Today had dawned with a shower. When it stopped, the world around me was fresh. The drops on the grass clung to the blade like they were afraid to let go. They were home again from the sky, back on the leaves and the flowers where they thought they belonged. The konnapookal were in full bloom again, their shades of yellow so perfect against the blue sky and the green leaves of a tree beyond, a tree whose name I know not. I was far away from home, but just then, I felt the kiss of a breeze. It had the fragrance of raw mangoes… of you, your homemade pickles.
As I jogged, I saw the kids at the playground again. I thought they wouldn’t have come today, but the wetness didn’t seem to have stopped them from playing. They ran, they skidded on the muddy ground and shouted out with happiness as they played. One of them skinned his knee. For a moment, I stepped toward him. But then I saw him get up, brush himself off and continue to play. I remembered when I was his age. I fell down, and I’d come to you, crying. You taught me to be strong. But you were kind too. You kissed the wound, and told me that it would heal. Just like you always had done before that day too.
On the way back home, I saw a small girl. She was sitting on the steps outside her house. Three puppies played around her. She was laughing, and telling them off. The puppies came to me when they saw me nearby, and started to jump on me too. I let them. I could see her trying to keep a strict face as she scolded them to come back inside the house. Then she smiled seeing me smile at her. Do you remember when I first met Rani, auntie’s Pomeranian? I still remember me running behind you, hiding and not coming out. You took my hand, and made Rani shake it. It is because of you that I’m not as afraid anymore.
When I reached home, Nitu told me that Chinnu was not keeping well, and that she had been asking for Daddy. I went to her room, and my little one was looking quite under the weather. She had fever, and clung to me and didn’t let go. I held her close, kissed her forehead and told her I wouldn’t go anywhere till she had felt better. Nitu got the breakfast plate to the room, and I fed her, just like you did when I had been unwell. I remember you had got a horrible tasting medicine to me, saying it was blessed from the temple. I didn’t eat it after the first bite. It is only now I realize that it was blessed with your love.
When she fell asleep, I left for work. I knew I would remember to get her a soft toy, or maybe even a storybook. There were only few patients who I had to see, and then I could leave early for home. It was then that I saw him. Mr. Riaz was sitting at the waiting area, reading a newspaper. His daughter Amina was one of my patients. I went to talk with him while Amina was at the pre-consultation screening. He greeted me with a smile, and we talked. When I saw Amina standing near my room, I got up and bade goodbye. He asked me who I was. Amina saw the look on my face, and understood. He was in the initial stages of Alzheimer’s, she told me later. It made me think how easy it was to forget, and how difficult it was going through that. But at least his was fate. I’d forgotten some memories of you, when I had so many reasons to remember.
Tonight, I had read from the new book I had got for Chinnu at the bookstore. It was all about a genie who liked children. I had my arm around her and she would enjoy looking at the pictures in the book. She had fallen asleep like that, and I had let her. I remember your bedtime stories. You never had a book. It was all in your heart. You told me of legends, of kings and queens, magicians and evil spirits. If I yawned, you’d kiss me goodnight, and wait for me to fall asleep before going away from the room. Just like I waited for Chinnu to fall asleep tonight.
I realize only now how much of you I have in me, how much you have taught me, and guided me. With every kiss, I feel a pang in my heart, a missed beat that I regret. I regret how distant I became from you. I regret that I couldn’t tell you enough how much I loved you. Grandma, with every kiss, I remember how I forgot to say, that I missed you here, missed you near.
With every kiss… every kiss…
(12th April 2014)