Like every other kid, I don’t have any strong recollections of you (or anyone else, for that matter) from my infancy. I look at photographs today, however, and I see this tiny little brown kid, laughing in the lap of her grandmom. That makes me happy. You smiled a lot more back then, than you do today.
The brightest memory I have of you is the one where you would open the large steel door for us, after we would ring the doorbell of our Delhi house. You would be there to greet us, no matter what time of the day, and we would be rewarded with a Ram Ram, and a massive hug. This would then be followed by some water and tea (rooh afza for us kids!), and then we would jump into your bed to take a long nap.
I don’t remember Dadu passing away. I was only 6 or 7, and all I can recollect is everyone rushing him to the hospital. He never came back after that, and we weren’t told much about it. I understood what had happened, but I don’t remember if I cried. I don’t think I had realized what I had lost. But today, I grasp that you had lost a major part of your life.
I want to thank you for a lot of things. I know it’s not fair to thank you, because all that you did for us was because you love us so much, and thanking will somehow lessen its value. But I’ll still thank you, because I love you.
Dadi, thank you for all those bedtime stories, the ones that involved Cheeku the Rabbit, and a variety of birds and elephants and monkeys. I don’t know how I learned to sleep without them.
Thank you for those delicious snacks you made, the aloo tikkis, the gajar-matar ki sabzi with namak-ajwain ki paronthi, the delicious aam ki launji. I often ask Mumma to make these items, and she does, but they just don’t have the same taste as yours did. I wish I could have another chance to taste all of those things, made by your hands.
Thank you for imparting wonderful advice whenever I needed it, and even when I didn’t need it. Your words are invaluable to me.
Thank you for letting me sleep with my head in your lap, even when I was done with schooling and was almost an adult. I wish I could still do that today, head in your lap, and feel your frail yet loving fingers caress my head, telling me how much weight I’d put on and at the same time planning to make yet another oily snack so that you could make me fatter.
I apologize for all the times when I may have hurt you, either with my words or my actions. Sometimes on purpose, and sometimes accidentally. Believe me when I say that I would go back in time to fix every instance when I hurt you.
I don’t like to think about the time when I had to come visit you at the hospital, in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. Tears flood my eyes as I think about it right now. You looked so old and weak, riddled with tubes and needles, and I couldn’t stand it. My Dadi was too delicate to be poked with needles like that. How could anyone allow it?
The worst was watching your pyre being set on fire. It seemed very final. Like nothing else could succeed it. You were gone. Holding your cold hand after you peacefully passed away didn’t do it for me. But watching you gently melt away in those flames did. There I stood, in the t-shirt and pajamas that I had donned in the morning, thinking it was going to be just another day, with no idea that I wouldn’t be visiting you at the hospital today. Instead, I’d be saying goodbye to you at the ghat.
Dadi, I don’t have you by my side today. But there isn’t a moment when all of us don’t miss you. Returning back to our Delhi house this year will be the toughest thing yet. When we left the house last year, it was without you. When we return to it this year, it will be without you again.
–Things that I wish I had said to my grandmother before she left us for a better world.