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Remembering Aaita

In the last few months of Aaita’s life, Dad would often tell me on the phone that he hears her soul fighting to escape from her body. And, she would put up a fight with her feeble arms and legs. Her entire body had shrunk, and she looked like a curled up cotton ball. She would peacefully sleep the entire day. And shout and shriek at night. She would talk to people from her past.

When she breathed her last in Assam, I was far away in Delhi. I was leaving my office when I got the news. Death suddenly sucked her out of my life and left a huge void in my heart. It took me forever that day to board the metro. The entire way home, I stared at the oblivion and let the tears flow. Life never prepares you for a news like that.

My mind kept playing the last conversation I had with her two years back. We were sitting on the verandah, with my bags all packed. I was to return that day to Delhi after a month long vacation. She asked me if I am ever planning to get married. To tease her, I said, “Yes, Aaita. I will get married and go far away”. “Further than Delhi?”, she asked. “Yes, near London”, I said, because she had heard of London.

The next few days, I often found myself lost in her thoughts. How she would apply coconut oil in my curly hair and tried to comb them. She perhaps thought she could make the creases of my hair go away with her bare hands. How she would scratch and pat my back until I fall asleep. How the white noise of her radio always wake me up. How she would always smell of betel nut. How she would utter some mantras to a glass of water to cure my aching stomach. The realization that she was no more was hard to sink in.

She was a widow for the greater part of her life. I always saw her in all white clothes. I would insist to paint her nails in bright colors and she would tell me, why she can’t use colors. All her life she lived in a religious and patriarchal way. I was too young to question her methods and ideologies. She was too set in her ways to be liberal.

I am writing this from Cardiff now. Three hours from London. When I told her I will be in London, I never meant it. And yet, I am here. Still struggling to finish this one piece that I decided to write, right after her death. It has been two years now and still I fail to find the words to describe how I feel.

After her death I wanted to keep something of her with me. I asked my mom to keep her spectacles. One thing which she never parted with until her death. It just felt the right thing to preserve. I am yet to take it. I just couldn’t muster up the courage to see or touch her spectacles. I thought when I will be ready, I will take it. But, I guess I will never be ready to accept the fact that she is gone.

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