There are painful memories not yet stored deep in the core. These memories are just beneath the crust of day-to-day existence. They are hot magma swirling around in the upper mantle, and occasionally, but with sufficient volcanic destruction, they bursts forth, rupturing the crusty mundane life of the everyday.
Like now. Seeing a hypocritical message on Whatsass [sic.] sent by mon oncle.
This morning I woke up hopeful. I was telling myself – rather, convincing myself – that the mourning period must be ended. That there are many hopeful, happy scenes ahead. I was listing them out and was actually beginning to be forgetful, sinful as that seems.
My Barima passed away on Friday, 19th August, 2016.
Before I left for Europe, she had gone back to stay with mon oncle in his new house. I cannot write more about what was meted out to her there, but it is sufficient to say that when I came back to Delhi and went to meet her, I could not in good conscience leave her there. She slept the last restful uninterrupted deep sleep of her life that night at our house before the final and everlasting sleep that took her away a week later.
Barima lived for a week after I brought her. In this week I tried to do all the best I could to make existence on earth easy for her. There were times when my mother and I would look at each other and start to cry listening to her labored breathing, because it was not the usual labored breathing of her single functional lung. She was sobbing inside. And that sound was the saddest sound I have known up until now.
She’d lived on this long for me. I had selfishly told her to stay alive for me before going. I knew that this woman had lived all her life in the service of others and even in pain, she would hold on only for someone other than herself. I hoped that when I came back I would bring back some happiness in her life and thereby prolong it. But I was too late. I shall forever live with the guilt that I knew she needed me (and how much) and I could not help her. Maybe if I hadn’t gone, I could have brought her back home sooner. I would never have allowed the abuse that happened while I was away. My mother and her sister regret their helplessness; circumstances were made in such a manner that they could advocate for Barima. And Indian society is fucked up anyway, with married daughters having no say in matters. I dared to defy everyone. I cannot be party to abuse especially if I can do something about it.
We all had known for years that her death would come one day, sooner than we’d expected. She had been ill for so long. Her gradual decline has been painful to watch, and ever since she came to our house, we would see this slow decline everyday. But it was accelerated that one month I was away. And I have red-hot anger towards the persons responsible for that acceleration. I tried to forgive, but still fail to do so. I keep mustering up goodness in my heart to forgive, but visions flash before my eyes, and I cannot forgive, I have come to believe that abuse of one’s mother is worse than all of the sins including mass murder. It was Stalin’s quote, right? “A single death is a tragedy, but a million deaths is a statistic.”
I must also forgive myself for feeling that I abandoned my old grandma at her last hour. I cannot yet forgive myself either. But I read these lines and find some solace:
“You can shed tears that she is gone, or you can smile because she has lived. You can close your eyes and pray that she’ll come back, or you can open your eyes and see all she’s left. Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her, or you can be full of the love you shared. You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday, or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday. You can remember her only that she is gone, or you can cherish her memory and let it live on. You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back. Or you can do what she’d want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.”