I am sitting in room no.1435 on the 6th floor of Renai Hospital with Periyamma ( mother’s elder sister). Periyappa is on the 3rd floor, an oxygen mask on his face, various colored tubes structured to his body, surrounded with the beeps of various life saving machines in the intensive care unit (ICU). She has been staring out through the open window on the opposite wall for a long time now. We both sit in silence. Not a word is uttered.
I had visited him in the morning, he didn’t respond at first when I called out , yet I persevered by almost shouting in his ears and he opened his eyes but the stare dint focus on me, it kept drifting. I realized that his eyes had become pale – almost grey or white and his pupils were dilated. I don’t know if he recognized me for he almost immediately closed his eyes again. I held his hand and they were swollen and cold.
I had tried my best to be brave but failed miserably as I felt the tightness in my throat and a wrenching pain in my heart and tears had sprung out silently at first and then the long sniffs which had turned itself into a shuddered affair. It felt surreal when I walked outside. The sun was shining, phones were ringing, people were busy. it was difficult to digest that it was just our lives that was in grief.
As silence engulfed us, the memories evolved. I remembered my walks to the supermarket or bakery with him as a small child, hopping on the road clinging to his hand, the happiness I got from the chilled gold spots and big biscuit packets he brought me, or the first few trips I had for a haircut in the local barber shop (which was my beauty parlour till age 5) where both of us got identical haircuts every month(Now I think of it, almost everyone in W/Island had the same cut), how me and my friend experimented with his shaving set to get a clean face!, the number of times he helped me to bunk classes saying I was sick, how he always had crisp vadas and chutney or banana fritters from Maruti hotel waiting for me when I came back from school everyday, his first car -the beaten up fiat padmini which got us into so much mess right from mob hurling to almost falling into the sea while he took a reverse too fast! Not to mention the 4 day tour to Mookambika temple in it which prolonged to almost 8 days because we had to stop each day in a workshop to get it repaired! But he loved it and kept repairing it until one day Periyama actually offered to sell it to he local akri (scrap dealer)!
He was the one who took me shopping and was my fashion commenter (no wonder I always looked like from another century :D), he was indeed my travel guru ( there is hardly any place (mostly temples and religious places) we have not covered, even an unforgettable bus journey from Mumbai to Kochi – thanks to train tickets not getting confirmed -ouch my back!). Anything I wanted I always turned to him, he was my hero and I knew he would never let me down. Periyamma used to say it was he who bought me home wrapped in a woolen blanket when I was 6 months old when my grandfather died. And from then he was not just my uncle but my grandfather, father, everything into one.
The sky has become very cloudy, dark and grey thunder clouds loomed up above and in the distance there was lightning hitting near the stadium. Periyamma was still looking into eternity without a word after seeing him, she had not cried when he didn’t respond to her voice or open his eyes. We had come back to the room, she in her wheel chair. The others stayed back in the waiting lounge in front of the ICU.
I heard her sighing and gently took her hands in mine.
“But you know, we have never even quarreled or even had a tiff in all the years we were married. We did have a very happy life. Just like in stories”. She said and smiled as if living in those memories of the bygone years. I feel the room blurring with the brimmed up tears in my eyes. I pray that he gets well soon.