A Life Saathi

My dad’s chachu (paternal uncle) -my dadabu- came to visit us today. He is a sweet man with eyes which are wizened with life. Unfortunately he is a little hard of hearing so you do have to shout a little when conversing with him, but when he starts talking he does so in a warm and inviting manner. Sadly he lost his wife in April, a magnanimous woman who was very lively. She was the glue, a matriarchal figure, among my dad’s side of the family living in London and her loss was felt profoundly. However it hit my dadabu (paternal grandfather) the hardest.

They had an arranged marriage when they were both young in Pakistan. My dad’s side of the family wasn’t very well of, hence most of my grandfathers ( excluding my dad’s dad) left for England with very little in terms of resources, to start to make a life for their own. Dadabu began in the corner-shop business, and my dad has oft times described the hard graft he and his wife put in to get their business and family going. They were saathis (ساتھي) for life – urdu for companions/friends https://meaning.urdu.co/saathi/– and traversed the troubles of their lives together. In their lifetime together they depended upon one another, from slipping unwanted food to one another at dinner parties to being one another’s foundations when they were going through tough times with their enterprises, this husband and wife duo could take on the world together.

Gham (غم) is the urdu word for grief/sorrow*. This ‘gham’ is a potent force, whereby the absence of one spouse can leave the living one as a shell of themselves. It seems with the elderly widowers I have met that a part of themselves was also rendered inaccessible when their spouses left this world. It is hard to conceive, as a greenbean in life experience terms, the attachment one can create with someone you spend the majority of you 70 years or so life with.

The person who you are married to will know you,and you will know them, inside and out. Isn’t it beautiful that we were made in pairs, that somewhere on this earth a chance encounter with another human being could give you a saathi for life?A connection that runs deeper than friendship and broader than sisterhood or brotherhood.Someone who you can love, argue and cry with. Someone to traverse the confusion and chaos of existence with. A saathi. How beautiful.

Anyway perhaps I am being rather sentimental, but in my dadabu’s voice when I hear him speak of his late wife, with its inflections of pain and adoration, it moves something deep inside me. Their bond was so strong it will probably never be severed in this life or the next, but the nature of our short existence on this planet has meant, in my dadabu’s words, that their ‘powerful vacht gusurgaya’ ( powerful time has passed).


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