When I learnt this morning that Yukti had passed away, along with the sadness which is inevitable at the passing away of someone known, I also found myself smiling fondly. She and I weren’t particularly close, even the relationship wasn’t too direct, more like a Basanti relationship from Sholay. She was the daughter of my late ex husband’s first cousin, though the same age as him and also his classmate in school for many years. For very long I kept thinking about how she could be described. She didn’t hold any high level job or education, yet she had a keen intelligence and an enterprising attitude. She had an intrinsic sense of freedom which was very rare in that family. She defied norms without being an activist.  Making quiet contributions without seeking recognition, daring to speak her mind without making a hue and cry about it, always full of fun and laughter, many times even at her expense, but yet not losing her sense of humor and taking everything in stride.

When I had just joined the family I was told stories from people in the family about how much she had danced at her own Sangeet and Reception. Mind you, in those days, brides were expected to be demure and shy and those who had spoken thus about her had not done so in admiration, but rather as criticism. But Yukti loved to dance, she’d corner me at a family occasion and ask me to demonstrate the ‘ek do teen’ dance step from Madhuri’s hit song. We’d all laugh loudly as we attempted that in our little circle away from the more serious kind of people in the family. She wasn’t going to be tied down by that excess weight or being reminded that she wasn’t behaving age appropriate or status appropriate as a mother of two.

As someone who was once slim and also arrogant about not having gained weight post child birth, I often nagged Yukti, even got rude sometimes. Her affable nature never deserted her even at those times. After my divorce neither of us made any attempt to stay in touch, but when we did meet after many years, she was still affectionate and warm. I apologized to her about the jibes I used to take at her and even confessed that I believe my weight gain might be the result of my bad karma of having been mean to her on the subject. But she clearly bore no trace of resentment.

One story about her I must share, which all my canine loving friends will greatly appreciate. This is an incident from many years before I had joined the family. When everyone was pooling into cars to go somewhere from a large family gathering, Yukti promptly picked up her puppy and sat in the car, leaving behind her infant daughter. Everyone was shocked. Her mother or sister in law picked up her daughter and sat in the car. Everybody ridiculed her and took digs at her for her irresponsible nature while she sat unaffected, grinning away. A few talked about it till much later too, that’s how I heard about it. When I met her next I actually enquired about it – How could you do that? Without batting an eyelid she said, “annu I knew someone or the other will pick up my daughter, she was the 1st newest baby in the family, they all doted on her. No one would have picked up this baby of mine.”

My last interaction with her was at the prayer ceremony of her elder brother. He was the only member in the entire family who had made a sincere effort to stay in touch after my divorce. She said to me, “see this brother of mine, always in a hurry to do everything, left us all also so quickly”. Looks like Yukti wasn’t too different from him either. She too has left rather quickly. Though that isn’t where the similarity ends. When my son had returned from a family event sometime back he spoke of his interaction with her very fondly because not only was she warm with him but she also spoke kind words to my him about his mother. And that post the divorce has been so rare that it is worthy of being mentioned.

And that is Yukti for you. No in your face feminism, no drum rolls for taking a stand, no tall claims of being modern or progressive, and yet in a spontaneous manner a genuineness that touches your heart and makes a difference.  And that is also why she made an impact, enough for me to want to write a tribute to her. She couldn’t be labeled while she lived, but she lived! All those posts you see about how to live well, live with joy, live in a spirited manner, they could all be about her. To those of you who witnessed her life, her doting husband, lovely daughters, grieving nephews and many friends I will say only this much..hope her unique way of life inspired you to be true to yourselves. Saying Rest in peace is too cliche for this spirited woman. May she dance in joy as her spirit soars to explore the unknown and meet the Maker! We all thank Him for having made you Yukti, for you were truly one of your kind!

In appreciation

Signature of Artist Annu Kalra