When I was growing up in New Delhi, Mona didi was always the cool, big sister — the better half of the “MonoTony” of neighbouring families. She introduced me to the wonderful world of FRIENDS, cold coffees and Nirula’s Hot Chocolate Fudge.
She was the Monica of our block — her clothes neatly stacked; her room spic and span. Mom used to take one look at my sloppy cupboard and mutter in frustration — “Why can’t you be more like her?” Monisha was the daughter she never had.
Mona didi was fearless. When a grumpy neighbour was kicking week-old stray puppies, she screamed at him until he gave up and ran inside. She tended to their injuries and took them to the animal shelter.
When I had nothing to wear for a college function, she drove me to Ebony to pick out a dapper jacket. I still have it, although now it will be tough to wear it without thinking of her.
She was a perfectionist in whatever she did. When not modelling and winning beauty pageants (putting her near 6-foot frame to good use), she found time to earn a university medal in geography, take a summer course in German and roam the world. Still, New Delhi was always her favourite city.
Then she married and moved away to Bangalore and our jobs took their toll. Our phone conversations dwindled to the bare minimum of get-well-soons and hurried birthday wishes. It was her rakhis that always arrived in the mail on the one day she never forgot, no matter how busy she was.
What I am angry about is she departed for heaven without as much as a goodbye, failing to conquer a teensy-weensy monster called dengue. The Mona didi I knew had been so strong her whole life; this virus should have been no match for her.
I picture her chuckling up above in the clouds where she will be making herself useful, delivering knockout punches to demons and taking over as CEO of the guardian angel club.
No, she doesn’t need tears. She was happiest when others smiled. And she would rather you remember her by watching a FRIENDS episode. The one where they sing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” was one of her favourites.