Saturday, April 23, 2016

When words aren't enough

I don't remember when it was that we actually became so close. I don't remember when I shifted from calling you by your name, to calling you Didi. Maybe it was when my laptop had to be given to the service center, and I started using your pretty gold coloured WAIO. You ended up reading my poems/writings, and discussing them with me. Or when you developed a ritual of putting me to sleep by putting on "Do Naina Aur Ek Kahani", when I would complain that I can't sleep with the tubelight on. Or when my bed broke, you put your bed aside, cleaned the room with a jhaadu, and exclaimed that we would both sleep on the floor.

We didn't meet for a few years after you graduated and left Room 103. But we always spoke, always knew about each others lives. We definitely got closer when you got married. Somehow, the fact that you married someone from my community, brought us infinitely closer. The fact that now you somehow understood the whole context of which I was a part of, cemented our friendship in a funny way. I was going through our chats the other day, and realized that the first conversation where you told me you were dating V, was also the first time I mentioned about AV to you, by saying that a friend of mine was trying to set me up with a friend of hers. So funny na?
My cousin got engaged the day you got married, and I couldn't make it for the wedding. I visited Bombay a few months after your wedding, and you came all the way from Matunga to Bandra to pick me up for breakfast, and then dropped me back to Bandra. You also gave me a supremely pretty suit, which I wore when AV's family came to my house for the first time. You told me that you were honoured that I chose your suit for such a momentous day.
You wrote me a beautiful letter when I got engaged. And I remember meeting you in Bombay soon after and you insisted on meeting AV. "Main tujhse nahin usse milne aayi hun". You couldn't come for my wedding, and it was an ongoing joke between you and me that it was just so you could take revenge for me not being there at your wedding. But I knew your reasons.
One of the reasons I have the best memories of my time in Bombay is because of you. How you used to turn up randomly and AV would open up his Pandoras box of complaints about me. How you used to support me, unconditionally, every time. Your "Tum log kitna zyaada khaana order karte ho!" Those two months of mine at work were so awesome. I remember when my seat was allotted diagonal to yours, and your boss exclaimed "Well I don't see Ankita being very productive for the next two months" How we chatted all day, every day. The day you came to my house to take a bath, because there was no water at your place, and I made breakfast for you. You are the only one, apart from my family, to be subjected to my cooking.
You were the only one who knew that I 'might' be pregnant, apart from AV and me. And you told me that you have a good feeling about this, and how I will be your Ankita Didi this one time. I remember telling you that this pregnancy thing is unnerving because I don't have any "Ankita Didi said this" to base my life on. I travelled to Bombay in the 4th month of my pregnancy for AV's office party, and I remember a friend mentioning "Tu sirf Ankita Didi se milne jaa rahi hai na?!" You spent practically a whole day with me, and then came to meet me for 10 minutes to Phoenix. We also had breakfast at Matunga just before our flight...remember?! Then you came to meet me in my parental home, when I was 7 months pregnant. That was the last time I saw you. I wish I had taken a picture, I don't know why I didnt.

You always used to say you felt a special connection with Surya. You had a beautiful handmade sweater set sent for him soon after he was born. The gifts you got for him from Canada, reached him exactly on his first bday. You were waiting to meet him, and would often ask me how he would differentiate between the two Anki Maasis. I kept telling you that we will figure out a way.
I was heartbroken when you told me about the cancer. And I was waiting to meet you. I almost met you in November, but plans got changed. December was planned. And awaited. I told you our plans a week before, and told you that even though things seemed so packed, I will meet you. You replied "I hope we meet". I don't know why you said it. You shouldn't have used 'hope'.
Out of all the clothes Surya has, I ended up choosing your birthday gift to him, the day you died. Looking back, it was a funny decision. Usually, I make him wear someone's gift when we meet that someone. I kept mentioning to everyone that you had sent it for him. I remember my mom saying that I should take a picture and send it to you, and I said you already have a picture of him in that outfit. But I wish I had listened to my mom. Maybe it would have been one of the last things you saw. Maybe we would have had a last conversation.

Those moments leading up to the news of your death are vivid. I was bang in the middle of a family reunion, laughing with my aunts and cousins one minute. And then saw that there were 3 missed calls from a Bombay number. I never return missed calls, but this one I did. The moment V said hello, I knew there was bad news. I hoped against hope that it wasn't the worst. It was. I remember asking him a series of questions. Looking back, I don't know how I managed to speak with such coherence. But the minute the call ended, I crashed. My heart was broken and my world had literally shattered. No one even tried to console me, because they knew how terrible this whole news was. They knew nothing they could say would make it okay. I had to put on a tough and happy exterior though. I had a baby to take care of. I had a family event to attend, people to socialize with. I couldn't look morose. But I cried my heart out in the cab on the way to the airport. I allowed myself that.
As per our plan, I went to your house on reaching Bombay. But you weren't there. Your picture was. The picture from your brother's wedding- I recognized it. Your family was there. We all recognized each other from the millions of stories you had shared. But there was nothing to say, not even tears to shed. I had nothing to say to V, who I had always met before in very pleasant circumstances. We hugged and held each other for 5 minutes, trying to share the grief, trying to understand the unspoken words. I looked around at the apartment, imagining the situation which was supposed to happen in those very hours. I imagined me visiting with AV and Surya. I imagined you holding S, and him taking to you and you exclaiming "Wunjoo I can't believe you are a mommy". I couldn't believe how 24 hours had changed everything.

I spoke to so many of our common friends about your death. Some, who knew your story. Others, who had no idea. To most, I was a messenger. They wanted information, the how, the why. With the others, I tried to piece together this whole ordeal. I made an unlikely bond with your BFF from college. We had barely spoken all these years, and here we were, talking for hours, trying to deal with this unimaginable shared grief of ours. We shared stories about you, and laughed at silly things. It helped a bit, because while we didn't know who the other person was/is, we knew who you were and what you meant to us. And that was enough to deal with this sadness.

I never realized how much a part of my life you were, or rather, still are. Small, inconsequential things remind me of you. I say your name unconsciously while narrating random stories. I don't know what to do with the truckloads of memories I have of you. It's like I need to do justice to those, put them somewhere for safekeeping, but there's no place big enough to keep them all.

Your death has changed my soul forever. Every time I feel like throwing a tantrum, your face flashes before my eyes, and I calm down. I feel like doing everything that comes my way, seizing every opportunity, perhaps because I feel like I have to live your share of life too. You would have definitely found it funny.

To say I miss you is the most meaningless statement ever. Maybe "I think of you so much" does more justice. I think of you everyday. In my happy moments, my sad ones, those moments before I sleep at night, my moments of doubt. I miss you most when I need Didi-level advice. And then I imagine what you would have said or reacted. The one thing I cannot wrap my head around is how I missed you by a day. How you never met Surya.

I still cannot believe you are not around. That I will never ever see you or hear your voice, or take a picture with you. I think its for the best. Because on the days when I believe your death, my life comes to a standstill, and the sadness is too much to handle.  

Most people who know me, told me to write, to deal with your death. I did write, but fragments. I wrote a piece about breast cancer for work, and a blog about the earrings which you made Alisha buy for me as a farewell gift. But nothing which captured the essence of my grief.

Maybe this does. I don't know. But I hope you read this Didi, wherever you are. There will never ever be another one like you in my life. And I hope you know just what you have been and will continue to be.

Love lots.


Rama Rathnam said...

Can't find words. Overwhelming sadness at your loss. You are too brave for words . lots of love

Rekha said...

She was di to all of us Ranju. Hope she reads this article from heaven and gives comments from there.