Back to School

I was never a ‘studious kid’ or a teacher’s pet for all through my formal education days. In fact, like countless other school/college kids, I could not wait to pass, get my degree and get out for ‘good’ from the ‘education cycle’.

I was better at commerce subjects and enjoyed economics while in school. I wanted to study further on those lines, but instead ended up getting an Arts degree. I followed it with a Masters in Mass Communication and Journalism (did exceptionally well too) and then a PG Diploma in Public Relations.

I did all my studies in India except for my course in Public Relations from Deakin University, Melbourne. It was a different experience, especially since I had lived and studied only in India up until then. The walk to my University traversed through the Gardiners creek protected forest reserve which has a small brook flowing through it. Every time I walked to classes, I crossed the small foot bridge with ducks quacking in the cool water below. I had never imagined that I would be studying in a setting as beautiful and idyllic as this. The mode of teaching at that University was ‘assignment orientated’ with just 1 written exam per semester. Ah! What a relief it was to me! No exams to ‘mug-up’ for. 🙂

Anyways, I thought those eventful study years would be the end of my academic pursuits. I consciously forgot about my keenness for business studies, but perhaps sub-consciously, I knew it was still an unfinished business.

Though I thought about it often, but I kept postponing it, mainly as I did not want to get back to the routine education grind. However, I finally decided this year to pursue a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA). An unlikely conversation with my friend at my work this summer got me inclined to ‘stop sitting on it’ for any longer.

And hence, after a little over a decade of running away from the hallowed hallways of colleges, I find myself back at a study desk. I enrolled this year for an MBA degree from Andhra University at Dr. L.B. College, Visakhapatnam. I like to think of this as a new phase in my life (Phases).

Though it’s still early days and I have only had a few classes, I know that this stint at education will be as eventful as my previous ones. It has its challenges, mainly the daily classes and written exams (I haven’t held a pen for anything longer than signing my signature in a while).(Student’s Diary) Juggling academics with a full time job and a part-time job…it is going to be a hectic next two years of my life. Oh, I almost forgot about the Spanish language course I have applied for this year too.

Few get an opportunity to get back to study. Sometimes it is a relief to know that the only thing I will be stressing about is if I will pass the next subject.(Student’s Diary) Wish me luck for this phase in my life (Phases).

Tamanna S. Mehdi

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Dear Vaaji

“It is hard to forget someone who gave you so much to remember”.

It has been exactly a month since the passing away of my dear Vaaji, my paternal grandmother. And there hasn’t been a single day since that I don’t remember her. I have been meaning to write my thoughts about her for a while, but a part of me still can’t believe she has left us for her heavenly abode.

Both my grandmothers (Nani and Dadi) left no stone unturned in going over-board in showering us, their grandchildren, with unbridled affection, love and support. Both of them exuded with their strong presence a sense of invincibility which I thought would extend till eternity. Losing them both within a span of just 6 months (My Dear Nani) has been a tragic loss.

Even today, I expect to see Vaaji smiling at me, from her seat by the window in the masjid or from her favourite chair in her bedroom. She had a habit of selecting a place to make it her own wherever she stayed and that habit extended to her place in the car as well. Happily I treasure the last few months that she stayed with us and the sight of her favourite spot in our home reminds me of her daily.

Vaaji was born in Nagpur and as a young bride moved to Vizag after her marriage to Mr. Hussain Safi Mehdi, my grand-father. Living in a joint family, as my aunt reminiscences to me-“she was the favourite daughter and sister-in-law of the family”. Always willing and ready to share and give anything she was asked of. She was a pillar of support to my grand-father and to my father, uncle and aunts at all times.

She was a very determined woman. Quiet, but had immense strength and will-power. Her disarming smile carefully hid all her emotional and physical pains. She had a will to live and make the most of her life. She lost her eldest teen aged son whom she doted on, to cancer. But this did not break her. She became even more determined to give the rest of her children the best that she could offer. She herself was a cancer survivor and through her months of recovery, she smiled and bore the pain, never complaining.

She was also fiercely independent, right up till the end. She calmly went about doing her own chores even though she was frail and getting on in years and even helped with prepping vegetables in the kitchen. She would chide my two little naughty nephews, (her great grand-children) when they did not clear up their toys after playing, but would readily pick up after them when they left for their home each evening. I know she did the same for us as well when we were kids.

