So Qurrat-ul-Ain Haider too is gone. Slipped away, in a hospital at the edges of this city.
I've been trying to say something about her, but cannot find the words. Partly, because I am remorseful about not having met her, and partly, because I'm annoyed at not being familiar with her work. Oh, little extracts and bits. But not the seminal novel. And while I did buy some of her books in Hindi (I can't read the Urdu script), I still haven't gotten around to reading them.
Ainee Apa, they called her. My grandfather did not call her 'apa'. His children used to tease him, well into his eighties, about the secret crush he harboured. I cannot remember how, in what words, he deflected this teasing, but the photograph stayed.
My first memory of this woman was a photograph, laminated and put out in the drawing room. Stubbornly occupying pride of place amongst other photos of my grandfather's moments in the sun - a prize, a function, with heads of state. And one with Ms Haider. Both smiling, both wearing thick glasses, him seated a little behind, sort of looking over her shoulder.
The other reason she was stuck in my head was because somebody told me, I had been named after her. Ainee/Annie, they called her. And so my grandfather chose to name me. For years afterward, I wondered if this was true, but could never get up the courage to ask him outright.
And since moving to Delhi, I had often wondered if I should pay her a visit. Had never been able to decide whether it would be welcome, or not... One more regretful 'too late'.