When confronted with death, the recurring emotion I have is bewilderment. How could this happen, how could she really be gone forever, will I really never be able to see her again?

It just doesn’t make sense. I am reminded of Dadabhai who went like a hurt, small child: “Chere chole gelo amaye? Ar kono deen dekhte pabo na?”

8-9-2013

To the best person I have ever known,

I could not see you. The consequences of choosing to leave for further shores are many, and so deep, that I could not possibly have foreseen them when I left at a naive, chirpy seventeen. So I did not see you. And the last memory I have of you is not hooked up to the dozen tubes and one half of your already barely-there frame. The last memory I have of you is of you holding my hands in yours and asking me “Kobe ashbi?”. I glibly assured you I’d be back in seven months. I’d be graduating. “Ei baar toh khoob kam shomoy, Didibhai”. In my mind seven months was nothing. Barely seven days later, you were in the hospital with poison in your blood. I wish, I wish- I wish I’d lingered then. ‘I wish’s are so useless aren’t they? So let us not speak of this now.

I wish I believed in heaven. The conventional happy-place. I really, really do, because I want to believe that you’re in the best place you could be, getting all the things you deserve, in peace, in comfort and in happiness. Now more than ever, I wish I believed in heaven- because then I could see you again. Right now, the news hasn’t registered really- and it keeps hitting me in fits and starts that next year when I return, your old familiar face, and gentle hands and constant anxiety won’t be on the bed underneath a lazy fan to greet me. It is unreal. And painful.

But let’s not speak of that. Going by what I believe, you’re bigger than your body now and you are energy, the universe(!) again- and what could be more wonderful than that? We are the only ones deprived in this situation, and you are not suffering- which is fine with me.

I don’t know if I can honestly believe in heaven. But I would really like to believe that there is a special place where souls like you go, where everything is beautiful and nothing hurts.

You cannot give anymore, and perhaps that is for the best. I hope that you are being taken care of for a change. I hope that you feel strong, and free, and are finally, finally rid of chinta.

I love you and I will miss you. I will miss you next summer, and I will miss you this winter. I will miss you when I’m living in India, and I will miss you when I get my PhD. I will miss you when I stay out late and when I come home before seven. I will miss you when I get married and when I have children and when I eat, and when I sleep and when I wake. I will miss you.

I am happy that you are at peace now. Ma told me that after it all- of course you spared them from having to take a painful decision- you looked peaceful. Like Didibhai.

I am grateful that I am your granddaughter, grateful that I know that in a crazy, bad world, there is reason to hope. I know that goodness lives, and I will have faith, because I have been privileged to see it in front of me for nearly twenty two years- as has everyone who has ever known you.

Thank you for everything. 

Love,

Kachu.

 

When I think about my childhood, there is a lot of summer afternoons spent reading on the big flat green stool that used to stand by the tiny balcony by the kitchen upstairs in my mama-bari that stands out. There is a lot of running around on the roof- back when there was one big roof where the pigeons would come to roost and I would dance and show Pishimoni bharatnatyam and then we’d run up to the second roof to smell the rose garden and the adults would talk and I wouldn’t know, wouldn’t care what they spoke of- only know it was grown-up-language- like the roses, which the adults appreciated more. I was only a kid. I was happy to be a kid, more interested in clambering up the guava tree, messing around with the brown muck of the plants that grew chillies and tomatoes and if you crushed a leaf from the lime tree in between your palms and rubbed the bits together, you’d have a wonderful citrusy smell about you for a while. Inevitably in these memories is my Didibhai, making chaa for people, with her hard-gentle hands, her standing at the downstairs verandah waving us goodbye, for all eternity Didibhai at the downstairs verandah waving us goodbye. When I grew older I would put my head on her lap, despite the giant lump of hernia she carried with her. I would find a tiny spot of knee and shove a bit of my head on it, lazing on the sofa, reading, listening to the buzz of the adults. So I was sixteen- still a kid to be sure.

It doesn’t seem real. Writing is no relief but I must seek refuge in it because what else is there. So come run on sentences, because it seems like this is reality whether I write it or not. There is no question of makings things real. I am helpless and I just want there to be a light at the end of the tunnel. I want it to be summer again, and I want to be putting my head on faded soft cotton, that would be offered to me to blow my nose if I so wished. I want to be holding wrinkled hands. I don’t understand this day, this time. This needs to un-happen. Else, it needs to finish happening and go on to next summer when I can go laze on a bed between two old people whom I lived with as a lost, skinny nine year old. I remember being told that I spin like a kite in my sleep and choking with laughter at Hajabarala. I remember the disgustingly huge cockroaches and kind eyes laughing at me- Kichhu hobey na. I remember tetul’er chutney and korom-chaa’r tok and aam’er tok. This is not the way things are. I want to go back to a sleepy nine where I watch Chattaan despite school tomorrow. I want to be fed yellow rice balls in tiny glass bowls by a veiny hand that cares.

I want to be able to breathe, secure in the knowledge that things are okay. Please.

The crackle at the other end of the line
told me that he was still there,
despite the dead silence.
The click at the back of his teeth,
and the sudden sharp uncontrolled intake of breath,
Impatient at the rising pitch of my voice,
wavering perilously close to tears.
Tremulous and shaky,
for the third phone call this month.
I am stricken by the irritation in his voice,
and struggle to make amends.
I apologize for being irritable,
for being a bore, for being predictable
and for the lack of sparkle in our conversation.
I dredge out the same dull things each time.
The worry in my thoughts
translate to a crease in between my eyebrows,
turning into a ceaseless litany of woe on the phone.
I can imagine the mouse
hovering over a link in red
and the impatience perched at the corner of his absent smile.
I hang up feeling stupid.
That evening sitting with work,
with cats lolling on the floor,
and stray roommates behind closed doors,
I remember my grandmother,
and us children rolling our eyes, every time her voice would start to rise
about my dead grandfather,
about money, and the servants.
The crack was coming, we knew it
because it came so often.
Impatience, and irritation.
‘I love her, but why can’t she just keep her misery to herself?’
I did not think those thoughts,
I did not vocalize them,
not even to myself.
Am I a bad person,
I wonder.
Don’t think so much,
a friend told me over the phone.
Isn’t it exhausting,
she asked, bewildered, frustrated.
Yes, I said.
But not giving shape to the thought in your head,
doesn’t un-make it.
But I am a fool,
who thinks too much, and sleeps too little, and gets confused,
and cries on the phone.
Offering apologies, swallowing the knot in my stomach.
So I keep my feelings to myself,
and try to take up littler space.
I will not intrude in your world.
I will back away one half footfall at a time,
and you will not hear me leave.
You will not care.
And I will make a mental note to myself,
to be kinder to my grandmother
when she tries not to cry.