Ajit Sat-Bhambra bids farewell to a warm, humane woman who understood the importance of home and family
Amidst all the global political upheaval that defines our present age, it is often easy to forget those small but significant acts of kindness that make the world a better place. We also tend to give less attention to those people who may not play a central role on life’s great stage, yet whose everyday words and deeds affect everyone around them in a positive and lasting way.
Jinder Kaur Bhambra – known to her family and friends as Guddi – was my younger brother’s wife, and one of life’s givers. She passed away on May 1 this year at the much too early age of 65, following a period of illness. We all knew her death might not be too far off but it still came as a blow, especially as she had seemed to be rallying in those final weeks.
I was abroad at the time and her younger son Danny rang with the sad news. When I arrived home for her funeral on May 10, driving there straight from the airport, Danny took me aside and asked if I would press the button to begin the cremation. I was deeply touched by this request, which sent my mind backto thoughts of Guddi – how she came into our lives and grew to be such an important part of our family.
She was born in Kenya but brought up in India, and I was good friends with her father from the time we lived in the Kenyan town of Nakuru. A natural result of this friendship was that his daughter Jinder would be considered as a match for my younger brother Jesbir. Their marriage was duly arranged and took place with the couple barely knowing each other.
Yet it turned out to be a happy union. Guddi was a kind, gentle lady, but also knowledgeable, with a quick, alert mind. She and Jesbirhad two sons, Tinu and Danny, and four grandchildren: two girls, two boys.Although her main role was as a homemaker and mother,she was also the backbone ofmy brother’s successfulventures. Jesbir helped me to run a Punjabi newspaper, Sandesh, and when a colleague was killed as a result of the paper’s stand against Khalistan, it was clear all our lives were in danger. In spite of this,Jesbir bravely stood by meand Guddi matched his courage with her own, always reassuring him, never urging him to give up his work on the paper, even in the face of such risks.
In 1986 Jesbir opened a gift shop. However, it was Guddi, with her business knowhow and organisational skills, who really made it a success. They worked hard, and it was with some relief that they both retired five years ago to enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle.
Guddi was a very popular member of our local Sikh community, and my father’s favourite daughter-in-law. Maybe he saw something of my mother in her, for she ran her household just as my mother did some 70 years ago, welcoming visitors at any time of day with tea or a meal, and always a kind word. Her home was their home.
She was also instrumental in arranging marriages for many young men and women. All of them loved her for the role she played in their lives and considered her a sister. Every one of them was at her funeral to bid her goodbye.
On 26 April, the evening before I left for India, I went to see Guddi. I told her she must come with us to India on the next visit to inaugurate a family project in our home village, a vocational school for girls.She smiled broadly at that and said simply, ‘Ji Bhaji’. In spite of her illness, she was looking better than she had in a while and had even started walking again after a spell of extreme weakness. I asked her to please get better so she could come to India. Again that wide, beautiful smile.
Sadly, it was an appointment she could not keep. Guddi passed away peacefully before my return, surrounded by family, knowing how much she was loved.
Hers was not a ‘big’ life in the sense we sometimes understand it, and it may seem strange to write of her in a magazine such as this, dedicated to momentous political and social events. But she was proof that those people who give so much in the smaller domestic sphere can have an impact that is far-reaching. They are truly to be valued.