We lost our affectionate Amma Ji !

A great-grandmother, grandmother, mother & a life partner of my grandpa for almost 73 years…
We lost our affectionate Amma Ji !
File Photo

There is an Italian proverb: “If nothing is going well, call your grandmother”. And this is very much true. Whenever I would be in trouble during my childhood days, Amma Ji , my grandma, would be there. Being the eldest grandson, I was a special kid in our joint family of around 20 members until the early 1990s. I was more special to my grandparents and so were my other siblings as well. Amma Ji was not only affectionate to us, but she was the most adoring and caring for all her two dozen grandchildren, some of whom are still kids, but happen to be my cousins.

In my childhood days I would observe women yelling and cursing their kids what we call Woh Woh in local parlance, but Amma Ji in spite of being an illiterate woman, would never utter such words or curse anyone, whether her own children, grandchildren or even the children of the neighbours. She would instead always pray and seek mercy of the Almighty for people especially kids by saying Kornaya Raham (Mercy be on you). This was Amma Ji’s catchphrase (Takiya-Kalam).

Birthplace, Family & Marriage

Amma Ji (Rahat Begum) was born around 1932 at Kralpora in a well off Rather family, who were the local zamindars of the area. She was a year older than my grandfather. As there was no culture of education those days for women, she could not get a formal education. Amma Ji (Rahat Begum) was married to my grandfather Ghulam Mohammad Bhat around 1949 and this bond continued until June 20th 2022 (73 years). My grandfather was still a high school student at the time of marriage and my grandma in spite of being an illiterate woman played a great role to ensure my grandfather continued his education. He passed matriculation with very good marks, then went to Amar Singh College, completed his graduation and then did his B Ed as well. He was appointed as a teacher for some years and then was selected as Naib Tehsildar in late 1950s. He was evaluated to the rank of Deputy Commissioner and retired in April 1991.

I have heard several stories from Amma Ji about her early life. Whenever some of our close relatives like my maternal grandma would come to our home at Wathoora, Amma Ji would narrate about her childhood days, her marriage and would always mention how well her father treated her? That is the reason I knew a lot about her as she kept repeating those important events of her life.

Amma Ji’s father’s name was Haji Ramzan Rather, we called him Ramez Babb. He died around the early 1990s. I have known that man as a child and he would love me a lot. He was a very tall man, 6 feet 3 inches, loving and caring. Amma Ji’s mother had died at an early age when she was yet to get married and Ramezz Babb took care of her daughter to the extent that he would wash even her clothes and garments of her first child (my dad). My dad was born in winter and it was too cold those days. He was Ramez Bab’s first grandchild and he wanted extra care to be taken for the newly born baby and his daughter as well. To ensure that Amma Ji’s father (Ramez Babb) contacted an experienced blacksmith of Kralpora Mohammad Ahangar and asked him to make a special Iron Bukhari (wood based heater). This was the early 1950s, when people had no concept of such things. As Haji Ramzan Rather and his brothers like Haji Rahman Rather and others were well off people with a lot of friendship with elites in Srinagar city. They had seen some well off families in Srinagar using Bukharis those days and Ramez Babb didn’t miss a chance to get it installed in his house. In addition to it, he slaughtered a sheep and kept it hanging on the top floor of his house (Brer Kanee) and would cut ½ kg meat every day and prepare mutton soup for her daughter. Amma Ji would tell us her father had also made special desi Ghee Kulchas that she would have for breakfast every day with special butter tea. This was the kind of love Amma Ji’s father had for her daughter. Such a love for female children was not seen in most of the families those days. Even well-to-do families would give extra care to male children, but Haji Ramzan Rather was an exceptional man. He loved her daughter a lot. Amma Ji too loved her father and took him (Ramez Babb) for Hajj pilgrimage in 1984 when he was an old man. In fact he had gone seriously ill for many days in Delhi, but she managed to take him to Mecca and Medina as per his wish.

Ama Ji’s father had married 2nd time and her stepmother was also a great lady. I knew her too, who died around 20 years back. The old lady would stay in our house for weeks and Amma Ji never ever thought she was not her real mother? In fact her daughters (Ama Ji’s half sisters) would come and stay with us for months and we all call them Masis. My Grandmother also has a little brother who is in fact younger than my dad. We call him Shafi Mama, and till date we have great relations with him and his family. In fact many of my friends think he is my mama ( maternal uncle). This is the kind of relation Amma Ji had maintained with her relatives. I am also trying to carry that legacy forward.

73 year old bond

As I mentioned above Amma Ji was married to my grandfather around 1949 and this was a bond of almost 73 years. I have never seen my grandparents fighting with each other. They were in fact made for each other, very much loving and caring. My grandmother gave birth to ten children ( 7 sons, 3 daughters) and this is a lesson for the people who say how can we manage the education of more than 2 kids? She ensured all her ten children got a good education. All my uncles and aunts ( puphis) are well educated and better settled. My grandma would take care of our agricultural land and would carry food for the labourers and family members on her head during paddy farming season ( paddy seedling plantation and harvest time). In fact my mother, my aunts would also assist her along with my Puphis who were much younger than my dad and were unmarried until late 1980’s, but Amma Ji’s presence at Khah ( Paddy land) would boost the morale of the labourers and her sons as well , who would assist the labourers. In fact my great grandfather Haji Ali Bhat was also alive those days who was a very experienced and progressive farmer but still the home affairs were fully controlled by Amma Ji as Abba Ji (Grandfather) was always busy with his Govt Job. Haji Ali Bhat (my great grandfather) died in April 1996. He was also an amazing man and I would try to write about him as well some time in future.

My grandfather was very much impressed by cattle farms in Punjab. In 1981, he purchased around 7 Jersey and Holstein cows from Punjab and transported them to Wathoora. With the help of my grandmother (Amma Ji) and his father Haji Ali Bhat, my grandfather constructed a small, modern dairy farm that we ran for more than a decade with full success. At one point of time we had 20 such cows, 2000 chickens and 100 sheep as well ( late 1980s). It was the best example of integrated farming. We grew oats on around 50 kanals of land those days. The milking time in the evening was fun for the family. My uncles, aunts (Puphis, aunty), my mother and domestic labourers under the command of Amma Ji would milk cows for 2 hrs daily. We had named all the cows like Mugli, Haari, Kaali, Shaali, Baali and so on. Mugli was the favourite cow that gave 20 litres of milk. Even at her old age she gave 12 litres of milk. It was only the commitment and courage of Amma Ji that we managed all such hectic affairs and agri business.

Conclusion

The divorce rates around the world have exploded over the last few decades. The average length of marriages that end in divorce vary greatly, with some not even making it to their tenth anniversary. 50 % of marriages in the US end up in divorce. This rate is increasing day by day in Kashmir as well. Most of us get married in our 30’s and we live for 75 to 80 years on an average. Amma Ji was married when she was 17 and died at 90 and now imagine how great a life she lived? She was a very pious lady, never missing her 5 prayers from her childhood. She would offer namaz in Jamath with my grandfather. Both my grandparents grew together from teenage to adulthood, then to middle age and now to old age. It is very difficult for such people to get separated at a ripe age. May Almighty Allah bless my Grandma with Jannat ul Firdaus, Aameen.

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow. He is Founder & Chairman of Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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