Friday, September 16, 2011

One Year Later


So much can happen in one year.

One year ago,
I moved to a new city
Rohit, Varun and I started on the next big journeys of our lives
I had to relearn how to forge new friendships
Meghu started her last year of high school
Neha was about to get married
The world was a little bit less of a minefield. Or a little bit more. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell.

One year ago, September 11th was the last day I saw you.
One year ago, September 16th was the day you took your last breath.

Anniversaries are strange creatures. They force you to remember, and dredge up the oddest musings along the way.

Mama and Papa redid your room a couple of months after, and converted it to a mandir. I think it helped lift the stifling aura of grief that had engulfed the room for seven years, since Barimama left us from there, right where your bed was. It was a ‘circle of life’ moment, where my two doting grandparents, who had devoted their lives to caring for each other and their family, inhabited and vacated the same space.

Whenever I need a moment, some breathing room, I sit in your room, and I can see both your faces – okay, okay, I confess, that might be because your portraits are hanging on the wall. But you know what I mean. You usually have. It sounds corny, but…I feel like I’m enveloped by that same sense of security and comfort I used to get when I was five years old, running rampant around the house under your watchful eyes. I had missed that, for the past few years, and you helped me find it again when I wasn’t expecting to.

Meghu and I still cannot bring ourselves to use your bathroom. The whole room was your space, but the bathroom especially feels like an invasion of space. It feels wrong. You had your weakest moments there, which broke our hearts even as they wove us closer together. I used it once, for the first time this summer since you left, and I couldn’t go back in afterward.

I’ve been working on my letter to you for the past 24 hours, struggling with what I wanted to share, what I was feeling, how to articulate the thoughts that have been running rampant in my head for the past several days. Today, one of my very good friends pulled me out of my head and helped me re-energize. It was a variation on your question, you know? Beta, itna kyun sochthe ho?

I never got a chance to work through a lot of my feelings surrounding how you left us, those last couple of years. Everyone should get a mandatory vacation from life for a few days after having to bid someone adieu – we need that time to process what happened, and I don’t know if I ever properly did.

While you were alive, somehow there was always an irrational hope for a miracle, defying all common sense and scientific precedent. You were my grandfather. You survived a motorcycle accident. You swam from shore-to-shore of the Ganga. You could survive anything.

When Barimama left, I was there for all the days leading up to it, and I was there minutes after it happened. When you left, I wasn’t there for those last two weeks; I last saw you five days before it happened, and couldn’t make it home until 24 hours after. Until today, I don’t think I ever realized what a significant impact that left on me.

I felt guilty for the longest time, for not being there with you. And sometimes it still doesn’t feel real, until I go back home for the weekend and the house is dead silent.

At times I feel as if I never got a chance to process that you were gone and not coming back. You left right as I began on the path that I had told you I would follow when I was a six-year-old who refused to acknowledge that she couldn’t fix her grandmother. You would treat me to a gentle smile, maybe a little indulgent, but you never laughed off my childish insistence. And that persistent support pushed me forward, reminded me what I was working toward.

Today I can say, while I fervently wish you were here to share these moments with me in person, I know you and Barimama are both watching from somewhere – probably shaking your heads and laughing a little at my antics along the way. I know, I know, I have a ways to go. But you set me on the right track, and I intend to keep at it.

Your leaving brought with it a sense of vulnerability – in sense of self, in relationships, in my perceptions of strength and eternity. You were our center, I think. And now that you’re gone, the rest of us are still trying to find and hold onto a new one. 


मेरी हँसी तो मेरे ग़मों का लिबास है, लेकिन ज़माना कहाँ उतना ग़म्शनास है । 
जब मैं उदास था तो ज़माना था खुश, अब मैं खुश हूँ तो ज़माना उदास है ।।