12.5 x 10.5 in.
Labanyaprobha Ghosh Dastidar was born in Batajore, India, present day Bangladesh, in 1903. We called her “Didama,” which means grandmother in Bengali. Bengalis, Hindus and Muslims lived together in the eastern part of British India.
My grandmother lived a hard but fulfilling life. She had a large family; she gave birth to eleven children; nine survived to adulthood. On August 15, 1947, India gained its independence. India and Pakistan separated placing Bangladesh in eastern Pakistan. This is where most Bengali-Muslims settled.
My grandparents, being Hindus, were forced to move West to Calcutta (now Kolkata) along with other Bengali-Hindus. On arriving in Calcutta they lived in a small garage, where Didama cooked by candlelight for her extended family. Over the years, my grandparents’ situation improved and they eventually moved into a house in Calcutta where they remained for the rest of their lives. My grandfather died when my mother was 20.
For the next 40 years, Didama, alone, raised and supported her family. For as long as I can recall, Didama wore a white sari (the sign of widowhood) and dark-rimmed glasses. She always believed that anything was possible if you put your mind to it. I remember her great strength, her feistiness, and the enormous respect she was paid by those around her. I remember Didama’s wonderful cooking – she made the best Bengali meals, sweets and pickles from scratch. I remember so well the way Didama smelled – a sweet mixture of her favorite moisturizing cream and baby powder. She had the softest skin. Didama always wore her few remaining strands of hair in a long braid down her back; her hair smelled of coconut oil. She had great insight about people, and would advise her children and grandchildren about who would or would not make good life-partners. Most of all she shared an incredible warmth and love with everyone around her.
I saw her a few weeks before she passed away. While physically weak, her mind was as sharp as ever. Didama died on 4 March 1997, at 94 years of age.