Saab walks in and followed by Shama je, in a lovely Saree and a bun tied with her beautiful hair. I was taken a back but very happy to see her, and the name just mumbled out. Shame Je Namaskar.............. and that was the starting of a very beautiful friendship and trust between two women.
We starting seeing each other, I invited her for a movie, forgot the name, it was with Indian actors, shot in India and Paris and the lead was this fantastic actor called as Dhanush from the south. If I find the name, might edit the text here. Told you about my memory!
One fine day, Shame je invited my for lunch after my work and then she gifted me her book called as: Psychlinis: a story of mental health. She warned me about the book. I came home and after dinner, I started reading the book. I read it till three in the night, then dozed off, dreaming about the book I was reading. The next day I finished the book. I was confronted with so many thoughts, feelings of love, compassion, pride, trust, fight, perseverance, anger, determination, diligence, endurance and much more.
For the first time I realized how hard, difficult, tough and absolutely impossible situations you can be in and are and can be confronted with too. But to fight that and to come out as an absolute winner and more, needs guts. My admiration for her and her family rose to an altogether another level. But as I wrote earlier, there was something about this family, non-conventional. I think it needs real guts to do, what she and they did.
Her book was an absolute eye opener for me. Mental health is a big taboo topic back home. Now at least people are talking about that through movies. Some known people are coming out and talking about their mental health as well. But still to be accepting mental health as a real health issue, I think we have a very long way to go. But if you want to understand the struggles of people going through mental health. I would very strongly suggest you pick up this book and read it.
I absolutely had a real honor reading this book and I think she was and still is a real fighting soldier, every single day.
We meet often over lunch, teas, talk about sewing, cooking and about everything in life. She is real good with words, which you will know after reading the book and she is super creative with her hands too. My lovely Tea-cozy and a tray mat was gifted by her on my birthday and at the moment she is doing two big projects on patch work bed covers.
Shama je, I thank you for trusting me and its an honor and privilege to know you. Keep well and keep making yours and others life colorful with those appliques. You can follow her applique page on Instagram as : Colored pieces.
This has been more than long overdue, I wish you a very happy birthday! More power to you, Amen.