As most grand-mothers are, she was a fantastic cook and had some interesting multi-cuisine recipes of her own. My dad recalls how his friends loved to eat her version of the French toast (a fusion of sweet and savoury flavours) and they even renamed it ‘Vaaji’s French toast’. She enjoyed reading, and I remember the Manorama magazine subscriptions she looked forward to every month. She was a devout and spiritual person and like my Nani (My Dear Nani) had a progressive and modern outlook to life. She liked the outdoors, loved travelling, especially going on long road-trips. At the drop of a hat she was ready to accompany us on our many long distance road trips all over India. I especially remember as a child, how much I enjoyed the cycle rickshaw rides she took me on every evening.

As in health as in sickness, she was never a burden on anyone. Her spirit for life and her kindness towards everyone was such that even while she was seriously ill, she would ask about our health, and inquire about our day or whether we had eaten on time. She was a humorous and witty person, and despite her discomfort took part in and enjoyed all our chatter when we visited her at the hospital.

She was loved by one and all as was evident by all the well-wishers who came to meet her at the hospital. She was born in a large family and was the eldest of the many siblings she had. When she breathed her last, a few months shy of her 91st birthday, she was surrounded by all her children, grand-children, great grand-children and her sisters.

I miss her at all times, especially during this month of Ramzan, as I daily read the duas she helped me translate many years back. I can vividly remember that day, as if it was only yesterday. May she Rest in Peace and may Allah grant Heaven for my dear Vaaji. Ameen!

“When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure”.

09Mrs Asma Hussain Mehdi- 21st November 1926 – 10th May, 2017

-Tamanna S. Mehdi

My Dear Nani

Just the other day I was saying to a friend, “why do people wait for a person to die to say good things about them?” (Dear Vaaji)

My Nani- she often told me I was her favourite grandchild, but I am sure she said that to all my cousins because she loved all of us equally (I was certainly the most troublesome for her) 😉

Even though my Nani was born in 1932, she had a plethora of knowledge and her thoughts were more progressive than most of us now. Growing up in an age of no Google and with little means of education at her disposal, she nevertheless utilized every opportunity that came her way and completed school. She was a modern thinker and used technology to keep in touch with her siblings, children, in-laws, grand-children and her great grand-children.

A master at languages-she was fluent in English, Gujarati, Urdu and Arabic. Her lucidity in thoughts were clear from her many writings and poems in both English and Gujarati. She was praised by one and all for her well-thought out writings in her free-flowing style.  She read everything I wrote and listened to all the audio and video clippings I sent to her and critiqued, appreciated and encouraged me to nurture my talent.

A voracious reader, she read everything in her sight-magazines, novels, newspapers from cover to cover. Her favourite past-time was solving crosswords and one of her most valued possessions was an old tattered Webster dictionary that she would constantly update with new words in her clear handwriting. (I think she mentioned that she had won that as a prize in some contest at a time when she could not afford to buy one for herself). She was very possessive about it and I remember many a time she chided me for taking it without her permission. 🙂

As a teacher for many years at school, my Nani was loved by all her students. She would often tell me stories from her school days and about her students. She had great oratory skills and me, my sister, brother and cousins have grown up on the very many stories she would tell us.

She was truly a multi-talented personality. She was a good artist as well. She water-coloured, sketched, did embroidery, stitched clothes… She loved trying different cuisines and was also an excellent cook- taught me a thing or two about cooking. She also had a very graceful and keen style sense. Loved colours and enjoyed accessorizing with her clothes. She pottered around her garden as well. She was very Victorian in a way- an era when ladies knew how to do everything. She not only knew how to do everything but did it well. While I don’t paint or stitch, but I think I get my other creative bursts come from her.

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Nani with her grand daughters Afshan and Alwina

She had so many facets to her life. All her very many different talents and certain quirks 😉 live on through her children, us her grandchildren and her great grandchildren. All of us have some part of her living through us.

This year for my birthday she gave me her most cherished possession, a silver pendant with a design made with tree sap that her favourite uncle had given to her as a child. I will always deeply cherish this kind gesture of hers towards me.

She was a devout person and it was her desire to visit Najaf and Karbala and pay obeisance to Moulana Ali and Moulana Hussain and other revered figures. I am glad she could do it. She now rests eternally in the holy land of Najaf. My dear Nani, we will all miss you. May your soul rest in peace and you look over all of us from above.

Perhaps this is why we talk about them after they leave us- so that we can forever remember them.

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Mrs. Zehra Hussain- 26th September 1932-26th December, 2016

-Forever yours, Tamanna