There is something about rain, maybe the petrichor, which throws you down, deep down in the memory lane and makes you nostalgic.
I have lived most of my life in Northwestern India, where it doesn’t rain much. Monsoon is not a season, as it lasts only for few days or sometimes even not that. So, when I shifted to Pune, three and half years back, the continuous drizzling for four months took me by surprise.
Sitting on my window sill, with a steaming cup of my favorite masala tea, I often think about my rain memories. Today I am going to share one such vivid remembrance.
It was pouring heavily, and I was sitting by the window side of a small bus. It was an early morning ride; the dark grey clouds had decreased the visibility, maybe they too knew about the hollow darkness that was engulfing the sobbing women beside me. It was mid-August, time for heavy rains in hilly regions. I was roughly a seven-year-old kid, who couldn’t understand the gamut of emotions that her mother was going through at that time. I then couldn’t comprehend what has happened and the change this would bring to our lives.
It all started a month back when one day our old tenant came to tell my mother that there was a phone call for her. These were days of early 90’s when only a few people had landlines phones at their home. I accompanied my mother to their place, and we were surprised that it was a call from my uncle (my mother’s brother), it’s just been a month that we have returned from our summer vacations at their place, so a call meant that there is some urgent news. And it turned out to be true, as soon as my mother grabbed the receiver, my uncle informed her that my granny was ill and is in the hospital.
She kept the phone down and held my hand to go back home. I think that was the slowest walk my mother has ever taken. She was lost in her thoughts, she didn’t know what to do. My father was on an official tour for twenty days to southern India; people were not that professional in those days. Hence there wasn’t an itinerary that he would follow on his trip, which meant that we didn’t have any number to contact him, nor any address to send a telegraph. When my mother was still thinking of a way to communicate with my father by some means, other problem came to surface. The Uttrakhand movement was at its peak, which was to have a separate state Uttrakhand for the people of the Himalayan belt from Uttar Pradesh State. People were burning buses, and police curfew were on, no vehicle from Delhi was allowed to enter the state.
In this chaos, another call came, informing us that granny has gone into a coma, nobody knew for how long she will survive. I think that phone call broke the single thread of hope my mother was having for her mother. My grandmother was just fifty-seven, people don’t die that early, that too from gastritis, but you never know, when and how death can come lurking at you. And it had come for her also, taking away the darkness of the life and giving away the light towards death.
From then on every single night I heard my sobbing mother, not understanding her pain, but understanding enough to let her cry her heart out. Those were lonely nights, me holding her hand as always, asking God for a miracle to seize her falling tears. And then the news came that grandma has left us for a better world. With that my uncle’s waited for my mother for next two days. But the movement hasn’t slowed down and my father who hasn’t returned yet, somehow got in touch with us, he asked my mother to wait for him and don’t take the risk of traveling with two kids in such turbulent times. He promised he would be home in next two days. Without seeing her mother for one last time, my mother said her last goodbyes in her heart.
“ You can never understand the pain and regret of not saying the last goodbyes to your loving parent’s.”
She was her calm self, doing every single thing for us by daytime, it was the night that she curved herself into a cocoon and would go back to her mother for her last touch.
After two days, as promised, my father returned, I think that is one of the few promises that he has given to my mother, was kept. The movement has slowed down a bit, and we traveled same day leaving my brother behind, as he had his examinations, asking our neighbors to look after him.
The bus halted, we got down, the journey was of more than ten hours. There were puddles everywhere, no street lights even, we were making our way through the mud. My mother whose small sobs became louder, as she approached the house where she has spent her days with her loving mother. Each step made her recall the mother she would never see again. It was not my emotion at that time; it is now when I remember that day, I feel it in this way. Back then, I was so embarrassed my mother’s howling that I hid behind my father. I didn’t leave his side for very long. At that time I couldn’t unravel all the wailing around me. It was difficult to grasp why everyone was so gloomy, even my cousins, they were bit older than me, but they all were crying, but I was not. I couldn’t, maybe some of them knew what death meant at that time, or perhaps they were much more in love with grandma. And somehow they have the understanding of the pain, of a lost one, or they were just doing what they felt like because every emotion is infectious.
I never disturbed my mother in that stay of ours, I cling to my father, because as I child you start getting your parents and you have a choice to stay with the one who is most likely to be pleasant at that time.
That was my first experience of seeing the death of someone, I couldn’t grasp many things then, but few made an impact on me as a person. I somehow got that death means invisibility from others, it intends to leave hollowness inside a person, forever. And you become a memory to everyone else, a past that no longer exists.
I would sum up, with great lines from Bhagavad Gita, who speaks beautifully and solacing of the immortality of the soul:
Never the spirit was born; the spirit shall cease to be never;
Never was time it was not; End and Beginning are dreams!
Birthless and deathless and changeless remaineth the spirit forever;
Death hath not touched it at all, dead though the house of it seems.
PS : For part I, check this out Fallen Things