I could barely see the “PUSH” label on the door knob before me. My thoughts had raced back to the last time I had been there. It was with you. Your new watch strap was loose and it was annoying you. Time was important. It hardly passed now. You looked at your watch every now and then to see how much had elapsed. You were happy with your new watch. But it did not sit firmly on your wrist and kept slipping. So we had gone to the showroom to fix it. You were uncertain it could be fixed. “Do they do that? Very good!” We had gone arm in arm. You didn’t like using the walking stick, a sign of weakness and dependency which you hated.
We gave your watch at the counter and the shopkeeper checked your wrist and measured the links that need to be cut off from the strap. And to your surprise your watch was returned in no time fitting you perfectly. You shook hands with the guy, “It fits perfectly now. So nice of you to do it! Thank you very much. It was very loose. It is perfect now. Thank you”, you said again as we walked out. You were so excited. You were thanking me now. “If it weren’t for you I had to continue wearing the loose watch. It is proper now. I didn’t think they would fix it. But he did it for us. God’s grace! Thank you. You will help me out if there is any more trouble with this? I know you will! Thank you.” You said it repeatedly all along the way back home and again at home that evening every time you beamingly looked at your newly fixed watch.
That was the state of affairs. You were totally a child. Everything surprised you like it was the first time you ever saw it. Small things made you extremely happy. “What is this? I never saw it before?”, “That was so good, I had it for the first time!”, you had said when you ate ice cream. You looked at everything with a childish curiosity and small things fascinated you and made you joyful.
It has been a year since you left us. How time flies! How life goes on in spite of what happens! But the void remains. Your absence is strongly felt. It feels so strange that you, who had been such an important part of our lives, are not among us.
My memories go back to when you took me out as a kid. Your single finger I could grip fully with my small hand as you walked me out. You picked us up from school every evening by Luna. How you always wanted everyone to be together. You would call me to come over as soon as my exams got over until the day the school reopened. You didn’t want me to waste even a single day of my vacation being away from you. You made us read the Vishnu sahasranaam and chant Ram naam. Your habit of chanting ram naam never stopped. Your fingers moved subconsciously over the beads of the rosary as you chanted “Sri Ram jaya Ram jaya jaya Ram” involuntarily till your last breath. You wanted us to do things on time even if it was the vacation. “Finish all your work first then you can be as you like freely for the rest of the day”. You always wanted discipline.
How it all changed before we knew it. How you suddenly got old after you had your first attack of stroke. Going out on your own got dangerous. You had repeated accidents but you insisted going anyway. How you very getting hurt repeatedly but you were still positive and optimistic that what has to happen will happen and nothing can stop it. We were so scared for you. We forced you to stay home. How restless you got to be at home, being the active person that you were. How you were forgetting things. But you never worried. You never told us about your pains. You bore it all with a smile. You tried to find something to do even while at home. It was so hard to pass the time.
The day you fell and hurt your back, was the blow. You couldn’t walk again. You were forced to bed. Days got difficult for you and us too. It was hard to see you suffer, to see you struggle through routine works. How it embarrassed you to depend and make someone else do your work. You thanked profusely for every little errand done for you. You were apologetic that others had to do your work and you explained your situation which we all understood. “I am sorry ma, I don’t mean to trouble you. I am old you see, it is beyond my control”, you explained with that desperate helpless look in your eyes. You were unhappy, but you always smiled. You said it is God’s grace. You greeted every one with folded hands even when you did not recognize any one. It was heart wrenching to see you small and lean in your bed. I had never known you to be weak and ill. You had always seemed this strong head of the family, invincible! You had a childish endearing smile. The twinkle in your eyes shined so bright that it warmed many a hearts. You thanked the nurses and doctors every time they came to check you. You were grateful that they took such good care of you and were trying to treat you.
We had hoped to bring you home, to pamper you, to love you more. We knew it was coming. We knew it was inevitable. Did you know it too? Did you know the time had come? Nothing could prepare us when you left us. The person whom I admired, respected and loved the most was suddenly gone. A strange emptiness and longing tugs at my heart even today every time I think of you. Yes, we moved on. But I still hold on to your memories tightly lest I should lose them too. The way you made me feel. The happiness you gave me. How childlike you had become! Your positive spirit throughout your life, your principles, unwavering disciplined life set an example to live by. Several people told of your good deeds and praised you. They told us how you had helped so many people we knew nothing about. Even in death you were this awe inspiring person. “I lost my gem”, grandma said when you were gone.
Even now when I cook I remember how you appreciated and thanked me for every meal, every cup of coffee. How you cherished and loved food! “It is first class! Very good! Thank you.”, you always said. You have no idea how much I loved cooking for you and how motivating you have always been. How I wish I could do it again for you. I miss how you called me “Gundamma” in a sing-song voice. I wish I could hear it again. I want you to tell me “very good”. If only I could hear it again. Anything! You had first taught me the joy of letter writing as a kid. I am writing to you again now. Wherever you are, I wish you could see this. I wish I could see you. I wish I could tell you how much I miss you. May be I never told you how much I love you! If only I could tell you now.