Thursday, January 17, 2013

passings

Winters are not easy on elderly. Bhabhi, one of my grand aunts, passed away recently. Last month, thanks to a chance visit to Jammu, I met her for the last time. It was obvious she was in much pain. Cancer isn't easy on body. And extreme diabetes, blood pressure, don't  make it any easier either. You live on a diet of medicines, drips and biscuits. You live on warmth of relations. That helps till a point. Till it all again comes down to a diet of medicines, drips and biscuits.

There is no 'touch-feet-of-elders' among Kashmiris. We hug and kiss. As I hugged her that day, even in pain, she kissed me and repeated our old joke. In my ears she said, 'I stole you from your room while your were sleeping. Remember!'

I remember.

I once passed into sleep. When I woke up, I realized I hadn't woken up in my room, the naya Kamra, the new room. I hadn't woken up to the familiar sight of a Philips B&W TV, instead a smiling curly haired Baba in Saffron robes was showing me white of  his one palm from a photograph sitting cozy inside a cabinet of an almirah. But this too was a familiar sight.  I was looking at the Gods Cabinet of Bhabhi.  She was sitting in front of it, praying, lighting agarbattis, diyas, arranging and re-arranging marigold and rose petals around more than a dozen photo-frames of various gods. A silvery bracelet studded with beautiful blue and green stones jingling on her left wrist. 'It is for pressure,' she would always say when I would often quiz her about that strange piece of jewellery. A few years later, her son, my uncle, also got one. 'It is for pressure,' he says. As I looked at that bracelet, I knew I had woken up in Bhabhi's room which was right across our naya Kamra. 

Still in a daze, I crawled my way to her and asked 'How did I get here? Did I sleep here last night?' She looked away from her gods and staring at my face, reading the confusion which must have been well writ on it, she replied with a straight face, 'No. I stole you from your room while your were sleeping. At night, after you went to sleep in your room, I sneaked in and quietly picked you up and brought you here.'

'Is that possible? If that is possible, any body can walk in and steal me at night. Am I safe? How could they let this happen!' These troubling thoughts crept into mind. I got up with a start and ran out of the room to find my grandmother and ask her if it is true and if yes how could she let this happen. As I ran out of that room, and out of the door, the sullen darkness of a Kashmiri living room suddenly gave way to the brightness of the  glorious Kashmiri summer sun. In an instant my mind cleared. I understood the joke. I went back into her room and screamed at her 'You are quite a thief Bhabhi!' We laughed for sometime. Then she went back to her pooja as I sat next to her, watching in silence.

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Summer 2008.

The spot where once stood Bhabhi's room. It is now a garden lawn or a saw mill. Just across it, my naya Kamra, my sleeping roomalthough now looking worn out, with the smoothness of its outer walls all gone. It is the only old structure that survived.

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