Indrani Das Bora
While my mother introduced me to this world, it was she who had helped me to see it better, and it was she who had taught me to live in the moments and celebrate the smallest of joys that life has to offer.
Recently I came across this WhatsApp story of a friend of mine which was all about her nani’s 90th birthday celebrations. Those pictures of two jubilant faces, one of a toothless smile on a wrinkled face, while the other of a much younger version of the former, posing with balloons in front, happened to trigger a range of emotions and thoughts within me.
To begin with, how Aita’s birthday has now become more of a bittersweet event, how last year it was celebrated as a grand family gettogether with a chocolate cake and pulao, while this year it was just some kheer in a bleak prayer session in front of her 18x24-inch photo frame. But we’ve been planning, for another such event in honour of Aita, a prayer service that she would’ve loved, only if she was alive.
I never saw my paternal grandparents, they had left for their heavenly abode years before my birth. And my koka passed away when I was hardly three years old, when I barely knew what family or attachment felt like and was totally unaware of how a person suddenly ceases to be on any one ordinary day. And that it is the law of Nature, the inevitable truth of the universe. Anyway, I would not like to blabber much of a jargon centering around death, and for now, let’s just leave it to the Grim Reaper. Instead, I’d like to talk more of that unsung bond that a grandchild has with his/her grandparents; in my case, my bond with Aita.
You see, she was more than just a grandmother to me. In my life, she had to suffice the absence of both my dada-dadi, as well as that of my koka. And that she did quite well. In fact, I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I’d say, she was more like a mother to me, considering the fact that, as a kid when my mom left for work, she would be the one handling all of my tantrums. I remember hiding behind her to save myself from my mother’s wrath, which was when I had broken a window of our living room. So, you see, she had played an integral role in shaping me into who I am today.
While my mother introduced me to this world, it was she who had helped me to see it better, and it was she who had taught me to live in the moments and celebrate the smallest of joys that life has to offer. When we were in school, on the first day of a new session, she would make it a point to drop us off at school in the morning and in the evening, she would say special prayers to mark our new beginning (this, of course, would be followed by a scrumptious meal). On most weekends, she would cook us her signature biryani, a dish none of us has been able to muster even though we had followed the recipe word by word. Or maybe, it just tasted better when she cooked it.
On days when I would be home, she would call me over for an 11 a.m. chai session. This would consist of her extra-sweet milk tea and an assortment of biscuits and endless stories of life. Mostly, it would be about her life back in the village, when in the pre-Independence era, she would have to walk alone miles to reach her school, that too through forests and fields, and all of her strange adventures throughout the sojourn that began at dawn and ended at dusk.
As the days are nearing to her first death anniversary, flashbacks of that dreaded night in the hospital insidiously creep into my mind – of how she smiled at me when I went to meet her in the evening – and how just an hour later, I held her hand in the ICU, telling her it will be okay as the hospital staff prepared to put her into ventilator support, and the next morning, she was gone.
Now, as I recall those days just before she was hospitalised, when she would be sitting alone in the verandah, while I would be in my room, preparing for my exams; when she would ask me to take a break and accompany her for some chai, but I would be just too busy to even step out, I am filled with this deep sense of regret and of an urge to rewind time. And while I was waiting for my exams to get done and step out of this wild rat race, life played one of its cruelest tricks.