A LIFE CHANGING INCIDENT...
15th June, 2010
I was playing with my dinner on the plate, listening to the ominous whispers of my relatives. I was sitting on her cherished dining table which she fondly bought from New Delhi, watching my aunt (punam masi) struggling to tell me truth & let me face the harsh reality or to not tell me, & protect me from the impending doom. Finally after a long internal debate she blurted out “you should start shouldering responsibilities before it’s too late”, startling me, as I was again lost in my fantasy world trying to run away from the truth. I irately asked what she meant by that statement. She replied, letting the emotions win over her calm façade, her eyes glassy with unshed tears and her voice cracking slightly “it’s only a matter of time before she leaves…”
Today, I see what she was trying to tell me, she was trying to tell me to let her go, say my goodbyes to her & talk to her one last time before she goes to some unknown land.
But I was fed up with the gloomy atmosphere in the house & I wanted my old normal life back, so I sneered at her “its people like you who have a pessimistic approach & that’s why she is lying there, barely alive.” And then after thinking something she let her mask up again and quieted down.
We were in the car, me, my aunt (anju masi) and my fufaji, on our way to chemist’s shop to buy drugs for her. Suddenly, my subconscious overwhelmed me and I asked the dreaded question “She’s at what stage?” My aunt replied quietly “Last”, so quietly that I barely heard her, but that realization hit me like a truck. All my thoughts centered to only 1 question “what will my life look like without her?” Several scenes played in my mind, all my life of 15 years with her flashed in my eyes, all the happy, cherished, sad, angry, loving memories I had with her. & then my instinct to protect myself fought back and I tried to squish the thoughts of her death, but this time it wasn't so strong, my irrational side wanted to shut this drama out again and distance myself from it, from her; but my rational side wanted to face it, wanted to talk to her, wanted to see her, to feel her, to treasure the pleasure of having a loving mother. The rest of the ride was so thick with the air of stress that I could have cut it through with a knife. When we reached home, I wanted to rush into her room but somehow I couldn't bring my legs to move fast, the urge to see her was battling with my fears, the fears of what I was about to face.
Gathering my courage, I went into her room & as soon as I stepped in there, I was enveloped with her natural motherly fragrance. When I was 4, I used to hug her while I slept, nuzzling my face in the crook of her neck and I always commented how wonderful she smelled, how she only had that peculiar yet familiar aroma on her & that day, the very same aroma hit me but it was tainted with the smell of medicines. The room of my parents was filled with a different smell which was usually found in hospitals & then suddenly I realized with a shock, that it had been a long time since I went to her room because I was scared that I’ll see her, see her losing the light in her eyes. I saw my parent’s bed, & above that I saw a beautiful photograph of a couple I was no longer familiar with, my dad looking young in his late thirties and my mum looking stunning as usual in her red saree in her mid thirties, but most importantly, both of them were smiling with joy, cherishing their love that had only grown with each passing day; unaware of the impending doom.
Then, I saw her. Her haggard yet beautiful face, black bags under her eyes, cheek bones so prominent, her thin pale skin stretching over her face covering the delicate bone structure, her lips chapped and lastly her eyes that used to be so full of life, were then, dead, lifeless with no light. I slowly pushed myself towards her and sat beside her taking her in through my eyes. She looked so weak, so thin, so not looking like the beautiful women who always ran this house; the women who made this house a home. & yet she looked so beautiful, the same loving, caring, kind hearted women who daily picked me up from my school, no matter what condition she was in.
Snapping back to present, I saw that she had closed her eyes, & I couldn’t hold myself any longer, seeing her so helpless, so not like her old energetic self. My eyes started welling up with long held tears & soon the dam burst & my waterworks started. Unexpectedly, she opened her eyes & looked at me with such piercing gaze that I was sure she saw through my soul. Then she started to say something but I couldn't make out because she was slurring due to the medicines she had taken. But I got afraid that she saw me crying, crying for her, crying for her death, crying for a life without her, I got afraid because she saw me at my weakest point. I have cried in front of her many times but It was mostly out selfish motives but that day I cried for my family, for her unfinished dreams and lastly, for a loving mother daughter relationship that I was about to lose.
