Raji Shanker better known as Miri of Peppermill lost the battle to her long standing illness yesterday. She was a fantastic food blogger, a compassionate friend and an amazing woman. Nina writes…
13th of Feb – just yesterday…on my morning walk, I felt confused, bewildered…trees were in bloom, the light was fantastic – yet my heart didn’t lift at the sight – how could the world be so beautiful when my friend, Raji was no longer in it?
Raji had an illness, the same one that her mother died when she was 5. A condition called “mega duodenum” – the story of her battle can be read here. It was something I always knew about but never took seriously because if you knew Raji, you couldn’t believe that she would ever succumb to a mere illness.
I mean, I’m organised and she made me feel totally inefficient…writer, food blogger, financial analyst, mom, wife, friend, dance student, general organiser of everyone’s lives – what a dynamo…she rarely spoke about her illness except for a few passing references. She was on top of it.
Then early last year, she fell ill again… to be truthful I can’t say I was stunned – I mean, it was Raji, right? Brave, strong, indefatigable, happy happy happy Raji. She sounded strong, positive – we spoke about thrice a week, bitched about movie stars, discussed some recipes, laughed over news anchors frothing at the mouth and smsed each other every night after during Masterchef Australia. When Season 1 ended, I remember feeling wistful, I asked her “will you still be my 9-10 pm girlfriend or will you break up with me now?” She laughed! How she laughed, the biggest smile, the brightest eyes…
Through last year I kept wanting to visit her – I had last seen her in 2010. Then work took me to Delhi this January and ofcourse she was on the phone with me ‘what do you want to eat?” I made a list of stuff, her miso soup, her khao suey… She made all that and more – a Pav Bhaji “just like the one in Sagar! I figured it out! “
Raji hadn’t eaten properly for a few months, maybe a few table spoons a day…so my requests may seem insensitive to those who don’t know her – she was like that, constantly feeding people, entertaining. She was pickling the vegetables, and then a lime pickle…bottles all neatly arranged and sitting in the sun. The evening before I left Delhi, she was making a trifle pudding…arranging layers of carrot-halwa, vanilla pudding, caramelised almonds in shot glasses…there was dinner the next evening that she was hosting for her colleagues from the UK.
She was never in denial – she knew she would leave soon – when we spoke briefly about the future – she said she had made her peace with life and death. I had to leave at 4 am to make my flight and I didn’t say good bye… and I never will.
To Raji, layering a trifle, while attached to your tubes, reminding me to pack the puff pastry and feta you had bought for me, admonishing me to write; ‘you’re useless, Nina!’
Today I know why the trees still bloom, why the sun shines so gently and why the world is still so beautiful…my world will always be beautiful because you are still in it.
I love you.