I can’t recall what year it was. I know I was young. We were on vacation in Pakistan. My parents and I. Actually, my father had returned to the UK, but mum and I were still there. Mum wanted to spend time with her parents. She would tend to them, cook for them, love them.
I was young, maybe eleven years old. In those days the UK government was less finicky about children having time off school. I think I was away for five months of the year. Perhaps longer.
I spent so much time separated from my mum when I was in Pakistan. I was always hanging out with cousins. Often not even in the same city or region as mum. I wanted to be with kids my age. Mum would ask me to come home, to her parent’s and I would on occasion, for a day or two. But then I’d leave again. When I reflect on all the times I’ve left her, I feel a twinge now, of heartache. Given the choice again, I’d choose to be with her every time.
It was during one of these periods of my being away that my nan visited me. My mum’s mum. It might seem unremarkable. But it really is not. She’d traveled out to where I was. Maybe 50 kilometres or more from where she lived. This might not seem like such a distance in todays fast car fast paced world. But this was in a time when there wasn’t an abundance of cars. Well, she certainly didn’t have one. She’d boarded at least two rickety buses, and multiple rickshaws on uneven dirt roads to get to where I was. I suspect the journey might have taken her close to two hours one way.
I recall seeing her and thinking, she’s come to collect me. But instead she gave me a paper bag full of samosas and bags of chutney that she’d brought from a shop near where she lived. I remember her looking at me knowingly, and I felt exposed. Like there was nothing she didn’t know about me. Yet, she’d brought me a bag of goodies to eat. I remember her hugging me and telling me to eat the samosas because she knew I liked them.
She didn’t stay long. In fact the brevity of her visit then makes me so keenly aware of its significance now. She made a gesture of love for a child who barely spoke her language or made much of an effort for anything other than fun. Did she know that her visit to me then so many years ago would sustain me now?