“Paattisaami”

It’s been a week since she passed. A week where I woke up every morning, brushed, showered, got my morning coffee, checked my emails and got to work. At 11, I’d break to make lunch that I ate to different series on Netflix. I got a second coffee at 4 and dinner at 8.

My life went on.

It’s almost like it’s all normal. Like I’m just this kid in a foreign country, working my butt off in the middle of a pandemic and my family is intact where I last saw them but that’s not the truth. Not even fucking close and that reality is scaring me.

I don’t know what it is about it all. Is it that when I go to Chennai the next time, I won’t have to ask, “When do we go see her?”

Is it that I will never have another moment where she holds my face and kisses my cheek again?

Is it that I last saw her in a hospital bed, mildly hallucinating? Having to deal with the fact that I didn’t get to hold her hand and say, “Thank you for the best parts of my childhood. I have loved every minute of being your granddaughter.”

Is it that I will never talk about her in the present tense again?

Or the mere fact that my grandmother – the woman that held my hand on our way to markets as a toddler, bought me puzzles and games that made me smarter and faster, believed in me as if there was absolutely nobody on this planet that could be any better – is now dead and I wasn’t there?

Instead, as she breathed her last, I was texting friends, smiling and excited about a new step in my life. I cut my sister’s call when she tried to tell me because I was too busy staring at a dog. I found out via text.

I took a deep breath and called my mom. “Okay. Okay. Keep me posted.” It hadn’t passed through me. I was surrounded by flatmates, it couldn’t pass through me. I walked into my room and the door shut. I can’t remember the last time I felt as broken and helpless as I did in that moment. I couldn’t tell anyone because I have a problem letting people see me that weak. So, when my dad called to check on me, I wiped my tears and put on a smile. “I’m fine. Are you okay? Okay. Yeah, I”ll go to bed now.” That was 9pm.

I watched the clock turn to 3.10 in the morning. I woke up at 5. That was last Friday.

Here I am in this new world. Locked indoors, just a girl and her computer. I have no grandparents. I’ll be bold enough to say I was my grandmother’s favourite. Maybe not, but I’ll keep what I believe and the world will let me.

She was a bold woman. She spoke English so poignantly, it surprised people. She was independent for as long as she was able and it killed her when she couldn’t be anymore. You don’t know her. You don’t know how much she loved and cared. How she stood up for me when nobody else would. How she saw a side of me that often I didn’t even see.

She was wise and poised. She was traditional without being conservative. Words can’t ever explain who she was to me.

I feel her absence. I didn’t talk to her everyday. But the idea that I won’t ever talk to her again gets to me everyday. I won’t see her laugh at my stupid jokes or shake her head at my crazy stories. I won’t see her anymore.

But I know my life will go on. I’ll get used to the new reality. I’ll get used to trips where I don’t visit her. I’ll get used to living with only memories of her. Slowly, she’ll belong more to my past than to my present. More in my head than in person. Until every year, she becomes a day on my calendar. A smile when I cut mangoes for my kids for the first time like she used to. A smell that seems familiar when walking past her favourite products at a grocery store. A joke that only we’ll know. And my life… will go on.

But on a bad day, as I find myself in a corner not feeling all that good, her voice will speak in the back of my head, “You’re a diamond in the rough. They don’t know how to make you shine.”

And so she will remain a part of everything I will ever become. For as long as I live.

I will always be “paattisaami” ❤

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