The number of times I have seen my naani would never cross double digits, eight may be nine times. I feel guilty that I could never show any emotional bonding towards her. No longing to meet her, no overwhelmed heart to see her, and no feeling of loosing something when I say goodbye to her.
“Where is Ranjana’s son? He needs to have his glass of milk.” This is my naani’s way of calling me.
“These kids once they start playing they lose all their hunger and thirst. Then they will become tired and fight with each other but will never understand that they are getting irritated due to hunger! ”
In my first memory she was way taller than me. She was amazingly similar to mom but she smiled more than her. And she was always running behind me and my cousins to feed us.
My mom always said she was a weak lady and gave in to life without fighting. But I had a different image of her always. I believe my mom’s opinion was because of her strained relationship with my dad.
“She never had money for my fees but and she always promoted Vinay to study further. I could have been a doctor, she never backed me” said my mom once, holding the pallu to her face. I don’t know whether she was trying to hide her tears or the blue on her cheek which my dad gave.
Next time I saw her she was sitting on the ground near my nana. Nana was lying on a strange bed made of hay and was deep asleep. Everybody was crying. My mom held her pallu to her face. Vinay mama sat at his feet and was weeping incessantly. But naani wearing a white sari sat still, staring at nana and nana was not at all bothered by any of that. I always found him a funny man.
“Go Vinay, its time. It is very far, take care of him” said my naani and my mom started wailing. I didn’t understand what she was referring to. I thought something was related to my dad as my mom was crying.
“Maybe dad hit mama too” I said to myself because he was also crying.
After that I happened to see her again a few times. Usually my dad used to drop us there for a few days and pick us up.
“Please, I accept it is our fault, next time she will cook your food properly. Please do not disown your wife and child. We will see what we can do this diwali” I could see naani talking to my dad.
Strangely her words were effective enough to persuade him and I could see that he gave a positive nod.
“Cheeku, naani has got gangrene in her leg. It will be amputated. We need to go to the hospital soon.” My mom informed me and I left my botany book and reached for my shirt to get ready.
I was seeing her after about ten years. She was lying on the stretcher and was being carried to the operation theatre.
“Ranjana’s son got his nana’s height” she said to mom when she came out about after four hours.
I loved her smile. That was the most inspiring smile I have ever seen. That is the smile which I always longed to see on my mother’s face but maybe because she had both the legs she could not smile that beautifully.
After that I went to Bangalore to study medicine. I came home after about five years.
I was being displayed at naani’s house to all my maternal relatives as the trophy which my parents won after years of sacrifice.
I looked at naani but she said nothing.
“She understands nothing now. Only we know how difficult it is take care of her.” Mami said.
“Hmm” I looked at naani’s old and smelling nighty. There was walker placed at her bed side and next to it stood her artificial leg. No thought of responsibility came to my mind and I left that place as coldly as I entered.
“Hai Cheeku, Vinay is no more!” my mom woke me up at midnight.
She was wailing all the way in the car and ran to the house even before I could park it. I entered after her and could hear the wailing of my mami and mom.
I saw mama and found him looking strikingly similar to nana when he lied on his hay bed.
All the arrangements for the cremations were made by my cousin.
“The Vahan will come only at eight in the morning. The drivers are not available at night.” he informed me.
In the morning I saw some relative giving tea to my naani. I was looking at her curiously when my mom said, “Nobody told her. We don’t know how she will bear the news”
I was staring at her constantly when she raised her face to look at me. I was surprised a bit and looked at all the people around me but I found her looking at me only.
She raised the cup of tea to offer me. I moved near her bed and sat beside her.
“Have a tea. It is very far” I was startled by her words.
“Cheeku’s mama will not go on a Vahan.”