Eulogies for Kamlaben Patel

Three eulogies – from Nita Foi (my aunt), Shivani (my sister) and mefrom 19th February 2022


Nita

Hi everyone. Thank you for coming today to say farewell to my mum.

As most of you know my mum could be a strict lady. I remember the days she used to tell me off for doing something wrong, and breaking a rolling pin on my back side, then saying “wait until your dad gets home!” as she knew I was not scared of her. Those were fond memories.

She also used to call me a tom boy, telling me that I needed to dress like a lady – more like my friends (especially Deviyani!) and more like her. But nobody could dress as well as my mum, especially when she went out with my dad. Every time he would tell her how nice she looked and mum would say thank you and shy away. My dad appreciated and adored my mum very much, and he would show this by buying her jewellery, which was her only vice. They loved visiting places together and would go on holidays…while leaving me and Sunil back at home!

But mum wasn’t just the most glamorous woman I knew, she was also the hardest working, all through her life. When she first came to England she couldn’t speak the language, but learned it as she started working in a factory, all while not only looking after us, but five lodgers too. She would clean, cook, wash, everyday without ever complaining. And when Seema passed away at a very young age, she also helped bring up our Shivani and Vinay. 

She was always looking to support the people around her and, over the years, with my Dad’s assistance, she even managed to help her family back home. Nothing was too much bother. Whether it was us or anyone else who needed her, she would be there and was always thinking of others. She was a force to be reckoned with and, even at the end, she worried about her grandchildren, asking how they were and if they were doing alright. 

Finally, I’m so happy that she also got to be great grandma and was able to have her three generations together with her at Christmas. My mum will be greatly missed, but now I know she will be with my dad, who I miss everyday since he left us. She’ll have plenty to say and no doubt nag him like she enjoyed. He probably won’t enjoy that so much! But they’ll get to rest, be happy and have a great time together as they used to.

Love you always, mum and dad. Til we meet again.


Shivani

Thank you everyone for coming today to say goodbye to this wonderful lady I called Ba.

She was, of course, an incredible grandmother who loved all her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren very much, but Ba was so much more than that name would suggest. 

She was a mother to Vinay and I, having she stepped in to take us under her wing at the age of 55, after ours had passed away and instilled kindness, love and great morals into us. 

She was my best friend. I remember as a teenager we would sit up late, ba telling me stories of her youth and her journey here and me confiding my secrets in her.

She was a fearless pioneer. She had achieved so much in her lifetime along side my Granddad. They were of that generation that had drive, ambition, goals and determination in everything they did. One of her greatest achievements was to see her company, Temple Pharmacy, reach its 50th year of trading last year. 

She was a phenomenal cook. Her delicious food was just one of the many ways she expressed her love. And I think it’s clear that she was a very loved person in return who always just wanted the best for everyone.

And for us today, she would want tears, yes, but also laughter and smiles too, as we reminisce over the fun and happy memories we all hold of her. 

Ba. You were so much. You were everything. I love you dearly, and I hope you and dada are back together.


Vinay

Hello everyone,

You’ve heard some gorgeous things about Ba from my foi and my sister. 

Picking up from where Shivani left off, I feel like we won’t have done Ba justice here unless we acknowledge that, among all the other wonderful qualities she had, she was also really bloody funny possessing a dry, dark sense of humour that would genuinely shock me sometimes. And while a funeral is not – traditionally – the most obvious place for a laugh, I want to reflect this aspect of her being.

So I will try to make this funny – like Ba was.

And short – like Ba was.

I’d like to begin with a quick apology. Ba often used to tell me that once I got married, she could die. I would reply that that that wasn’t a very good incentive. But it definitely wasn’t my intention to wait her out. So, I’m sorry about that, Ba. I did do my best. Please don’t be too mad.

I know Foi said that she wasn’t scared of Ba when she was angry. But as anyone who ever faced the wrath of Ba’s velen knows, she was terrifyingly quick and strong for such a small woman. In another life I’ve no doubt she would’ve done well in the Gurkhas. Yet such was the assurance and consistency of her care, she could even make whacking you with a rolling pin feel like a loving act. And, to be fair, I more or less deserved it every time for my cheek.

Though, in this regard, Ba actually had huge double standards since she was definitely the cheekiest one of the lot of us. I think this is because she was such a vibrant person. A visceral person. A creature of delights. She wanted you to enjoy yourself and she wanted to enjoy herself too, right to the very end. As I sat with her in the hospital last Wednesday, she made a big show about how she only wanted a banana for lunch. But when the nurse turned up and offered mac and cheese with ice cream for dessert…let me tell you…she very much changed her tune. 

I loved that moment because food, and in particular the joy she took in food, was an integral part of who she was. She had very exacting tastes. Long after the sun has burned itself out, this planet has exploded and the universe faded into nothingness, Ba will still – somewhere – be shaking chilli flakes onto a Pizza Hut takeaway, insisting it’s still not enough.

She was also, as has been noted, a great cook. And she really wanted you to know it, on one occasion going so far as to make me late for a wedding because she insisted on cooking a batch of samosas from scratch for the trip just as we were meant to be leaving. My friend – who wasn’t driving – was absolutely delighted, as you would be. Me – who was driving – ended up both stressed and hungry because my friend scoffed the lot. Again, as you would do.

Ba loved an experience. She loved a treat. She loved a prank. Beyond the affection and the ambition, these are her legacies too. And the other day when little Lakshmi (my niece) absolutely sold me by offering me a piece of toast that she then yanked away and ate right in front of me, the little mischievous smile on her freshly butter-smeared face reminded me of Baby Krishna but also, absolutely, of Ba.

OK look, this is a funeral and this is a eulogy so I do have some sad and earnest things to say too.

I’m really going to miss her. 

I’ll miss her voice. I’ll miss her burps. I’ll miss her always shouting down the phone as if she was on a long-distance call from the 1950s. I’ll miss how she would ask how my cats were doing, usually before asking how I was doing.

Most of all I’m going to miss that there’s no-one that I’m a little kid for anymore. Someone who – when I was a terrified child – would hold me close, stroke my hair, help me fall asleep and tell me everything would be OK. I’m grateful that I was able to do that for her in the hours before she passed.

And while the sadness is ferocious right now, it is that gratitude that I know I will end up feeling more than anything. Ba was the last of our grandparents to leave us, so it’s hard not to think of her now in the context of that entire generation. The fact they moved continents multiple times never ceases to amaze me, especially as I’m someone who has moved approximately a whole 13 miles down the road. But that was sort of the idea, wasn’t it? That we who came after them would live stiller if we wanted to. That their lives would be a roof over ours. Now that roof’s gone. But from their example I’m left with the understanding of how important it is for us to provide one for others. 

So finally, I want to tell you that, for me, Ba was proof of the power and importance of unambiguous love in one’s life. How we all need it and what it can spark in us in terms of making the world a little bit more bearable. We only have each other. We all have less time than we’d like. And it’s a big world out there. So order the mac and cheese for dinner, hold your people tight and go live in that big world with all the love you can muster.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s