She’s turns 32 today. She looks perhaps as old as me or a couple years older. She is a doting mother of two. She is a teacher. She is a farmer. She is a fun cousin. A caring sister. A loving wife. A perfect daughter. A daughter-in-law who can’t mingle better into another family. Above all, she is someone you can’t possibly dislike, even if you try. These are her nine facets. My friends call her ‘nine-gems’ because that’s easier to say. Her name is Navarathna.
This is my cheap way of giving her a birthday gift since I can’t meet her today. I haven’t even spoken to her yet. But she is likely to call me herself by the end of this post, sniffing, teary eyed and fussing and complaining about how it made her cry. Navu, as we call her, is ten years older than me. She was my sister’s best friend when they grew up, often getting their houses mixed up, with Hrishi tottering along behind them (I’m guessing). They played together, took part in fancy dress competitions together and shared each other’s secrets. Of course I know nothing of these incidents. I’m just recollecting the many photo albums I’ve seen. I know they’d share secrets, because as an nagging six or seven-year-old I’d walk into a room when they were (very seriously) discussing that cute guy across the road they called ‘Maddy’ or that “friend” that other cousin hung out with too much or just the routine pains of being a woman, and they’d throw me out of the room because I’d probaby rat out to our parents what they were talking about, or just let me be because I’d not understand their discussions. Although I don’t remember anything from my childhood, I know from what I’ve been told that Navu brought me up like I was her own. She’d take me out of the house, prop me up on the bonnet of a car and make me eat. She was the one person, on whose coming home, I’d delightfully shriek and run and jump onto, like I was a weightless toy.
Navu is someone who has always been there, no matter what. No, it’s not like I call her up when I’m low and pour out my secrets and sorrows to her. But somehow – maybe I’ve always taken her for granted – I have never given a thought to how much she makes a difference in my life. For as long as I met her too often, I was too dumb a kid to understand things and when I was growing up and transforming into the wonderful woman that I am today, she was away in Canada and Mysore. But I look back into my old diaries and see that I’ve made notes about Navu leaving to US and me crying, and me being thrilled about her shifting back to India and happy about her having had a baby. Athough she hasn’t been around too much in the later years, she has been there at the back of my head, telling me what to do and what not to do.
Now, on every occasion that I meet her, I’m mind blown by how enterprising she is and how courageous she is. The last time I was in Mysore, she called me out of the house, took my help to load a bunch of vegetables she grew in her farm into the vehicle and drove to the vegetable shop. It was not any other car she drove. It was a mini truck! How many pretty women do you come across driving a goods vehicle! She went cheerfully to the organic vegetable store, sold the produce to him and smoothly walked out of the store after shaking hands with him when she had struck a good deal. Like a boss! She is just too cool.
And I have never seen better parenting skills. You can’t possibly do a better job with two daughters. Her family is like a repetition of my family. Dad, mum and two daughters who are seven years apart. And you’ll be shocked at how similar the older kid is to my sister and the younger kid, to me. It’s uncanny. The thing is, although Navu is my cousin, I think of her like my own elder sister. She somehow knows me too well. She has always been there, reading every piece of crap I write, commenting on every picture I click and watching every move I make in my life.
Gosh! See! I’ve taken her so much for granted that I haven’t realised that it was her who got me into photography! I mean that’s such a big part of who I am! I’d see pictures she clicked and more than being inspired by the pictures she clicked (no offense), I was inspired by the fact that a woman can do it! Although Sunayana has always been there, shaping me, Navu has been silently playing her role too. My sister never rode a bike or clicked pictures, I’m talking about such tiny things that turn into a big deal. Navu always rode a bike, she’d take me out in the bike everytime I went to her house in Bangalore. We’d go to Shetty angadi and buy Boomer or go to Najundeshwara to buy some provisions or to Ayodhya bakery or to borrow a CD from that shop. (Whoa! I didn’t even know I had memories of these places)!
See, I think Navu knows about me in a way no one else would. She probably doesn’t even know that. Most of the time, I’m wearing her clothes. Heck I’m wearing her t-shirt right now! And since she’s lost weight, she’s flicking clothes from me as well. Very honestly, she is an inspirational woman. What I like about her the most is how she loves people and gives them a sense of belonging. I love how she coos “gayathri maamiiii uppittu beku” or “Raamiiii hogolo!” or “Eh kothi baare illi” or “Sunuu I miss you yaa!” Just by the way she calls out to you, you know that she loves you! It’s easier said than done, to love everyone. Although it seems like such a simple thing, I think it’s really hard and she’s one of the purest people I know.
Navu, I know this does absolutely no justice at all to anything! It’s just a thoughtful couple of hours dedicated to you. I love you ya.
PS: I wrote this post so that, the next time you come Navu, you actually bring me cake instead of what’s apping pictures to me. :-x (Also, call me up now, with a bit of sniffing and sobbing, otherwise facepalm moment will happen). : P