Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Remembering nana

Christina's previous posting and our discussion of meanings of healing this week in the "Culture and Health" class remind me of my grandmother. Christina reminded me of the void in knowledge that has been left behind since nana passed away almost a decade back.

Nana, as we 18 siblings growing up in our joint family called her, was and always remains with us as an incredible source of knowledge and wisdom, as a repository of guidance during hours of need. At the deepest moments of needing knowledge and wisdom about decisions in life and directions for action, I try to remember back to what nana would have said, or what she would have uttered, or how she would have guided us siblings. Nana was an incredible repository of knowledge from perspectives that were gathered through her culture, her readings of books and newspapers (I remember her as reading newspapers and books throughout the day, all day, right until the point she passed away), her upbringing as the daughter of a physician and as the niece of one of the architects of Indian engineering, and her lived experiences in mothering her thirteen children and grandmothering her eighteen grandchildren.

So nana would often have remedies for sore throat (the warm padding from the lamp), stomach upsets (the soaked mixture of herbs and the specially cooked meals that looked particularly appealing because of how tasty they were), fevers (the anise seeds soaked in water), and the list goes on. The one treatment that I needed a lot of was one for sprained ankles and it worked wonders (turmeric heated into a paste and applied over the sprained area). As I remember these remedies, I also remember the amount of wisdom, knowledge, and love that went into them. I also remember how irreplaceable these remedies are. Their healing was intrinsically intertwined with the healer and her love for us.

I also remember how during the change of seasons, we would be made to eat the neem leaves and the bittergourd vegetables to fortify our immune systems. Although the bitterness of these recipes sometimes made them formidable, they also were part of a life that was fortified in the stories of love and under the umbrella of nana's watchful eyes.

For me, the remedies are reminders of nana. They are reminders of her presence in our lives as the healer of our pains and wounds. We knew, and I knew, that we could go to her for the wisdom and knowledge that we could not obtain from course materials, visits to the doctor, or from the instant pills that came in the colored boxes.

The miracle of her healing was and is still tied to the promise of the touch that would make everything alright!

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