My Ajee

first_imgWhoever could make two ears of corn or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country than the whole race of politicians put together – Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s TravelsMy Ajee passed away last week in New York City. By sheer coincidence I’d already written my article published last week on my reaction to the death of an elderly patient on my watch – “First Crash”, when my father received word that his mother, my Ajee, had to be rushed to the hospital and she was critical. I wrote, “It’s impossible, I think, to be in that place and not think about your own loved ones. It’s impossible to avoid reflecting on whether you’ve spent enough time showing the people you love that you love them while you still have them in your life.” My Ajee was one of those persons I’d thought about.My Ajee, aged 30Since she lived in New York and I in Guyana, I only met her when we visited each other. With ten children, twenty-six grandchildren and sixteen great grandchildren I wondered how she remembered all their names much more their tiniest details, which she did. Of recent, she would faithfully read my articles in the New York edition of the paper – and complain bitterly on those weeks when they weren’t carried! She was a tad partial!But while I may not have been as lucky as my cousins and siblings residing in New York, we’re a family that’s constantly repeating the narratives handed down to us from our parents, and I do believe I knew her so well. As someone interested in history and the role of females in constituting that history, I’ve always been intrigued as to how she transitioned from her mother’s generation where females supposedly had much more “agency” and independence since they worked for wages of their own and were out of the home to one where she was “just a housewife”.But it seemed the times were changing and she and her parents were changing with it. She would gleefully regale us about how she “turned down” the offer from the family of a young goldsmith-to-be for my Aja, who was “tall and good looking” and who would (by sheer coincidence!) pass by her home every afternoon, just when she was “washing wares” at their outdoor sink. Her parents went along with her choice.She was determined to make her life a success and worked together with her husband to make their dreams a reality. She was a quiet woman but with a will of steel and was not deterred by her economic circumstances. She simply did what she had to do. She had thirteen children by the time she was thirty five, ten of them who survived. She scoffed at the “younger generation” of females making a fuss about childbirth!While she only went to primary school, she was determined that her children would receive an education and made great sacrifices to ensure that was accomplished. My Cha Cha’s and Poowas all recount the effect she had on them about imbibing good values with her stories taken from the Ramayan – but more so from her actions. She was very proud and never saw herself as “poor” even though by the official statistics she and her family were so defined. She would never accept a handout and made sure her debts were always paid.She was very bitter that conditions became so difficult during the seventies that most of the gains she had painfully made were wiped out. She was proud of the success she and my Aja carved out for themselves in New York, as well as the success of her children and grandchildren.My Ajee taught me a career is important to a woman but raising a family can also be fulfilling and merging the two can be achieved. She was a good role model for the modern woman.last_img

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