The end, I am convinced, is always gloomy and gory.
My latest memories of my grandmother are from less than a month before she breathed her last. I had a flight to catch, an Uber was on its way, my backpack and a travelling bag waited for me by the gate. I made my way to her bedside cautiously lest I disturb the plastic bag that held the waste blood from her body. Reluctant, whether my insignificant selfish departure indeed deserved her rising up from sleep — a luxury that time granted her so little lately. I genuflected to touch her feet, despite the established notion that a person’s feet be not touched while they were still asleep lest it brought bad luck to them, perhaps even death. My uncle interjected the act, as if sensing what was going on in my mind, and asked her to wake up, announcing to her that I was departing. She got up, hastily, like a frightened child from a demonic dream, figured me standing close to her, and tried to speak. I bent as close to her as I could to make what she was about to say. That was the closest to her the time permitted me to get for I never made it in time for her funeral, making ‘did I finally got what I had deserved?’ a question that became a subject of perpetual agony since. And those final words, those words will never make to any written page, ever, for they are closer than anything I have had ever held.
Next I remember is sitting in the cab. I have always had issues with fragrances and the driver had overdone the freshener in his car. Between the sobs and in as manly a voice as I could , I asked him to switch the AC off and that I would rather have the windows open. The fresh air from outside and my youth’s virility had then enshrouded my senses and forced me into believing that it possibly couldn’t be a final goodbye although my heart had known that that was the last time I was to look at her, alive, talking to people around her, pointing her beautiful eyes at the absurdity that I am. I took a new handkerchief out of my backpack and cleaned the face with sprinkles of water from the bottle.
Her distinct features that had made her stand apart from all other rural ladies in the village had by then diminished, but her face had continued to shine, like always, so well, you see, I was not entirely to be blamed into believing that it possibly could have been the last time.
What happens in the middle is what fascinates the most and keeps the world moving.
She was the most beautiful when she was in her fifties and sixties. And though my father and my uncle and my aunts would disagree to it but I had born only after she had entered the fifties and so you see I have had so little to compare against. A look at her face, already wrinkled by then, was enough to brighten the days of the family members. I remember her schedule vividly. Her days began with the ablution, she would wake up early, wash herself, adorn herself in the most immaculate of the Sarees, wear a big round Bindi on her forehead, always a big round red Bindi, she never left the house without the Bindi. She’d then amble towards the temple, and once back she’d work tirelessly in the kitchen never letting my aunts feel the burden that cooking for a big family often is. She’d then help them serve what she just prepared. And all one could feel while one was around her was sheer peace. A routine that remained unperturbed by the small illnesses most of which were never even brought to the notice of others until the emperor of all the maladies stroked, and when? When she was an octogenarian. It had broken us all and had seemed so unfair, but then life, by then, had already taught me that demanding fairness out of life was like asking my own mother back, knowing that both the demands were absurdities.
The beginning is where all the light is.
She must have been in her early fifties when I was born. I was lucky enough to be the first boy in the lineage and got all the attention included the unwarranted, especially the unwarranted. My great grandfather was, as the saying goes, on the top of the world, and asked my uncle to have a few rifles fired, announcing that I had arrived. And my mother, and this was narrated to me, once we were alone, that Amma — my grandmother — had tears of happiness in her eyes.
Later, in the years when my father was transferred and, when I refused to be stationed with my parents and rather insisted on staying with my grandparents, I got to experience all the feelings that I now try to pen, and many more that escape my limited memory.
I recall her holding a plate in one hand and extending the other towards my mouth, trying to feed me, while I would play with my agility and boldly defy all her attempts to feed me. But her persistence used to get the better of me and she would always win.
Then there were days when, fatigued after long cricket matches, I’d return home in the afternoon only to find her waiting on me, and without complaining she’d ask me to wash myself up properly, and be ready before she is back with the lunch.
And then there are days that don’t exactly fit into the beginnings, the middle or the end. The days that with the passing of time we learn to label as experiences.
And no matter how hard I try to forget of the dreadful night my mother had passed away, this one particular memory always brings it all back — we have cried so much that it really doesn’t take any more tears to tell anyone what we have gone through, and I ask my grandmother in Hindi, ‘Ab kya hoga, Daadi?’. Asking her what would now happen? As if expecting that our grief would let God pity us and return to us what he had so untimely taken away from us, what so rightfully was ours. We were ill-prepared. Do children ever plan a course beforehand about what would they do, what would their lives look like if their parents or even one of their parents were to be taken away from them. But amidst these emotions and the tearless agony, I felt the warmth of her hands, enshrouding my body, and I felt asleep. And when I had woken up all of us had known that it was the beginning of a new world, where things would have to be started anew. But was it difficult?
With Grandmothers around nothing ever is so hopelessly difficult.
The End. One that marks the beginning of yet another new life.
The image used with the article has been downloaded from here.