“Narayani, don’t shout at Arjun, ok! Don’t spank him, even if he annoys you, ok! Let him be free, ok! Let him do what he wants, ok! Don’t clip his wings of creativity with ‘Dont do this! Dont do that’! Let him fly, high.” These words are going to stick with me for a long time. Because, they now belong to a soul that has passed on, peacefully and, with happiness.
The above telephonic conversation happened in the first week of June. My maternal uncle, Lakshman Mama had visited us briefly in May when, we had been to Chennai. It felt wonderful to see the two sisters (My mum and Paru chitti) and their big elder brother under one roof, fighting like children, pulling each other’s legs and, gossiping for hours! I do not have siblings. But I did have the privilege of watching and enjoying sibling love in a yester generation. And, the highlight of this visit was the beautiful bond that formed between my son -Arjun and, my mama. Despite Arjun being selectively social, he bonded with him as if they were long lost buddies! Inseparable from the start, both were into all kinds of mischief, be it cluttering the house or weaving ridiculously surreal stories, be it climbing up and down the stairs almost a fifty times in a day or, be it loitering around in the terrace like twin byomkesh bakshis! The duo has done all. Their agenda on terrace was simple: one, call the crow so that it can eat the paruppu sadam and two, collect the ‘kasappa kais’ meaning bitter fruits (the neem fruits) for the crows and, for us! After all, simple joys of life are hidden in the most child like activities.
And then, on 22nd August, we received a call about him. He had felt unwell in the afternoon and soon collapsed and, went into a coma. Doctors diagnosed him with a massive brain hemorrhage. And, after a night of shuttling between two worlds, my beloved Lakshman Mama decided to make his last move. He passed away peacefully in his sleep.
Grief is a contorted emotion. One cannot quite figure out the way it works! And, this was the second time in my life, I saw my mother sobbing silently and uncontrollably in the kitchen. The first time was, the time of my granny – Kalyani Paati’s demise in the year ’99. Somehow, this time the grief returned with more force and, created a vacuum that no one can ever fill! And then, it was not just her. My chitti was broken too as she mentioned with a heavy heart, “From four, we are three now”. (Yeah, I have one more uncle who lives abroad)
Every memory we have of him in the years gone by and, especially from the one week he spent with us this year, is filled with his warm smiles and twinkling eyes, The hard part is, it has left a stabbing reminder behind – “Next time, when I visit South, he won’t be there to greet me warmly. He won’t be there to guide me in my pet subject of spirituality. He won’t be there to narrate ‘Kal thirudan, Arrai thirudan, mukkal thirudan, muzhu thirudan’ story to Arjun. He won’t be there to fight with Parvathi chitti (the youngest cub in the family likes to fight with her brother just for fun!). He won’t be there to teach me the tricks in Chess and Cards. He won’t be there to calm me down when I get into arguments with Mum and Chitti. yes, He won’t be there any more.”
Even when my paati passed away in ’99, Lakshman Mama was the one who made sure that the home was not swallowed by grief. He taught me trigonometry in spare time and, at the same made sure that children were not exposed to grief up front. In fact, he even took blame for a ridiculously stupid act of mine and, all these years I had buried the incident deep in my head. I had sprayed the walls of the bathroom with my chittapa’s shaving foam and, chitappa was furious when he was met with the graffiti on the wall, as soon as he entered the bathroom groggy eyed in the morning! Mama looked at my cat face and, mentioned subtly that he had tried to use it but it just sprayed everywhere. No one believed him though. However today, I guess I have to look up and, smile at him and thank him. I am not sure if he must have ever remembered this, but I am sure, he must be smiling now if he ever happens to read my post here from above. (Do angels facebook? Who knows, they might!) 🙂
On 23rd August, we lost a chess master, a magician with cards (every trick of his was a revelation!), an aspiring Vedic scholar, a Maths tutor who taught children in his neighborhood for free and, importantly a good soul who helped people even when he was not in a position to help himself. During the last meet, I was mesmerized by the way he explained complicated procedures of our Indian culture in a simple lucid manner. And, there was a conspicuous twinkle in his eyes when he delved into the subject of Vedas. He explained how science, spirituality and religion are like the sides of a triangle and that, they are entwined in a magical way. He also got me a book on Bhagwatam, and asked me to read out stories to Arjun everyday. Sensing my interest in spirituality, he had promised to teach me a lot on the subject when we would meet next time. Sadly, the next time will never come now.
My maami who has handled her irrevocable loss with grace and elan mentioned how he reminisced the happy moments he spent with Arjun in that one week. We smiled and cried at the same time.
However, when I heard about his demise, there were two strong emotions I felt. One, a void that shall remain a void in my life and, second, a strange sense of peace that he did not suffer at all in his last hours as a mortal. But, the grief of having lost a loved one stays as it engulfs us in a dense cloak of vacuum every time, his dancing eyes marquee in front of us, as relished memories. Every time I look at the chess board or, a deck of playing cards or, at the countless puzzles and riders in the newspapers, it reminds me of the bitter reality – He is not physically present with us anymore.
Mama, you lived a blessed life. You have inspired everyone you met. And, as you watch from the heavens above, you would know how many people have shed and are shedding tears on your untimely unexpected exit from the mortals’ world. You are remembered as an genius with the kindest heart that provided comfort to everyone you met. You are remembered with love, respect and pride. But more importantly, you are missed by each one of us. But maybe, this was God’s design. I am proud to be your niece and, I know you are happy, peaceful and content wherever you are now. And from now on, you will watch over us. I know.
P.S: This is a pic from 2012 when a one year old Arjun met his mama tatha – my Lakshman Mama for the first time.