Sunday, February 13, 2011

Saying Good-Bye.....

“Can I wake them up?” , I ask Mami. She nods her assent.

I step into the room that Bhalo Dadu and Amma now occupy. They are sound asleep. I know I have to wake them up – because I have to say Goodbye. Probably for the last time.

I touch Bhalo Dadu’s arm, and shake him gently. “Dadu,” I say, in a voice that is loud enough for him to hear. He opens his eyes.

 “Dadu, I’m leaving,” I say. He tries to sit up as promptly as his ninety-four year old body can allow. He holds my hand, draws me into a hug, and kisses me. I kiss him back, once on each cheek, then hug him again. “I will be upset for a while, now that you are leaving,” he says. I do not know how to respond.

Then I call out to Amma, once, twice, then stop myself, thinking I should let her sleep peacefully. I know she is deteriorating, bit-by-bit. I walk over to her side of the bed, kiss her lightly on the cheek, and touch her head affectionately. Her grey-white hair has thinned, so much so that I can see her fair scalp glistening beneath. I take one last look at her sleeping form – her rani-pink bindi, the prominent streak of sindoor, her tiny little eyes, her swollen cheeks, which can fool people into thinking that she is still in good health, her shankha-paula, and her brown checkered housecoat. I hold her in sight for a moment too long, and then pull myself away forcibly.

Dadu attempts to get up so that he can see me off to the car. I ask him not to take the trouble. With all the obstinacy that he can still muster, he makes for the door anyway. I hold him around the waist, so he doesn’t fall. His tall frame, surprisingly erect even at that age, steps slowly towards the verandah.

I hug him one last time. I do not know what to say. Part of me wants to ask him to come to Bombay sometime, but reality strikes as harshly as it always does. I know that will never be possible.

And somewhere, I realise that even he is searching for the right words.

“Bhalo theko,” I say. I think that is all I can manage - asking him to keep well - as my last words. And I touch his feet, and step out of the gate.

From the glass window inside the car, I see Bhalo Dadu waving out to me. I wave back, but I’m not sure his line of vision goes that far. Suddenly, I realize that I want to tell him a lot of things, but I don’t know what. What do you say to a person, who can go any day? Or when you look at a couple, an eighty-six year old wife and her ninety-four year old husband, when you realize that they still have a marriage that has lasted almost sixty-eight years, when you see the shankha-paula and the sindoor still adorning the wife, can you really ask God for more? How much more life and health can you wish them, when He has already been so generous?  

Mama starts the car. I suddenly think I’ll burst out crying, but I don’t. I look at Dadu for the last time; he is still waving.

Slowly, the car begins to move. I hear the gravel crackling beneath the tyres. And in a flash, we are out of sight.