They say neighbours are extended families and in my case it is cent percent true. As a little girl, I used to be an almost permanent resident in our neighbours house – The Karandikars. I think the only time I would come home was to sleep at night. Amma used to go to work and when she was home she would be busy with the house work. So in her absence I was showered with mother’s love and care by none other than Karandikar Aunty. She was a bright beacon of light during my growing up years.
Simple, warm, affectionate. childlike, guileless and a very giving person… Yes that was my Aunty. Apart from this she was also an amazing cook. I used to gorge on the maharashtrain delicacies prepared by her. Be it a simple amti, usal or thalipeeth (she made the best thalipeeths ever) on regular days or puran polis, chakolya, karanji, chivda or chaklis made on festivals… whatever she made was with so much love and enthusiasm that it always tasted delicious. I used to always come back home and ask Amma to prepare food like hers, but the dishes would never taste the same as Aunty’s. I remember during the cricket season, especially Indo-Pakistan matches, Aunty a vehement Indian supporter would be crestfallen if India would lose the match. But on the other hand every four or six would mean that she would come running to our house cheering for Team India. She was always full of life and her ability to be joyous, no matter what was just aweinspiring.
She would always encourage me to speak the correct Marathi dialect and read Marathi kadambaris (novels) that she had. Right from correcting my diction to grammar to kindling a love for Marathi literature, she would painstakingly invest her time and energy as much as for her own three children. I would be enamoured by her passion and could listen to hours as she spoke animatedly on the subject. I would always tag along with her to Marathi plays held in Gadkari Rangayatan. She was the reason I opted for Marathi as my optional subject instead of Sanskrit.
I remember a small incident when I was around 6-7 years old when a distant relative visited the Karandikars. On seeing me playing in the house, he was shocked and enquired to Aunty, “Aga Baby tula tisri kadhi zhali” (When did you have a third girl child?) And it was true, although she didn’t give birth to me; she was my mother in every which way one could think of.
Today I wore her peach coloured silk saree with maroon border, because I have been missing her terribly for the past one week. I have teamed it with simple gold jewellery and hair tied back, just as she would love me to. The cruel hands of bone marrow cancer took her away from us a couple of years back and I got to keep this beautiful saree of hers as a token of her love. As I drape her, I can feel her arms around me whispering ‘Kiti god distes Kavi’ (How beautiful you look) enveloping me in her unconditional and everlasting love.
I love you Aunty, always will.