She was 9. He was 13. They were married for 70 years. He passed away. She lost her best friend. Her kitchen aide, her prayer partner, her squabbling, muttering, eating afficiando of a husband. The father of her 7 children. Grand father of 11. And great grand father of 8.
So whome did she lose that evening? How do you define being together for 70 years? What do you become? And what happens to the one who stays behind? How do you define, how do you relate to the emptiness? The presence of that silence? To not hear the rasping breathe through sleepless nights, the shuffling feet finding their way in the darkness, trying not to disturb her, yet knowing that she was wide awake? Alert, lest he had a nasty fall. So that she would be able to get to him, albite the delay?
Her daughters and sons sit beside her all day. Some are grand parents, all are parents. They have lost a father. A father they met every day, others frequently, and still some rarely. A grand daughter sits 1200 miles away, nursing a broken promise to meet him. She has lost too. But no one has lost that one person with whome she could talk endlessly. A some one, with whome she would fight for hours on end. Give the silent treatment for weeks, resume talk and get back to squabbling over a 30 year old incident, as if it was just yesterday.
Her house is swarming with every possible relation that a human can make in her life time. They are sad, they cry. They remember the happy moments. Dig in to her trunks to look for old photos. They tresspass her privacy. She can feel him sitting right next to her. His ghost cold hands clasping hers, perhaps for the first time in many years.
She would give any thing to be alone right now. To have the house empty, except for the house help. To try and resume life. With out him. She is a mother. A grand mother and a great grand mother too. She has responsibilities, which she needs to take care of on her own. Without consulting him, without fighting with him to eventually have her own say.
But her children want to be with her. They want to pacify her. To be her parents. They want to feed her. Medicines. And food. They have lost a parent. They are not in a state to loose another one. Her children are squabbling now. The usual blame game. Accusations are flying like books and toys flew like missiles during their 45 – 50 years ago. She had strength to stop them then. She had a motive. She had him too.
Today, she couldn’t be less bothered. Does it really matter? Any of their meaningless words, and painful arguments? Yes, he could still have been alive? But then, isn’t death the obvious end to every story? It was sudden, yes. The pain was more prickling because of it. But who has stood up to fate and won always? For ever? No one.
They need to accept the fact. And let her accept it too. She needs to sleep. And wake up the next morning to any empty house. Minus the current never ending stream of mourners and well wishers. Else the wounds will never heal. A day where she can follow her normal routine. With out him. And move on.
May be one day, and hope fully soon, she will answer this writer’s phone call. And after the initial uncontrollable crying has subsided, she will once again ask the writer, “Will you be coming home with Durga next year?”, “Take care of the little one”, “Don’t be a strict mother”, “Never leave her alone, these are bad times”, “Plan for the little one’s sibling tonight”. After the sudden abrupt silence after the last repartee, she and this writer, her grand daughter will laugh like sixteen year olds. And life will go on.