I was in standard IX, when I first met her as a bride to one of my most favorite uncle, mom’s younger brother. Uncle had moved in with my parents to Chennai from Kerala, after my parents got married, and he has been an integral part of my life all along. Even today.
Cilvy was her name, petite, short, active and a pocket sized wonder. She only wore organdy and kotta sarees that was vogue and stylish, those days. I have seen her carrying herself in sarees with ease, they were well pleated, and also remember until she had her own children, she would never pick up any child, after she draped herself in a saree for it would crumple them. She wore foundation, used cosmetics and a curled lock of hair hung on both sides of her face. When a dads side cousin told me that your aunt puts on lot of makeup, the ninth grade me was secretly happy, as I had someone in my family who used make up. Yes. Seriously.
They lived very close to my parents place, and especially after my two little cousins who were naughty brats came along our bonds got stronger. My maternal uncle had a significant role in shaping my personality with his amazing positivity, his ability to talk about any topic under the sun, riveting story telling techniques and they have all influenced me quite a bit. My aunt was very supportive in all his endeavors.
I am yet to see a woman like her who can spin like a top, don multiple hats and do hundred stuff at the same time. She could work her magic with her signature dishes and cook for the entire town, if need be. She was loud surprisingly for a small person and spoke dime a dozen. Always with a smile on her face, she was at the helm of everything that was happening at my uncles house and she was pretty stellar at what she was managing. With my uncle into a lot of social activities, after his work time, like being a president of an association at Chennai, active member at church and his community, Cilvy aunty could work her magic, held down the fort during my uncles absence from domestic activities.
While in first year of my graduation, I was to wear a saree for some occasion. Since I didn’t own any then, my parents were planning to buy me and I remember Uncle and Aunty coming home and surprising me with an Organza saree, just like the ones Cilvy aunty wears. It was a light shade of brown pastel colour with a maroon border. It must have been her choice definitely and I was on cloud nine with all those compliments that was coming my way, when I wore it the first time. She wished me many hundreds of sarees in my lifetime, when she gifted me my first and made me feel special.
I now stare at the picture my cousin Joe, their son, sent me over Whatsapp. Its my aunts’ picture along with the announcement of her demise. We lost her to cancer. She is smiling subtly in the picture, so unlike her open laughter and grief engulfs all of us in the family. They had moved to Kerala to our tharavad in Chalakudi just before the lockdown commenced. None of us could pay our last rites to her or be with my Uncles’ family during this profound period of sorrow.
The bright saree she is seen in the picture used for the announcement, is my gift to her sometime back. Neenu, Joe's wife tells me that she looked her best in it and that was one of her favorites.
Life certainly plays deep games. Doesn’t it?