It’s been exactly one year.
I still look at her picture and wonder if she’s there with me. If she’s oiling my thin wavy hair with some hot coconut oil and telling me stories about how she agreed Daddy to be the perfect match for Maa. She would laugh when I questioned about her imperfect pair with my Grandpa. She’d say that she’d been lucky; however, I never thought so.
Granny was docile and soft. She could get blemishes on her ever-glowing skin if she stepped out of our huge hollow house in Chamba, a small town in the state of Himachal Pradesh. While she was warm and beautiful, I’d always seen Grandpa as short, dark and cold.
My afternoon would while away wondering how her life would’ve been if she too had found her Prince Charming. “He’s always been my Prince Charming,” she’d say referring to Grandpa with a slight pull of my hair.
I visited Chamba every December since school remained closed during the cold winters we had in Shimla. My elder brother and me would spend about next three months away from Maa, sharing the same long afternoons with Granny.
“When are you coming?” she’d ask over the phone desperately waiting for our arrival.
“I’ve made your bed better this time,” she’d add.
I remember sleeping comfortably in her double bed that was extended using thick cushions. My best winter sleeps would then be with my legs curled around her’s, hands on her right shoulder and my ears hearing the sing-song of her faint breath.
Granny and I hardly spoke over the phone once I returned to Shimla. She’d ask me to call her more often; somehow, I never enjoyed our conversations over the phone – too stiff, too distant.
Although her love reached me through those neatly knitted woollen sweaters she’d send every year, I seldom expressed any of mine.
Granny was too witty. Wittier than any of the distant grannies I’d ever been with. The twelve year old me was always inquisitive on how she had better answers to almost everything.
‘She could be a lawyer”, I’d think to myself. Grandpa had taught me how they argued like her.
“Advocate Urmila. Urmila Advocate,” I’d mumble.
She would raise her brows and smile broadly, seemingly acknowledging all that whirled in my little head.
I’d accompany her while we watered plants on the small terrace garden of our house.
“The biggest roses blossom during April,” she’d say while tilling the soil.
“And the brightest ones on my birthday?” I’d ask.
“Yes. The most beautiful rose flowers on 13th April every year..,” she’d trick me.
“ I always wish of sending them to you,” she’d complete, staining my cheeks with the rub of her soiled slender fingers.
Her mother passed away while she was a little kid. “I’ve always been with my father,” she’d say narrating her childhood.
“Why don’t you ask how rich her family was?” Grandpa would poke sarcastically when he’d come back from work.
The sound of his scooter every evening at 4 still reverberates in my ears. The tick tock of his polished leather shoes as he climbed the stairs declared the end of another afternoon. We always broke for tea after his arrival and the playfulness in the environment slowly faded away.
He’d leave for a walk only at 7pm and I’d see a flash in her almond eyes when I showed up as he left.
She’d usually be cutting vegetables and watching her favorite sitcom that time. Her constant murmur displayed a personal hatred for the villain and a gentle smile showcased her approval of the hero’s decision.
While she would be engrossed in the television, the scar on her thin long neck would catch my attention.
Maa had spoken about Granny’s cardiac surgery long back. She’d said that she was too frightened to lose Grandma all that time.
I’d ponder over this – after all the lessons in school on the inevitability of death, was I too frightened to lose her?
It was another mildly warm December morning when I was in my hostel at Chennai. I called up Maa only to hear her bitter cries. She couldn’t utter a word; a distant aunt then broke the news of Granny’s unexpected demise.
It’s been exactly one year since she’s gone. Just like other times, we didn’t speak over the phone. I hadn’t seen her since a while so I don’t know how she looked last.
They tell her skin was loose and pale. But I shun them. She must’ve looked beautiful, she couldn’t look any different.
Her picture hangs on the staircase wall in our house. Mine is with her. And I know if she were there, she’d tell me how beautiful I’ve become. I wish I had told her that I didn’t want to be beautiful, I wanted to be her, just her and nobody else.
It’s been exactly one year and tears flow down my eyes-not because she went towards the unknown, but because I can’t feel her gone.
It’s the same old sensation of her long sleek fingers massaging my hair. Of sitting with her on a bamboo knit mat in the bright sunlight. Of telling her how imperfect a match of her and Grandpa is. And of listening how much she loves Him.