Dadiji: A woman of faith

I will never forget the words of dadiji, in a moment of utmost tragedy, when my father, her son, had died suddenly several years ago. She implored, over a scratchy phone connection: “Be strong. Have strong faith.”

God will provide and care for us, she said.

Raised an orphan, married in the Indian fashion to a man she didn’t know, weighted with the load of four step-children and four more of her own, hardly blessed with substantial resources, Mohini Jadhav’s life was a marathon, an endurance trial. For more than nine decades, she faced her struggles — including attacks on her family over religion, a husband who ruled at times with an iron fist and various bouts of domestic strife — with an unwavering faith and delight in God’s grace.

It was that faith that reached out to me from thousands of miles in the darkest of moments. Over many years, she stressed that we can only feel happiness at the life God (he/she/it/they) gives, even as we stumble over hardship.

She died yesterday, succumbing, finally, to old age. I will miss her faith and joy.

I cannot remember a time during my travels to India over the past several years when dadi was not trying to take care of me in some fashion. Trying to feed me, telling me I needed to lose weight, giving me candy or juice, telling me (lately) that I needed to gain weight, offering me biryani or achar.

I have many fond memories of her in stronger times, even though I wasn’t the most attentive grandson. The picture above comes from the final stretch of a trip to India in 2004, when I stayed with her and dada for several days.

She delighted in my earrings — silver hoops she bought me at a Pune bazaar — and my tattoos, Hindi expressions for courage and the fight for truth. And she would press me to learn Hindi and quiz me on vocabulary.

Of course, when faced with the death of those we love, we have a tendency to deify. Sure, she had her bouts of grousing. And she vented frustration like all humans. But I am hard-pressed to find memories of dadi without her resilience, her faith in God, her smile and her joy.

Late in life, she lost physical strength and her mental faculties faded. When I saw her last, in June, she was nearly bed-ridden.

She still recognized me, we looked at old and new pictures together and she held my hand. She told me to settle in India, marry an Indian girl and be happy. She giggled, smiled and clapped when I said I intended to do just that.

But she was also tired and she told me, with distinct clarity, that she understood she had little time left. Then, after extracting various promises about how I would live my life, she turned to her well-worn bible.

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2 Responses to “Dadiji: A woman of faith”

  1. Anna Says:
    August 11th, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    Yes, her joy. And her curiosity and willingness to learn, which was her genius and, thank the good powers of the universe, her legacy.

  2. Reagan Says:
    August 25th, 2011 at 11:00 am

    I’m sorry to hear it, but she sounds like a lovely woman.

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