25 years gone…

Grandmother gone too soon

Every year I tell myself I will be fine on this day. Time should have done the healing job by now. It has been 25 years. Yet the failure of Time’s healing hits harder every following year. The hurricane of memories flood very ounce of my being despite the resistance I keep putting up to avoid the inevitable implosion that mark the 16th of April, year after year. As I put these words down, I am failing at stopping the stream of tears that are clogging my vision. I keep wondering if I will ever get over this feeling of abandonment, or stop wondering about the million ‘what-if-she-was-here’ moments or ever make peace with the fact that she is gone never to return. Will I ever move past the 10-year-old-me standing shocked at the sight of her lifeless body, and letting the numbness wash over her fragile emotional self? I never handled that grief well and keeps hurting more and more with each passing year. I wake up, on this day every year, and ask no one in particular – if it is ever going to be okay? And the only response I get, is an echo of my own question. My emotional self battles with all its might against the rational side not to accept the void. As if the very acceptance would be a complete betrayal of my love for her. 25 years and counting…. Doesn’t hurt any less than like it happened 25 hours ago. Yet I live in that distant hope of attaining a balance between the grief of her loss and living with her memories.

The adult in me tries to tell the 10-year-old-me to bottle it all up and move on with the innumerable meeting to attend for the day and endless to-do list piling away. The emotional tussle becomes tiresome until I slam the door on the outpouring pain and walk away to deal with life. I keep repeating it to myself like a mantra – I cannot bring her back and the memories are all that is there to hold onto.

But I cannot come to terms with it. May be one day I will. Today is not the day for it.

Chasing shadows

The crunching of dry leaves made her turn around and check for whatever was following her. I stood there, bare feet smiling at her. She smiled back with concern in her eyes. “You are not supposed to be walking bare feet in the garden. Your mother is not going to like it.”

“Please don’t tell her. I couldn’t find my chappals and I had to catch up with you”, I said. 

She walked back to me with the warmest of the smiles, took my hand in hers and we headed towards the house. “Don’t you have to pick flowers for the puja?”, I asked her confused about the direction we were moving. “Yes”, she replied, “we will go back into the garden but first, we need to find you a pair of chappals.” I didn’t mind the walk up and down from the house to the garden as long as I could shadow my grandmother. We went back to pick a few flowers for her daily puja and then holed up in the puja room for two hours. I had no role to play yet I wouldn’t let her out of my sight.

This was a daily routine. Dad would drop me at Bou’s house around 10 am after morning school and pick me up after a few hours. One could make me do anything with the greed of taking me to see Bou (maternal grandmother). Her house was the warm comfort space that every child looks for… until she was gone and the house stood as a cold reminder of her. 

After her passing away, we moved into that house. Every day, every moment, for the next six years, was torturous to navigate through emotionally. But as a 10 year old child, one doesn’t understand grief, except that it is a dark sinking feeling that you find painful yet cannot pinpoint at it. I wondered if I had done something silly for her to abandon me abruptly or if there was a way I could apologise and coax her to come back. Little did I know that it was goodbye forever without saying it explicitly.

Bou (maternal grandmother), sometime in the late 1970s when
she was the headmistress of a girls high school

It’s been 24 years, yet the loss pricks like it happened yesterday. Certain losses become a tacit mourning for eternity. There is no time limit on how long it takes to come to terms with the void carved by the absence of a loved one. At times of complete despair, I reach into the void, looking for her presence that would warm up even the coldest of the souls. Not necessarily the yearning is fulfilled but I cannot resist the urge to dive into that vastness with the hope of finding her. I was used to being Bou’s shadow and shadows don’t exist without the subject that casts them. At the loss of my anchor, I never stopped grieving but life went on and I walked along with it, hoping someday I will find something to hold onto. Twenty four years and counting….my search continues.