My beautiful angel, my bok

Porcia Soubam *

Once upon a time, she was worried about my well being...
Once upon a time, she held my hand so that I could take the baby steps...
Once upon a time, she fed me...
Once upon a time, she made my bed...
Once upon a time, she fought for me with others...
Once upon a time...

I started fitting in the role she played for me and suddenly she left us on the last October night of 2014, leaving behind myriads of memories for me-some bitter, some sweet. There are things I regret not having done for her. There are things I have done to fulfill her small desires. When she wanted to step out of the gate for a walk, I held those wrinkled, but lovely hands to support her. There was a child within her. Maybe she thought I would agree to her naughty desires and I did! No one wanted her to step out of the house for fear of slipping.

Fruits made me more attached to bok. Away from the glare of my parents and my siblings, I served her favourite sugar-rich fruits, all forbidden, every evening the last few days before she left us. It was forbidden because of her sugar level. But I enjoyed slicing apples and cleaning grapes for her. Like a woman suffering from morning sickness, her craving for fruits start the moment everyone's away from home. She would order her waitress (bok ki Thoi) to serve her. And, I, the dutiful granddaughter, would do the needful.

Staying in Imphal for the last two years was really a boon in disguise for my bok. She needed company and I happened to be the right companion. Afternoons and evenings were spent gossiping with her, we talked nineteen-to-the-dozen about anything and everything. At 94, an illiterate, she had the best memory card-fully loaded with the births and deaths dates of my neighbours.

People may say she has lived long, but my inner voice says she wanted to live for a few more years. She had the zeal and enthusiasm for life. On her deathbed also, she never seemed like she would go away. Who to blame? The doctors who didn't knew the basics of treating old-aged people or her destiny. In seven-eight days she became weak, in an hour after her dinner she left us.

There are words I can't forget of her trying to come to terms or rather imbibing the modern technology. For charging her mobile, it was put light in the phone. And she regrets being illiterate! How I wish I knew how to read and write...I would be reading newspapers, putting on and off the TV to while away my time. Better sense prevailed now. I should have taught her the basics long time back when she was more strong and not on support-stick.

At her age, all she wanted was company. I now regret escaping sometimes to avoid talking to her as I was also in the midst of my other affairs. If only I knew she would leave us so suddenly, I would have sat beside her and talked with her till my jaws came apart. How much she wanted companionship? If and if is all I can think off with remorse in my heart.

She was so hungry for companionship that she would sit near the gate, a quarter of it open, and waited for people so that she could call out and speak to them. It had reached to such an extent that the neighbours hurried their steps to ignore her. And after she passed away when they came to pay condolences on her demise, instead of being obliged and grateful, I hated them.

When she was alive, they didn't have a few seconds to acknowledge her presence and now they are shedding crocodile tears and remembering how lively a person she was. There's the concept of fair-weather friends and friends of sad moments. For me, at sad moments like her death, I never wanted white-clad ladies and gentlemen making their presence for the 12 days. It's a stark reminder that she is no more and awakening my already heavy heart every single day. Why do we glorify people after their deaths?

She herded the family like a colonel. From my dad to my siblings, every day we had to report to her that we are back safe and sound, otherwise there was mayhem. She would put on a big face, sob or shout late at night whether so and so has returned home. I would say my bok was the perfect watchdog. For years she guarded our home, we never needed a lock.

She deserved a century, but fate took her away. She was envious of the old grandpa (her age) of our neighbourhood. He was still walking up and down the street. May be she desired to live longer than him...regularly she popped her life-saving pills and abstained from dinner for the last 10 years. At mornings she would sometimes savour up her favourite dish to her heart's content and later she would be guilty. The foodie in her sometimes overcame her strict diet regime and she would crib, but the desire to live overcame everything.

On her last birthday, we got a cake for her. That moment, was happiness personified for her with tears of joy. And not to leave aside the mobile phone as a birthday gift. Using the speed dial of her phone, she connected to her stars-four daughters and her Sun, my dad. My parents set deadlines for returning home for my brothers, and my dad was subject to a seven pm reporting time by bok. My mother never ever called dad to ask where he was after his office hours. It was bok who was the time-keeper for my dad, checking out as if he was a teenager. Is it because my bok loves dad more than my mom loves him? If only there was weighing machine for love!

I can proudly claim that I was her favourite. We were more like friends and partners-in-crime. Whatever naughty desires she had, I almost fulfilled everything. I never had the heart to say a no to her. So, when she left, of all my siblings, I was the one who felt the lost most. Her memories reverberate every day, when the surroundings become silent after I shun myself from the digital world.

She may be a withered flower, all dried up, but she was conscious of her looks. On her last trip to the hospital, she still cared that she didn't comb. At 94, she wanted to presentable and present. But for me, even if she is not presentable, I want her to be present. May be I am living in a world of illusion! I wish she comes in my dreams to banter again. There are many things I want to share with her.

If tears could build a stairway,
And memories a lane, I'd walk
Right up to Heaven and
Bring you home again
Bok! You had many things to say...

* Porcia Soubam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on December 05, 2014.

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