Memories that fail to fade away
N J Ravi Chander,
It is oft-quoted that those whom the Gods’ love die young. The cruel hands of death snatched away my maternal grandmother, Logambal, when she was barely 43 – not the age to die. Memories of grandma’s last days confined to her cot with an oxygen cylinder beside her are still vivid. A medicine box and a list of medicines she needed to take every day also sat on a table near the bed.
Amma, as we fondly called her, loved to dress me in a frock -olive green was her pet colour – and being the eldest grandchild, I was the apple of her eye. Grandma would always pamper me with goodies when I visited her and buy me toys and woollen clothes during festive seasons. She even forced grandpa to gift me a precious piggy bank and inculcate in me the savings habit.
Though it was apparent that grandma was sinking, the family never stopped believing in god’s miracle or walk the extra mile to make her get well. They made fervent prayers to the Almighty and went temple hopping, venerating the gods and offering special pujas. The kin even promised the Lord of the seven hills, Tirupathi Balaji, to make an offering of this writer’s tonsured hair in gratification if she recovered. In a last-ditch attempt, they also summoned a sorcerer to drive away evil spirits that may play havoc with her life, but these efforts came to nought.
I was only seven when her end came. It was the evening of July 6, 1966, when dad broke the sad news – “The gods have taken away grandma to her heavenly abode”. Death was something strange to my siblings and me back then, not having experienced someone departs this life earlier.
As we trooped into the maternal grandparents house, there was a mournful air all-around and the sight of wailing relatives. Grandma lay on the cot with closed eyes and a serene face, and I wondered whether she was in a deep slumber. The rituals – bathing the body with turmeric paste, draping it in grandma’s favourite saree, ornaments removal, placing the body in a coffin, circling the hearse van with lighted incense sticks and culminating with the sacrifice of a black hen and the body lowered into the grave – left me nonplussed. Talk about going to heaven!
But there was consolation for me when soon after her death, grandma began appearing in my dreams at regular intervals; making me wonder whether she was still beside me. I would suddenly stir and wake up in the middle of the night, glad at grandma’s arrival, only to realise that it was a dream. Whenever this happened, it was like a balm and helped calm frayed nerves. I delighted in sharing the experience with my mother, Padmavathi, who would then stroke my head and console me.
Whenever I cycled to grandma’s last resting place in the Kalpalli cemetery in the Bengaluru cantonment – other dead relatives also lie entombed here – the good old memories would come rushing back. The passing away of my maternal grandfather, M Dharmalingam, my beloved parents, M N Jayaraman and Padmavathi, and niece, J P Nikitha, also saddened me deeply. These irreparable losses made me think a part of my universe was missing, and the scars took a long time to heal.
(The writer is a former Banker who has taken up writing as a pastime.He is a regular contributor to Kashmir Vision)