We are thinking about our dear friend Rani a lot right now. Rani is one of those amazing people whom we feel blessed to have met. She is unusually patient, and generous to a fault. She is sharply disciplined, intelligent, multilingual. She is very often quiet, yet can be quite outspoken, and exceedingly stubborn. And Rani is beautiful, especially when she smiles.
Rani is the youngest girl in a family of nine children. Her father, who died many years ago, was a wood cutter for the international school in Kodaikanal. Her mother was a cook and matriarch of many children and grandchildren. Her mother passed away in 2010 after a long fight with blood pressure, diabetes, and asthma problems.
Rani’s life has always involved a lot of care for others. In spite of being a talented student with an unusually sharp mind, Rani was withdrawn from school in ninth grade to care for her sister’s baby. Rani went on to care for the children of many other, mostly foreign, children, including Liam Kiran. Most recently, she cared for her mother at great personal expense, passing up marriage proposals and other opportunities. Rani’s grace and patience in caring for others was, at once, inspirational and heart breaking.
We were always encouraging Rani to save money for herself, to start making choices for Rani, to insist that her opinion is valuable, to allow Rani to be the boss of Rani. Rani knows all of these things–she’s a confident person who brims with talent and potential. But she lives in a family culture where men make all of the decisions. After losing her mom, Rani sent us a letter saying she was was finally able to begin to save money for herself.
A month after receiving that letter, we learned that Rani’s family had chosen a husband for her. Her husband lives in another town, and another world, down on the plains of Tamil Nadu. He is a relative by marriage, a man in his late thirties with an elderly mother who will also need care. He works in a textile plant and is poor. His family agreed not to require any dowry for the marriage. Rani felt some apprehension–so did we–but she lives in a place where family is always more important than the individual, and her family had decided.
We’ve done a bit of grieving and some celebrating, and fortunately a good deal of talking with Rani on the phone, which has involved both tears and laughter. We know that Rani’s husband will have a good deal of power over her future. We hope he will learn to see what an incredibly lucky man he is. And we hope this for his mother, as well. In a perfect world, Rani’s generosity and good work will be returned to her tenfold. If she has a child, we know exactly how fortunate that child will be. Rani was, and will always be, Liam Kiran’s second mother. In that sense, she will always be part of our family.
Tonight, we had our own little puja ceremony for Rani. Reid was too sleepy to join us, but we lit candles with Liam, looked at pictures of Rani, and took turns talking about what we love about her, and what we hope for her in her future. Liam said he doesn’t remember everything, but that he loves her and hopes good things for her.
Rani has taught us so much: grace, trust, love and loyalty to family. We hope her future family will respect and celebrate her wisdom, strength, and sharp mind.
She is a magnificent person.