Me: “Do you know lots of women die during childbirth? Especially older women, post 30”
Husband: “Shut up, nothing will happen to you”
Me: “But what if it does? Can you live alone?”
Husband: stares blankly
Death, a topic none of us want to discuss, yet have experienced many times over. If you haven’t seen a loved one die in front of your eyes, consider yourself lucky.
It was a bright sunny day in 2004. It was a school day. I was in the middle of my boring business studies class when my class teacher suddenly came up to me with a sad look on her face. “Your father is waiting for you downstairs, take your things & leave immediately”, she said. “Why ma’am?”, I asked bewildered. “Your grandfather is unwell. Your father will explain everything on the way. Leave now”, she said.
Puzzled, I took my things & went to meet my father. He looked shattered. One glimpse at his eyes & I knew that he had been crying for hours. I showered a barrage of questions at him about my grandfather. “Appuppan is fine Gayu, but he is in the ICU so we must go to Trivandrum immediately. Arjun has also come from Bombay. Everyone is waiting at home for you to pack your things”
When I reached home my aunt from the other end of the city (Annanagar) was also waiting for me with her bags packed for our roadtrip. The 10 hour car ride was grim. Everyone sat in silence, anxious to reach Trivandrum.
The silence was finally broken by the shrill ring of my father’s cellphone. “Yes, we are on the way. Yes, we will reach before the funeral”, he said. I looked at my aunt in horror & sobbed hysterically into her saree’s pallu. “You did’nt know appuppan has passed away?”, she asked. “No! I thought he was just unwell”, I replied.
The rest of the journey was a blur. By the time we reached Trivandrum it was well past midnight. I ran inside our house & saw him resting peacefully. My heart broke into smithereens & I cried for god-knows how many hours until someone had to pull me away from him & take me to one of the inner rooms.
The week whizzed by with the funeral & other ceremonies. It was the darkest period of my life. I thought I’d never smile or be happy ever again. My appuppan was no more. My appuppan who dropped me to school everyday & got scolded by me each time I was late to school, my appuppan who wiped away my tears & my runny nose every morning when I made a fuss to go to school, my appuppan who ate all my leftovers from my plate & my school’s tiffin box, my appuppan who took me to Shanghumugham beach to eat giant sized chicken cutlets & vanilla ball icecreams from the beach-carts.
I cursed myself for all the times I fought with him & made fun of him. I wished I was kinder to him while he was still alive. “Your appuppan loved you mole. He always had a smile on his face whenever you called to speak to him”, said ammumma.
He had called to wish me on my 17th birthday in 2004, just a few days before his death. I had no idea that would be my last phone call with him. I regretted not being around him in his last moments.
There is a large gaping hole in my heart that can never be filled again. Blessed are those who have experienced a grandfather’s love. I am grateful that he was in my life till I was 17 years old.
He was so proud of us – his grandchildren. He bragged about every small achievement of ours to everyone. He created an editorial snippet for me with one of the leading Malayalam dailies in Kerala which boasted about an exam I had taken in which I had scored a distinction. The achievement was not extraordinary, lots of kids from my school had taken the exam along with me & had scored around the same percentage that I had. But to him I was extraordinary & my every little action was special.
My grandmother has lived all by herself for the past 11 years in that palatial house in Trivandrum refusing to leave. She believes appuppan’s spirit will always be inside those walls & near her.
I miss his absence everyday. Especially when a baby is born or a sibling gets married. He would have loved to experience all this. My wedding was held exactly 10 years after his death & ironically in the same month that he had passed away.
I wish you were still around appuppa - to meet my husband, visit my home & see me as this work-obsessed demon that I’ve turned into. You would’ve probably told me to take a chill-pill & you would’ve continued to hide your salty-fried peanut chakna in the steel almirah to be had on Sundays along with your drink.
You are my Hero.1 & my King - no one has replaced you & no one ever will. I love you & miss you so much.