I delayed writing this for far too long because I didn’t know where to begin. The memory of my grandmother, Shamsun Nahar Paran, is no small matter. After pondering on it for nearly two months, here I am at four in the morning, hunched over my laptop, determined to write it down before the words escape me once again.
Everybody reading this is already aware of my Nanu’s many achievements and accolades, the details of which would fill an entire book. I will share the story of our unique relationship, our special bond, our kindred spirits.
People say that I was her favourite granddaughter. But the truth goes far deeper than that. In many ways, I inherited my Nanu’s spirit, and she knew it. We’re both poets, her and I. And we see the world through a poet’s lens, a precarious balance between vision and reality. We see the world for what it is, and we long for it to be better. We see the truth and the lies. The beauty and the ugliness. The tragedy and the potential. And we feel a moral imperative to do something about it, to fight injustice wherever we see it, however we can.
Ghashful, the institution that she built out of her living room, lives on as her legacy today, serving the poor and the disenfranchised. It is her greatest wish come true
Nanu recognised herself in me. She nurtured and inspired me from a very young age. She was the person who gave me my first journal, which proved to be the single most influential moment of my entire life. I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but it was a few years shy of my tenth birthday. She told me to write down anything that came to mind, and I’ve been doing it ever since.
One of my favourite memories is of when Nanu dropped by our house during my last visit. I was having an especially creative summer, the fruits of which I shared with her. I read my work out loud, and she gave me constructive criticism. She appreciated what I did well, but didn’t hesitate to say where I needed improvement. Like a true writer.
No matter how long she lived, or how badly her body deteriorated, Nanu held on to her youthful essence. She greeted new things with an almost childlike wonder. She never stopped wanting to see more, do more, be more. She always told me, “Act locally. Think globally”. Her vision was limitless. She never ran out of plans. And she never stopped collecting things that meant something to her. As she aged and slipped into that second childhood, not everyone was so tolerant of her endless passion, a fact that caused her great sadness. She once told me, “Ar keo amake bujhe na. Ek matro tumi amake bujho” (No one else understands me. Only you do). If this is true, I consider it an honour and a privilege.
As a young girl, I took great pleasure in the fact that my Nanu wasn’t like other grandparents. In fact, I still do. She was always positive, always active, and she always encouraged me to fly as far from the nest as I could. She enriched my life in ways that I didn’t even realise until many years later. From giving me certain literature to read, or certain tasks to do, to taking me to cultural events, and even sometimes forcing me to participate. One thing that she didn’t do was preach. She didn’t need to. She led by example, a formidable one. Ghashful, the institution that she built out of her living room, lives on as her legacy today, serving the poor and the disenfranchised. It is her greatest wish come true.
I hope I can make her proud one day by proving myself worthy of the special place that I held in her heart. I am so fortunate that my life was touched by someone so beautiful, brilliant, inimitable, and indomitable. Nanu was a trailblazer who not only dreamed of leaving this world a far better place than she found it, but succeeded.