at five past twelve last night the phone rung. i have always been wary of late night calls, always. last time it rang to tell us that my pishemoshai had expired, leaving behind a very young daughter. that was 6 years ago and i can still remember my cousin holding my hand, her bright eyes swimming with tears and asking me to tell her a story. and I told her how God always metes out justice, even if justice comes a bit too late. i meandered and told her about troikas and all things Russian. it was a stupid little story but she drank in every word i spoke.
yesterday, my mama called up to say that dida has been admitted to a nursing home. she is in her seventies, but she is as sturdy as sturdy could be. for a moment, even before hearing the rest of what he had to say, the ground beneath my feet swayed. just hours ago, i had stood in front of tollygunge metro station, contemplating whether I should go to didarbari or back to ultadanga where I live. I chose to return. A few days ago, on my way to college, an elderly lady boarded the auto with me. she too had a golden white mane, just like my dida. she wore her shankha and pola on her wrists, just like my dida. she smelt like her too, she smelt of jasmine hair oil. i decided to visit dida and dadu that day, after classes got over. needless to say, as soon as she got off from the auto, I forgot that little promise made to myself.
mama said that dida had complained of chest pains and that she couldn't see anything in front of her. there was a darkness enveloping her, bit by bit. however, the doctors acted fast and admitted her into the emergency ward. i spent half of the night with my mother on the sofa, tethering on the edge, waiting for the phone to ring. i uttered prayers, prayers that had cobwebs all over them, lying unremembered since school.
today, i went over to see my dear old lady. she was lying in a little white room, a saline bottle hung beside her. she looked alien in such a surrounding. the trademark lal paar shada saree was missing, instead she was wearing a checked uniform. her face was bloated, and she squinted to see me. however, a little red bindi rested on her forehead. maa placed a comb and a powder case beside her. she called me close, and let me hold her hand. "dida, eta ki korle?" i joked. she smiled and said "kheyechish toh? shudhu khichuri? ish, ekta omlette kore dilo naa toke?"the relief that washed through me was indescribable.
dadu too is unwell, he is suffering from dementia. his memory is like a slate, wiped clean every few minutes. he has not slept since last night, he keeps asking people about dida. today, when he saw me his face lit up for a while. as always, he said " thank you dadu, tumi ele." he recognised me, but it might not happen that easily again.
days like this change the person you are. they probe into those half lit hidden areas of the soul, turning you inside out, showing you the person you are. i have always been insecure, always needed a bit of assurance and love from people, even unworthy people. today i learnt that in this fruitless quest of making myself popular and lovable, i have ignored those who love like no other. i am very, very sorry.
and I love you.