I had always wanted to visit Irene aunty who stayed across the road. It was the work pressure at office that was delaying the visit. I had just learnt from her neighbours that Aunty was suffering from cancer and was undergoing the chemotherapy sessions.
Aunty’s house was exactly opposite to mine and our balconies faced each other . Every morning she would be standing at her gallery near the tulsi plant basking in the soft soothing rays of the rising sun, praying to the Sun God or maybe worshiping the tulsi plant. Her gleaming contour always had a very divine and pleasing touch.
Seeing Aunty seated on a chair that particular morning was very perplexing and unusual. Her face looked dejected and a bit grouchy . I waved out and she reciprocated with a suppressed smile. She had a great tolerance level but today her usual noticeable enthusiasm was missing.
Aunty was a walking encyclopedia and was well entrenched in her pragmatic attitude to every problem. In fact, it was she who had initiated me into cooking. How could one forget her culinary skills ? She had shared a lot of her recipes and never went overboard experimenting with exotic ingredients.. Her recipes were simple and delicious made with normal spices off the kitchen shelf. An amiable lady she got along with just about everyone. She knew how to work a crowd and her candored conversations left an indelible impact with whomsoever she came in contact with.
The morning chores over, and having an hour left to leave for work, I made myself a strong cup of tea and had a quick glance at the newspaper. My eyes suddenly caught upon an advertisement regarding cheaper medicines for cancer. Not having the time to go through it fully, I took the cutting and safely placed it in my purse.
I decided I had to meet Aunty one of these days . I had been saying this for more than a month or so . The last time I had met her was almost two months back on my way to office . She had baked a delicious cake and had wanted me to taste it, but I had to reluctantly excuse myself as it was getting late. Moreover, I had been feeling tired and generally out of sorts for the last few days.
Two weeks just passed by. The conspicuous absence of Aunty at her balcony in the mornings became a cause of worry . ‘What could be wrong with her ?’ I decided that come what may, I had to meet her this evening. I cancelled some of my meetings and started an hour early from office. On the way, I was tense and constantly thinking about her but the nuggets of wisdom that she frequently gave me calmed me down . She was a very gutsy lady and had managed her life with great panache. It was she who had taught me how to silence the turbulent mind, and it was this attitude of hers that had made her popular among all.
I hurriedly alighted from the cab and made my way towards Aunty’s house. There was an unusual crowd at the entrance . Sensing something seriously wrong, I enquired with one of her neighbours. My face fell blank when I heard that Aunty had passed away that same afternoon. I became completely numb on hearing the news. I couldn’t control my tears. An overpowering stillness set in ,and I cursed myself. How didn’t it cross my mind that Aunty was so ill? Her absence at the balcony should have been a warning signal to me. How could I ignore it ?
Guilt was written all over my face for having delayed the long pending visit. This would not have happened if only I would have taken a few minutes out of my busy schedule to meet her. I hated myself for a moment. Had our lives become so busy that we have no time even for our neighbours ? I didn’t feel like meeting any of the family members. Repentant ,I turned back and walked towards my house .
I had learnt a very bitter lesson . Aunty’s face stood in front of me. I took a decision that henceforth, I would never put off any important thing for the next day. Everything in life happens for a reason and this incident was an eye opener , a turning point in my life.