It’s been eleven years, six months & eleven days since you’re gone, yet I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was in the fourth class. Dad came to pick me up from the Day Care Centre at noon & took me to Mulund. His panicky gait made me wonder what was wrong. And, why had he come, instead of mom, to pick me up? I kept asking him, but he wouldn’t utter a word.
When I entered the crowded house, I prepared myself for the worst. Everyone’s faces were gloomy & on the old bed sat Mom, wailing loudly. And then, I saw you. Covered in a white shroud. With cotton balls in your nostrils. For a moment, I just froze. And then, I screamed. Cried & cried until I couldn’t anymore. I begged to God to return you back to me. That I wouldn’t ask for anything else, ever. He didn’t. That was the day I lost faith in Him forever.
I would often caress that part of the hard floor with my hands where you used to sleep in the afternoons. I think I also lost a part of my sanity with you.
The summer vacations at your home were a respite from the scary place I lived in, with the constant fights & quarrels. I guess, those were the only days of my childhood that I cherish the most. You fed me bland porridge & mango pickles for dinner daily because your curries were too spicy for my palate. But, I never got bored of it as you fed me with your hands while I told you incredulous stories of my wild imagination. You didn’t tell me any stories like other grannies did, but you patiently listened to mine with a smile on your lips.
Today, I have found a large audience who reads my stories, but the only one whom I really want to narrate them to isn’t here. Mom never had the time to feed me or listen to my stories after work. It’s funny how mom used to say that I was too old to be fed at the age of nine, but I’m still not too old enough to be beaten with a stick at nineteen. At least when you were here, I’d hide behind your back.
What shall I do with your daughter? Sigh. I know you never beat her, then where has she got this inheritance of violent upbringing from? I hate to ask you this, but is she adopted? You must be smiling now. I know. Did you know that I loved you more than I love mom? I still do. Let’s hope mom doesn’t find this letter.
I miss climbing those mango trees in our front yard in the quiet noons & waking up the neighbours from their reverie to mutter curses at me, as I noisily clambered over their thatched roofs to pluck mangoes. I sniggered & laughed behind their backs as they picked fights with you about my mischiefs while you tried to defend me. We all knew how innocent I was, didn’t we? I miss collecting the pecked almonds from under the almond tree & crushing them using the mortared stone to extract the flesh inside it. I miss plucking the delicious wild mulberries growing in the little jungle in our front yard.
A couple of years ago, some builders bought that land & cleared the entire jungle. Even the huge banyan tree that was a few hundred years old! They cut it little by little, twig by twig, branch by branch. Its trunk alone took many men & days to be cut, but they mercilessly destroyed it nevertheless. They killed our mango tree, our almond tree, our mulberry tree & every other tree in the jungle that held so many special memories of my childhood.
Over the years I have sampled many mango pickles, but none taste like the ones you used to feed me. I’ve been searching for mulberries too, but nobody sells them here. I never thought I’d miss them, but those were the little things that still count. I guess, there is no market for happiness, is there?
Last month, some builder agreed to buy your house as well as the other houses in our vicinity to construct a building in its place. And, it breaks my heart. I can’t bear to say goodbye to the home in which you lived, laughed & breathed your last. It feels like losing you all over again.
In a way, I’m glad you’re gone. Things are crazy around here. And, I wouldn’t have wanted to put you through any of it. But, the loneliness of having to cope with life without you hurts. It is times like these that make me miss you & long for your gentle touch even more.
Sometimes, I ruffle through my hair with my own fingers imagining it to be your hand & wrap my own hands around my body imagining it to be your loving embrace. I’m no longer the bubbly & chirpy girl you used to know. You’ve left behind an ugly wreck who’s still grappling with your loss hopelessly.
Only if I could believe in the idea of a heaven, I would’ve ended my dismal existence to see you smiling at me once more. Because I don’t need science. I don’t need logic. I just need you.
I know you’re gone, but in my heart, you still remain & as I write this letter, I can feel you listen & give company to the stray tears on my face that blot this paper. And, when my hair greys & my memory fails me, I shall read this letter once more to remember the beautiful time I shared with you & die with a smile upon my lips before my soul becomes one with the breeze that carries your touch.
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