I have always hated February.
My grandfather died on 24th February 1967. Of course, I did not exist then. I never met my grandfather. But growing up, I heard my Dadi say how she hates this month and thinks it is jinxed. Dadi never travelled in February. She did not like any of us travelling in February.
When I was younger, I thought it was just something Dadi said. But as I grew older, I always felt that February was a rough, unlucky month. It was not necessarily that something bad happened to me in February. Sometimes it was bad choices I made. But either way, something unpleasant happened during this month that I would remember… I waited for this month to get over. Four years ago, my uncle passed away in February. I started believing that this month was truly awful . When Dadi passed away this year on February 1st, there was nothing left for me to confirm my doubts.
On 24th February ever year, I watched Dadi pray silently staring at my grandfather’s garlanded photo frame. She would look sad and thoughtful. She would then tell the story of the day grandfather died. The same story each year. How it was so sudden. How eerie it was that he told her just moments before he died that she should get back to studies just in case the need arises someday. How everything happened so quickly. How shocked it left her. How she thought she should die but looking at her four children she thought otherwise. She would then count the number of years since his death that she survived, a sense of guilt in her voice. She counted the years on her fingers… 39…42…..51..
Such a major chunk of your life without your spouse…
Sometimes my father would try to comfort her by saying that she had a happy marriage even though it was not a long one. I don’t know if this comforted her. In a strange way, I am feeling some relief that tomorrow she does not have to go through the pain of staring at Dadaji’s photograph and counting years on her fingers. In the last few months of her life, Dadi did not remember anything so probably she would not have remembered the date anyway. The end is a weird place to be in. It is confusing, ugly and messy. Does God deliberately make the end so bad, so that we feel better that it is over?
Since the day of Dadi’s death till date, I hoped for a dream or a sign from her. Anything.
Nothing happened. When my Nani had died, I had not seen her. I dream about her still although it has been 17 years. In my dreams she is young, healthy and cheerful (younger than what she was when I had seen her last). She is never dead in my dreams. In fact, I have the same dream again and again where I am wondering why I have not met Nani in so many years and that I should meet her soon. I was expecting that Dadi would also come in my dreams but she did not. This is not shocking because Dadi did not believe in after life. Every day, I just wake up, take a moment to realize that Dadi is gone, and that is it. No dream. No sign. Nothing. It is another cruel reminder that it is just what it is. No more. Practical. Scientific.
Comfort came when I was least expecting it. My sister-in-law called to tell me that she had a dream that Dadi got lost and she and I were searching for her. After some sci fi twist (that made me smile), we finally found her. We appointed a bodyguard for her and we left her safe and happy. I took it as a sign that Dadi was okay somewhere. It was also nice to hear that someone was thinking of Dadi.. I felt so much better after speaking to my sister-in-law.
I felt that maybe since I saw the whole thing with Dadi, it registered in my mind, it became too real and therefore there were no dreams? I continue to feel very, very sad that I will never see her again. I find it difficult to share this with anyone because I am at that age where a lot of people I know have lost their parent(s). How can I talk to them about how lonely I am feeling since Dadi died when I know that Dadi lived longer than a lot of people did? The only thing I can do is just remind myself that this is the only truth of life. It is strange that the only consolation for death is death itself. Everybody has to die one day! Though this consolation is more depressing that comforting…
Today on my Dadaji’s death anniversary, I am thinking more of Dadi and Dadaji together, hoping they would be together. I had been reading books about death, grief and after life even before Dadi had died for some strange reason. I am continuing to do so. In the book I am currently reading, the author’s husband died young after an illness. She had agreed to remove life support once she was told that it was the only thing that kept him breathing. The author said that she put on make-up and dressed very well that day. She said that she wanted to look good because her husband was dying young and by the time she would meet him she would be old and wrinkly and he would still be young and handsome. At the least, he should take the memory of her being young and beautiful with him.
This part made me think about Dadi and how she died 54 years after her husband!! I was thinking how Dadi would be so conscious of how she would look so old compared to Dadaji! (She has always spoken about how he was the better looking of the two).
Thinking about Dadi and Dadaji’s short time together, I think about all the things people tell married couples. It is always a lot of advice. Couples are typecast. Some are the ‘responsible’ types. The ones who seem to have got it together. Some are termed immature as they fight a lot. Couples who don’t have children are not even considered as precious. They are assumed to be incomplete, irresponsible, self-centered and ‘something wrong’. Nobody tells married couples they are lucky to have someone. Modern couples don’t even need death to to do them apart. Their own ego is enough.
Dadi only wished she got more time with her husband. She would not have asked for anything else. Time. The only luxury is time. Yet, we live our lives running after every other luxury. In the end… nothing remains. We lose everything while we are still alive… We just don’t realize it…
Rest in peace, Dadaji. I hope you were able to recognize a very, very old Dadi!
Ending with a song that has been going on in my mind in a loop since the pandemic started (and never ended).
Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaye to kya hai…Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaye to kya hai..