Our Self-Written Obituaries – Sheema Mookherjee, Kanha

Our Self-Written Obituaries – Sheema Mookherjee, Kanha

Our Self-Written Obituaries – Sheema Mookherjee, Kanha

The 84th death.

[Text by Sheema Mookherjee; photo by Jhampan Mookerjee]

Sheema Mookherjee was found departed on a planter’s chair in her verandah at Kanha, Madhya Pradesh. The forest spirits had come and collected her soul. She had just finished a breakfast of kodo (millet) roti and green chutney made with garlic shoots from her garden. The harvested mohua flowers were lying drying in the sun around her sprawling verandah, emitting a heady sugary fragrance in the air.

Ms Mookherjee has been living in her Kanha jungle home for the past few decades, ever since she gave up her publishing job in Delhi. She was known for her eccentric produce from her organic farm – ancient grains, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, mahua… Along with her husband of 57 years, she hosted visitors at her home and fed them wholesome, healthy stuff, while Jhampan plied them with fatty farm-grown piglets and fish, and home brewed liquor. They were the essential Jack Sprat and his wife, and always believed that such contrasting personalities cemented their bond.

When Ms Mookherjee left her Delhi home to shift to Kanha, the packers revolted because of the number of herbs, spices and condiment bottles they had to wrap up in her kitchen. They were also amazed that the weight of the books in the house far exceeded the total weight of the furniture. They muttered amongst themselves about having to box up large amounts of kabadi – but this was actually Jhampan’s collection of empty beer bottles and cans with animal graphics on the labels. You can be sure her spirit will never visit this house, because she left the rajdhani with extreme alacrity.

Although she had spent her entire professional career editing, Ms Mookherjee declared she would never take pen to a sentence written by somebody else again. In retrospect, she felt she wanted to be a Rabindra Sangeet singer, but she had to be a closet one all her life, as she was surrounded by family who had od’d on Gurudev and refused to make Him a part of their lives. She asked for her mother’s Gitabitan, which was her most precious inheritance, to be cremated with her.

Professionally, Ms Mookherjee was known to be able to handle the ‘tricky, difficult authors’ but that’s because she had an equally obstinate ego, and understood what it was to have your creativity criticized. But she always said her dream author was Mayank Austen Soofi, whom she pushed to launch his The Delhi Walla in print. And she did not ever say this knowing he would carry her obituary on his website.

Our Self-Written Obituaries invites people to write their obituary in 200 words. The idea is to share with the world how you will like to be remembered after you are gone. (May you live a long life, of course!) Please mail me your self-obit at mayankaustensoofi@gmail.com.