My first meeting with Mhadeno Jamio, or Mha/Maha as we lovingly used to call her was in August, 2004. The then beautiful CIEFL campus in Hyderabad was filled with chirpy, young faces eager to begin walking in a new direction, on a path that will lead to accolades, stable and successful careers, and long lasting friendships. We came from different communities, spoke many languages, interacted with each other amicably. Mha was one of the four Naga girls in our batch, my first interaction with the community which proved to be a wonderful and long lasting one. She was the tiniest of them all, yet with a strong soul and a willpower made of iron, derived from a deep sense of conviction and self worthiness. Our academic interests did not overlap much and we didn’t share many classes, except A.V Ashok’s Literary Criticism and Rajeev’s Post Modern Poetry. During our M.A days, Mha would be at the forefront of any issue. She had a strong voice which stood out in the direst of times. Later when most of us wanted to pursue an M.Phil or Ph.D, she joined Google, Hyderabad. Although we lived in the same city, we got entangled in our different quotidian existence. We would meet occasionally at a party or at someone’s birthday bash. After a year, she decided to come back to academia and pursue an M.Phil. Many of our friends had moved on by then, after finishing their studies. CIEFL had become EFLU, the place was not the same. New faces, new buildings, new hopes and aspirations. We felt a bit like outsiders, with a lingering shadow or a smudged footstep, we went on about our life feeling a bit empty. Hostels came up in every corner, trees were getting cut, and the campus became a concrete jungle. This is when Mha and I decided to move out of the hostel and rent a house.
The two bedroom house was located in Taranaka, a ten minute walk to school. We each had a room and a bathroom and shared the common area and kitchen. Mha was the more meticulous one among us. She would cook, clean, and keep the house spot less. We loved hosting dinner parties and went grocery shopping together. There was a renewed vigor in our lives. Moving out of campus was the best decision we made. We created a home, weaved up stories, and conjured up dreams. In summer of ’09, we decided to take a little vacation and go on a trip to Coorg. I had always wanted to travel there and explore Bylakuppe and walk along the banks of Cauvery. We also had to help a friend pack up and relocate from Bangalore. We took the train from Hyderabad-Bangalore and spend the entire day helping our friend pack up his apartment. Our bus to Coorg was overnight, we reached Coorg in the wee hours of the morning and checked in to our first homestay experience. We had booked a cab for our entire trip. The next two days was such filled with new sights, new experiences. It was a rainy, foggy morning when we reached Talacauvery, the origin of the Cauvery river. Thankfully, we had an umbrella (though it wasn’t much of a help).
Our next stop was the beautiful Abbey falls in Madikeri. The rains had left the falls plentiful water and to hear the gushing roar of the water falling down the rocks is quite rhythmic.
The highlight of the trip however was river rafting in the Cauvery, something the three of us had never done before. There was a moment when our guide pushed us both into the river, and instead of climbing back up into the boat, we swam away wearing life jackets. I still remember the twinkle in her eye, the one which comes after doing something mischievously naughty. We laughed under the rainy, Madikeri sky that day. Nothing could stop us, not rules, not society or conformity. We lived that moment as if there wouldn’t be another moment like that.
Bylakkuppe was revisiting my love for Buddhism. A couple of years earlier, I had gone on two Buddhist trails- Sanchi Stupa in Sanchi, MP and Sarnath, near Benares. This was different. Bylakkupe is the largest Tibetan settlement in South India. The biggest monastry, the Namdroling monastry, is home to many Tibetan Lamas. The beautiful inside is ornate, covered in Tibetan symbolisms, and has an unseen calmness. This was a very solemn experience, compared to the river rafting one earlier. In here, we knew time was just an illusion, a concept created to anchor your mind in the future. It meant nothing to us. We surpassed the continuity of being mortal, just for a few minutes, before returning to reality.
Our last stop was Nisargadhama, an island formed by Cauvery.
We boarded the overnight bus back to Bangalore, spent the day eating lunch at Samarkhand, watched a movie at Forum, and took the night train back to Hyderabad. It was a such a relaxing and enlightening vacation. This was the last time we spent days together, hoarding new experiences. Come 2010, Mha decided to quit her M.Phil and move back closer to home. I decided to move much further away from home and joined the Ph.D program in LA.
I never saw Mha again. We regularly kept in touch the first year she went back home and I moved to the foreign land. Soon after, Mha fell sick. She was diagnosed with Stage 4, colon cancer. Suddenly, every single moment we had ever spent together seemed precious and all those days, cribbing under the strong Hyderabad sun, futile. I miss her presence every single day. She holds a place in my heart, no one can ever fill. Wherever you are, Mha, I hope you are well and happy, and found that peace you were constantly looking for.
Death arrives among all that sound
like a shoe with no foot in it, like a suit with no man in it,
comes and knocks, using a ring with no stone in it, with no
finger in it,
comes and shouts with no mouth, with no tongue, with no
Nevertheless its steps can be heard
and its clothing makes a hushed sound, like a tree.
-Nothing but Death, Pablo Neruda
Today is Mha’s first death anniversary. This post is an attempt to keep my memories of her alive, through words, through photos. You can read a poem about her here.