Updated: Mar 8, 2022
I remember my last time with her vividly.
''Kya hua, ma?'' I asked with a heavily beating heart.
''Kuch nahi beta, theek hain..'' she barely finished the sentence before gasping for air.
She did not look like her usual self. Dressed in a white cotton saree, pallu on her head- she was leaning on my mother and gasping for half a breath. She was pale but still strong. Even in the last moments of her life she stayed the strongest person in the room.
My eyes reached back to my mother- Asha. She is the younger daughter of my grandmother. In that moment mom looked like ma, a younger version. Both scared, both gasping for breaths (one because of pnuemonia, one out of shock). My mom was doing her best to stay calm, it could not have been easy to hold your dying mother in your arms, crying for help.
Earlier that morning I visited ma with my rosy didi, we wanted to show ma the pictures from our bhaiya's wedding that happened 2 days ago. Ma was admitted to the hospital 3 days before the wedding when a simple cold turned into bronchitis, finally taking the form of a life threatning pnuemonia. She went through each picture cautiously, asking for the name of people she did not know from the function, commenting on rituals, gasping for air between words.
We spent 3 hours talking to her, telling her stories, laughing with her- urging her to sleep. But she refused. And when Ma says she won't, you can't make her. She sat straight on the hospital bed. White bedsheet and her white saree forming a sage like aura around her. In those moments I did not know this would be our last laugh together. We closed the laptop finally and left for home, I needed to get spectacles made immeditaley.
Back home everyone asked about Ma, we had to visit her in shifts- everyone could not leave the wedding house at once. I dropped my laptop at home and left for the eye doctor's clinic. My dad accompanied me, in his world you can't buy a spectacle without his inspection. It was cold that day and the super fast autorickshaw with open sides made me shiver to the bones. 500ms before our destination mom called on dad's phone. I don't know what she said but dad stopped the auto rickshaw, stood silent for a minute and decided to take the same rickshaw to the hospital. ''Ma is not well'' is all that he told me.
At the gate of the hospital we saw my mausa ji and Amit bhaiya- ma's first grandchild. They were waiting for my mama to discuss the situation. I ran upstairs and rushed to her room- I have always been a super anxious person and hospitals scare me (you do the math). Every step was getting heavier. When I reached the room I saw my favourite woman in the world fighting for life.
Soon after ma told me she is ok she started losing strength. She did not speak anymore. Within seconds the small room filled with family, doctors, nurses. But ma was looking for someone in particular. Her eyes brightned as soon as Amit Bhaiya entered, dressed in pink tshirt and red eyes. Ma had seen her first grandchild, she was ok to go.
Ma was shifted to the ICU on life support. Next day I had my train to Delhi with my sister and cousins. I decided to stay, not knowing what will happen with Ma. At 4am my mother came back home rushing to the kitchen and apologising- Sorry beta, I did not make you food for the journey. I angrily responded- I am not going until she gets better.
''Oh no, she is all better. She will be off the ventilator in a couple days.'' Mom was a good liar.
We left with a heavy heart, few hours into the journey my brother called and informed us- ''she will not make it, everyone lied to you so that you could go before anything happens''.
It was my family's way of showing love- shielding us from grief, sending us far away from the last riots. A day later ma's body was taken off ventialtor- her soul had already departed that day in the hospital room.
It has been 7 years since she left, I have not cried. My eyes fill up as I write this piece, I am not sure why I am writing at all. Probably that is the only way I know to truly feel and experience. Maybe I will cry today and end this 7 year long resistance- maybe I will let grief take over anger.
Ma must be laughing at my childish stubborness, I got it from her. All the strength, courage and belief I definitely got from her- passed down the family tree mixed with anxiety.
Do I miss her? No, I remember her. She is sitting on her chair on the verandah looking outside waiting for passerbys, she is dressed in her trademark white saree, this one has tiny blue flowers, she smiles in my direction and I am with her.