Five deaths in the family in the first half of 2016, Mi. If that’s not an indication of how temporary our existence really is, I don’t know what is. It is surreal to receive news of a death. Talk about fragile lives!
Do you remember that early morning in July, more than a decade ago, when the ring of the phone tore into the peaceful morning, shattering our own peace in the process? As it is, late night and early morning phone calls are viewed suspiciously as they can never be good news, if we are to believe history.
But that morning, the phone was especially cruel. Sury answered it, while the rest of us huddled on the sofa in the living room, anxious to know who and what it was. I am still stunned to recall how speechless Sury was, holding the phone. The words just wouldn’t come. Our beloved Kondu mama had passed away, that too on his birthday.
We were all ready and packed to leave the next day for his 60th birthday celebrations.
As I write this now, tears are streaming from my eyes – not just with the sadness that fills me, but thinking of what a wonderful human being he was, Mi. I may not have had a conventional childhood, but I had uncles who gave me the gift of their time, and treasured memories. I feel nostalgic to remember waking up in the morning to see a bar of Cadburys chocolate and a tray, filled with water and envelopes floating in it to ease the stamps off them, so I could add them to my collection. I think of his enthusiasm filling the house on Sundays, urging the women in the house to take the day off while he cleaned and cooked and did the laundry with the radio blaring away. I swear I can smell the detergent soap. Then he would buy movie tickets and send Kittu mama and manni off in a taxi to spend some time together. The rest of us would enjoy a tea party at home with the record player giving us Cliff Richard and Tom Jones, followed by MS Subbulakshmi. Something for everyone.
And how can I forget the long letters he wrote me every week! I loved reading and replying to them and he’d treasure those. I still remember the denim jeans and jacket design I sent him and my thrill when he brought them during his next visit. I wore them for the longest time and gifted the jacket to our Shnu.
He introduced me to limericks and gifted me the whole rugby jokes book set. He gave me Wayne Dyer and Normal Vincent Peale. James Hadley Chase and Harrold Robbins. MAD Comics. He taught me the phrase “Don’t make an issue out of it” and it became my mantra.
Sigh. He was the quintessential good samaritan who literally gave the shirt off his back if he saw someone shivering in the cold. I love to recall how, as he walked home, the street hawkers would shower him with blessings for funding their little businesses.
Who knew he would leave us so soon? It was so painful to travel to Chennai to attend his last rites when it really should have been a birthday celebration.
Fragile lives, yes. Why, I feel cheated about you passing away at 64, so suddenly. So people console me saying you didn’t have prolonged suffering, but if years of chronic illness at the mercy of experimental medication and a whole week on a ventilator with a collapsed lung that had no chance of inflating is not suffering, I don’t know what is.
If life has taught me one thing, Mi, it is not to hold back when it comes to telling someone I love them. And as you would say, show them! Do the things I want to do now, not later. Some day is not a day of the week, eh?
I feel particularly blessed to have enjoyed an unusual childhood, going through five schools from grade 1 to 10 and three colleges before I graduated with honors. Funny life. It has taught me to be open minded, flexible and ready to adapt. I laugh when I think of how Paati always marveled at my attitude – when I was “there” I was happy. When I was “here” with her, I was equally happy.
To think I’ll turn 53 next month feels quite weird, because, I am really only 24, right? And I still haven’t got the guts to cut my hair short.
Let’s celebrate that beautiful and cheerful thought with some nice strong filter kaapi.
And some melancholy Sting. How fragile we are…
Rocking the #BarAThon Challenge from 1st to 7th August 2016.
Today’s Day 3 and the prompt is “Fragile Lives”
I am with Team #CrimsonRush