Stepping onto the cold marble in the lobby, shopping bags occupying all the space in my hands and my head, I made my way in and walked towards the elevator waiting for it to tend to my needs. A few other people were present as well, for the same reason as I was. While we awaited its arrival, I let my gaze wander towards the notice board. Unable to resist the urge to read everything I could lay my eyes upon, I gave it a quick glance and I was about to look away when a certain notice caught my attention. It was headlined with a sad demise with the details clearly following below it. Upon reading the entire notice, I felt the daylights being knocked out of me just by the aid of mere words. I read it over- twice, thrice, trying to make sense of the words printed in black ink and hoping that my repetitive action would change what was written there. That I would somehow be able to undo the catastrophe that mercilessly struck me. I rushed myself into the elevator and raced myself to my house on the fifteenth floor; I handed the bags over to my mother and tried to vocalize my thoughts. I wished them to not be there.
I thought that if somehow I didn’t say it, it wouldn’t have happened. But if the universe worked on the basis of thoughts that are processed inside my head, I’d undo (do or re-do) a lot of things.
No sooner did the words escape my mouth, than the tears dribbled down my cheeks. My eyes were soon bloodshot with the amount of tears that they were losing. I couldn’t get myself to digest the fact that people live and people die. That they cease to exist. That was a fact incomprehensible- albeit, a fact of life. I broke down. It wasn’t something I was used to. Loss- it hit me in the face at the tender age of twelve. I let my head pound, I attempted happy thoughts and I also resorted to not believing in the calamity that struck me, but it was true. All of it was true. She was no more and I would just have to deal with it. I would learn to have to do without her because if I could before I met her, I could after I lost her. I could, right?
All of ninety-three years old, my beautiful lady, my belief that a grandparent figure existed in my life, my support system and the prettiest flower in my garden had wilted away, without a warning sign. She left and I was required to lead a life she would no longer be a part of. I don’t know what hurt me more at that time, that she was not around anymore or that I hadn’t spent enough time with her. I was not prepared to say goodbye. However, if we all braced ourselves for such a situation, with all honesty, we would never say goodbye. Either we wouldn’t find the appropriate thoughts or words to process or it becomes a fact unfathomable. Gool aunty was the closest thing I had to a grandparent.
I had never maintained close relations with my paternal or maternal grandparents, so I let her become the ideal one. It was good, while it lasted. Although the goodbyes were never said and the last hugs and kisses weren’t exchanged, I think she always knew of the love and respect I had for her. I solemnly pray that I made a difference in her life, because she certainly played an important role in twisting mine. She made me believe in beauty and innocence. Simplicity and love- it was as easy for her, as hard it was, for me. Foremost, she taught me how to let go of things. She made me believe that moments and people can be stolen in the blink of an eye, it was more about nabbing opportunities by the hand and making the most of the present rather than the time we’ve lost in hoping and relentlessly wishing for things that we couldn’t say or do.
Now, almost five years down the line since her untimely demise, I ask her daughter about her and Gool aunty’s life, how things were. She looks at me with such intensity, greatly resembling her mother that it’s hard for me to not break down again.
“Did I make a difference at all? I knew her for barely a year or two before she realized that she had had enough of me.”
Shireen aunty let a sorrowful smile spread across her face, crinkling the skin at the end of her eyes, she calmly takes notice and says, “I wish you could understand the smile she had on her face, Sahej, every time she met you. You made her happy. At such an old age, when she’s had a fair share of experiences and has seen the world, you never ceased to make her happy, darling.”
This was all I needed to hear before I broke down, at the thought of her, for the last time. Isn’t that what we all live for, to leave a mark on someone’s life? I might take time to let go of it, but death isn’t something we get used to. It’s just something we learn to live with.