My Nani

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A memoir marking 11 years

/ Like the sky / my beloved is everywhere / but next to me / – rupi kaur

I remember the day my Nani died. It was a cold January morning. I was putting my coat on and was waiting for my mum to drop my sister and I off to school.

Then the phone rang.

I heard my mum shout



what are you saying?

Followed by a loud thud as she threw the house cordless against the wall. On the other end of the phone call was my auntie. She had just told my mum that their mother had died in Bangladesh. It was kidney failure.

I ran upstairs to find my mum crying hysterically on the bedroom floor. She was sat against the bed frame with her head in her hands.

‘Mum, what’s happened?’ I squeaked out.

She just continued crying.

‘Should I call Dadu’s house?’

I didn’t know what to do.

My dad came home.

‘Who called and told your mum’ he whispered to me. ‘It was auntie.’

He already knew.




The whole day seemed a blur.

My mum and my auntie read the Quran and sobbed quietly together. The smell of incense covered the air.

Have sabr afa. She’s in a better place now.

‘I can’t believe she’s dead’

I remember loads of tea being brewed. And thinking, why are we making tea when someone has just died?




My Nani was an incredibly strong woman. Formidable. She personified strength and courage. Being bed bound for the last decade of her life, she never once complained. She taught me my first poem in Bangla.

I use to spend my afternoons in Bangladesh lying next to her in bed and listening to her stories. The birds chirping and the sound of the chickens outside in the garden.

‘Next time you come to Bangladesh, I won’t be here.’

‘Oh Nani, don’t say that!’

But she was right. she died two weeks after we left.




Whenever Nani is mentioned, whether we’re looking at old pictures, watching home videos, or recalling fond memories of our trips to the motherland, I feel a tinge of nostalgic sadness for the love I lost and grief at my first loss.

I lost my grandmother. And my mother lost her mum.

Oh Nani, are you proud of me? I hope you are. I love you so much.


Photo: Authors Grandmother in Sylhet, Bangladesh. Date unknown.

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