Then I ran, ran away from her, not wanting her to see me losing hope, not wanting her to feel bad because she knew that I know now. I cried and cried & kept looking at the dark sky illuminated with only a few stars, hoping that heavens will open and I will find my answers. But nothing happened. Like always.
I slept barely that night, all rational & irrational thoughts running through my mind, mile a minute.
But only one prominent thought kept evading my mind – What now?
Only after what felt like a minute, I saw the dawn breaking.
I hurriedly took a bath, all the while thinking “Is this actually happening to me?”
Sometimes, it’s surprising actually what trivial thoughts come to your mind at such crucial stages & with how much precise clarity you remember those insignificant thoughts. I remember having one too; I wondered if she’ll be able to complete her page in my slam book. It was one of those moments when you even remember each minute sensory detail of the time.
I had my coaching classes so before leaving for that, I came into her room and saw her trying to sit up with the help of her sisters and my bua, after coming closer I saw that she was trying to have a sip of water, I waited aside, trying to keep myself together for a few more minutes in front of her. When she was finished, I stepped forward, she saw me with hooded eyes, half unconscious but trying to fight the drowsiness, & then I did the most stupidest thing, I said “get well soon, because when I come from the tuition, I will need your help to solve my maths problems” & her eyes welled up with tears upon hearing this. But by seeing this strong woman like this, I knew I was about to lose myself, so I quickly said goodbye to her and let my mask slip up for a few minutes. I soon found myself in the class, I barely remember my teacher asking me how I was or do I need to go but time apart from her now, was passing at an excruciating slow pace, each second bringing me the foreboding thoughts of “what ifs”.
I don’t remember when the class got over or how I reached to the car, but I remember sitting on the back-seat of the car & crying hysterically. Then a song came up and I realized somewhere in the back of my mind that it suits our situation perfectly and I smiled wryly and started mouthing the lyrics all the while tears streamed down my face -
“Give me some sunshine,
Give me some rain,
Give me another chance,
I wanna grow up once again…”
I found myself standing on her room’s threshold debating whether to go in or not, finally gathering up myself, I entered her room & then realized all my relatives from my father’s as well as from my mother’s side were there in that room and had already said their goodbyes. I was consumed by an irrational jealousy that everyone got their closure but I, a fool, hadn't and probably won’t because she was halfway there already.
I was just sitting there, counting her each laboured breath, memorizing her face, going over her body again and again thinking it will help me remember her longer. I then looked at her legs and there was a scaring bluish colour on her feet, & as I touched them, I realized with horror that they had gotten cold & lifeless. I started rubbing her feet furiously, but then my aunt ( punam masi ) said something which still haunts me like a nightmare “it’s time, I doubt she will make it till tomorrow, no, not even tonight” and with that my world collapsed in front of my very own eyes, every little thought I had , every little hope of a future together was mercilessly squished. My father tried to push me to get out of the room but I couldn't. I didn't understand his logic behind that then, but today, I see that he was just trying to protect his daughter from the anguish of heartbreak. I know now, that he was scared as it was the first death that had ever taken place in front of my eyes, that too, my mother’s. In another blink of my eye, I saw everything shift dramatically, I saw my aunt reading some book that was supposed to be sacred, someone shouting for “gangajal”, some wailing & sobbing. And lastly her, taking each breath at an achingly slow pace, & with each breath she took, I thanked whomever was giving her the strength and prayed that she will take JUST ONE MORE BREATH. But within a few minutes she was silent. Still. Lifeless. Dead.
On 16th June 2010, precisely a week after my birthday, precisely six months before her birthday, at 4.45pm she left us. She left us to fight our own battles, to live a life without Arun Nehra. Today after almost 2 years, I look upon that day, but today I see it in a different light. Today I have let her go, set her free. Today I want to move forward, look at my past with her and see that human life is transient. Yes, I do, I do cry, I miss her but I want to live, I don’t want to mourn her loss any-more.
P.S _ then again, easier said than done.