The Last Goodbye
Tanya Sana Rajkumari *
It was Christmas Eve and everyone in the hostel were in good mood. My room-mate and I were humming songs and doing maths. She was as usual sitting prostrate on her bed and doing. Holding the pencil near my cheek I was trying hard to concentrate on the second equation sir had given us to solve.
We could not go home for the vacation as our tenth board exams were to be held soon and we were not prepared yet. But being Christmas Eve we were going to enjoy no matter what. Suddenly our warden, Ms. G came in.
She hurriedly ushered me to her house. A phone rang after waiting for five minutes.
My mom said " Abok (great grandmother) passed away today ,Tan". Automatically tears poured out; my mom tried to calm me down. I heard the sadness in her voice, and I could sense papa sobbing quietly beside her. Just after keeping the phone Ms. G hugged me and for the first time I realized how much a hug meant.
I could not stop my tears for almost two hours bringing back all those memories she had imprinted in my life.
She was an astute old lady, even without any education she was always accurate with counting days according to the lunar calendar . No one doubted when she pointed out any auspicious or inauspicious dates. Till her deathbed her memory never left her.
I remember growing up on her lap. My mom teased me for a long time because I had apparently bitten abok's arm once when I was an infant. She always came to pick me up from the school bus- stop. Sometimes she had to bear my tantrums when I was not allowed to eat the locally made fruit stuffs.
Cutting my favourite fruits grown from our fruit orchard was what she did to make up for not allowing to eat street food. It was always her cutting fruits as we ate. Her reaction was always the same, smiling, eating only the smallest piece. If we insisted her to eat a little more she would say " My stomach is full looking at you relish".
As I grew up I realized how tasty her simple meals were that she sometimes cooked for us before going to school or just after coming back. For bed time stories it was never folk tales. It was always stories of the war time( World War II) when she was a young girl, having just married.
Through her tales I got to know for the first time that Imphal was a battlefield long before I read it in books. It was with her that I watched the Mahabharata and Ramayan on television every Sunday.
She knew the stories well even without understanding Hindi and she would explain the significance of the characters and the roles they played. I have never been very religious but I had so much respect for her that I could not say no to any of the things she wanted me to do.
We would always obediently mutter "Jai Shree Radha Govinda" as the neighbourhood temple bell rang just as evening set in. Seeing us pray our pet dogs would howl and seemed like they too obeyed her just the same. She is the only reason why I still appreciate Hinduism.
I remember the last time I saw her; she was sitting on the courtyard looking at us with misty eyes. We were leaving Imphal , my dad had got transferred to Delhi. She looked at us and said "I don't know when I would see you all again". "This may be the last time I would be able to see you all". It was a tearful departure and we prayed her words would not come true. Yet it did and she left us after a brief illness on December 24th 2004.
I still cannot believe that she left us such a long time ago yet missing her is something that I cannot help with her smiling face appearing in my mind every now and then. I was supposed to have gone for the Puja break home that year. But blockade on the highway made sure I stayed behind.
The thought of not having met her for one last time and saying "abok I am home" like I used to whenever she came out to receive me made me mourn all the more.
* Tanya Sana Rajkumari contributed this short story to e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at tanyasara(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was posted on October 18, 2012.
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