In my first post, I talked about two other times where I was reminded that the clock was ticking. I am writing about one of it in this post.
When someone’s heartbeat has stopped, it means that the person is no longer alive. Simple. But when my mom told me over the phone that Aatha’s (grandmother) heartbeat has stopped, I didn’t quite get it. I thought it was a heart attack but she’ll come back alive. She didn’t. I was in denial until I saw everyone in the emergency ward crying. What happened after that seems really vague. I just remember a lot of people flooding her house, paying their final respects. Rituals after rituals. Oil lamps. Incense sticks. Rice. Golden rice. Flowers. Garlands. Sarees. While all that was happening, I remember crying upon every realisation. She wasn’t going to give me wet pecks on my cheeks anymore. She wasn’t going to cook delicious “Kevuru puttu”(not sure if I got the name right) or fish curry or manga patchadi(pickle) anymore. She wasn’t going to talk to me on the phone anymore. She wasn’t going to see me get my first pay. She wasn’t going to be there to see me get married(At that time, I still believed in marriages). She wasn’t going to see me drive her around after I got my driving license. She’s not going to see me graduate with a diploma and subsequently, a degree. She was gone. Just like that. And she had taken with her a huge piece of me.
This was the first time I was experiencing the pain of an unexpected loss of a loved one. Yes, my paternal grandfather had passed away in the prior year(2012) and while I respected him, the truth is I was not really close to him. The only conversations I had with him revolved around what level I was in, whether I have passed and just a reminder for us to study hard. Besides, his death was an expected one and I had had enough time to process it. In contrast, this was really hard for me. But it was at this point where my mind was thinking a lot and I had four thoughts from this:
- No project, assignment or work is more important than spending time with your loved ones. You’ll never know when they’ll be gone(or you’ll be gone). And when they are gone, you are going to have an awful lot of should have’s and sorry’s. Get the work done but plan your time wisely such that you’re not neglecting your family and friends.
- What is a good life? Is it one where you have accumulated a lot of wealth? Is it one with significant accomplishments? Or is it just one where love and happiness were shared with everyone? I don’t know. Or a bigger question: Does it even matter? What’s the purpose of life?
- If you ever need someone, just pretend that you’re dead and they will come. The people you hated. The people who hated you. The people who ignored you. All of them. And they are going to say good stuff about you. They are going to cry for you. They are going to sing songs of praises for you. One can’t help but wonder where these people were when you were alive. Where were they when you needed them the most?
- Funerals are too expensive. Those rituals probably had some meaning when they were first created but I find it hard to make sense of what we do nowadays. This makes it important to talk to your family about how you want your funeral to be so that they don’t spend too much because this is the last time they will be spending for you. But I will reserve this for another post. Update: Read my post on death to learn more about my dream funeral.
I thought I should write this for my Aatha. To recount, remember, and reminisce my good times with her.
She was a dusky-skinned beauty. She always wore a big, red pottu, which was slightly bigger than a ten-cent coin and a gold-rimmed spectacles. Carrying around with her a pleasant smell of dove and the sandal power, she was a divine beauty. Her hair was always neatly put in a bun. She was on the rounder side but that just made her all the more beautiful. I always admired her elegance whenever she donned a saree. She looked good even in her maxis as she would call it. She had a peculiar taste in jewelry. Her nose stud, ring, and the “maatal” earrings that she wore were so unique. She was almost perfection. I remember seeing her toothless smile, whenever she took her dentures out, as genuine as a baby’s. She never wore any make-up. She didn’t need to. She was a karuppu perazhagi.
Actually, I was just recalling how she looked and what made her her. All those little things. But she was all that and more. I am her youngest granddaughter and naturally, you would expect me to be pampered a lot by her. I was. But our relationship was an interesting one. We were both born in the dog year and we would often fight, in a cute way. She would often sing the song, “Delhikku rajanaalum paati solle thattaathe”(Even if you’re the king of Delhi, don’t disobey your grandmother’s words). She had this amazing sense of humor and I was just always laughing whenever I spoke to her. She always wanted the best for me. I remember when I was five or six, she asked me what I had wanted for my birthday. I think I had just learned the word “creative” in school. I asked her to buy me something creative. She told me okay and then later asked my mum what was “something creative” and whether they were sold at Chong Pang. I didn’t get something creative because my mum asked her to just ignore my silly requests, and just get me something else. I got a pretty white halterneck dress with pink polka dots. I was quite irritating as a child huh?! Haha!
It was also from her that I acquired my unhealthy eating habits. Haha! I shouldn’t put all the blame on her. But my love for curry puffs, kueh-kuehs, and kerepok was from her. She would often buy those whenever she came to my house. She also drilled upon the mantra of life: “Go to bed early, Get out of bed late”. Food and sleep were two very important things. She would say that it is at this age where you can get good undisturbed sleep and when I grow up, I can forget about all that with the burden of duties and responsibilities.
For me, she was extremely important because she believed in me. She loved my name, “Chandralekha” and the 1948 hit movie with that same name. It was a female-centric one with the female protagonist rescuing the male protagonist. It was a Shankar movie of those time with a dramatic drum sequence. She always said that I will make it big in life, just because of my name. Haha! Such unwavering belief may not seem like it’s a big thing now. However, as a kid who was struggling to find the answer to what the sum of 6 and 9 was, this sort of belief that she had in me was very encouraging. When I thought I was useless, she somehow saw some light in me. I would forever be grateful to her for this. Even now, whenever I am feeling down, I look at the picture I have with her and think of what she would have said to me. Probably something along the lines of, “There’s nothing that my granddaughter, Chandralekha can’t do.” She was also there for my brother and I during some tough times. I don’t even want to imagine how things would have been different if she wasn’t there for us.
I really love her a lot and I am greatly indebted to her. I don’t know if I had been a good granddaughter because I rarely visited her with piling work as I started going to poly. The number of times I called her had also decreased drastically. I wish I told her how much I loved her. I wish I visited more often. She has had a lot of influence on me. A lot more than what meets the eye. I don’t know if I would ever be a good mother, grandmother, sister or wife(if I ever do get married). But it is my Aatha that makes me want to be a better person. The only true tribute I could pay to her is in becoming whatever that she envisioned that I will be. I am still working on it. One day I will reach there. I hope you’re having a good time at heaven, Aatha! I still think of you and love you dearly. Do read my blog when you get the time. Haha! I am sounding so weird now.
Thank you for reading this. Till my next post, stay curious! 🙂