Wednesday, July 27, 2005


I've been musing about last weekend and why it was such an emotional maelstrom. The call came at 6 something in the am, a mere 3 hours after I had gone to bed after glutting myself on 6 back-to-back episodes of Rumpole of the Bailey. It was my father, calling to inform me that pati had passed away.

If all of us are truly honest with ourselves, it must be admitted that we have all been sort of waiting for this to happen for a while now. There have been increasing rifts in the lute of our little family circle arising from the strain of taking care of pati. Noone was willing to move back to Madras to look over a problematic old lady for whom they felt only a tepid affection. Emails and phone calls of an increasingly nasty tone flew back and forth across the globe as everyone accused everyone else of either negligence or interference.

So when the news of pati's death finally came, why was it so painful? I felt like such a hypocrite for feeling any kind of grief. I can't deny that it was only a sense of filial duty and TamBrahm guilt that pushed me to go see her for a couple of hours once every fortnight or so. Yet I can't quite assimilate the thought that I will never see her again, this person who has been such a constant in my life. Despite all the wonderful Sify memories, my strongest associations of India and Madras will always be 258 Lloyds Road, and pati sitting on a bench in the hall ( surely that room with its 1.5 chairs and dusty, dusty cabinets cannot be described as a living room?)

When I think of pati, I think my primary emption is guilt. That I wasn't a better granddaughter, that I didn't love her more, that I didn't go and spend more time with her during the year that I lived in Madras. What must it have been like, living the life that she did? Living out the last few years of her life confined to three rooms because she wasn't able to walk out beyond them, outliving her daughter and the son she loved best, unable to eat the foods she loved because her body was failing her, getting to see the occasional family member only once every few months, and nothing but a few shrill Tamil programmes on TV to keep her sane.

And then I wonder whether my life now isn't in some way a reflection of hers?

I associate her with all the most personal, most painful facets of me that I need to keep hidden from the world. My closest family has always compared me with her. And even though I have always denied these similarities, I know that of all her children and grandchildren, I am the one who resembles her the most, in physique and temperament. And I can't help but wonder whether, in my old age, I will grow into the same sort of person she was.

Which is why as I now grieve for her, I wish I had taken the time to understand her better. I wish I had spent more time with her, to ease her loneliness. I wish I had been less impatient of the times when we sat togther for an hour with nothing but banalities to say to each other. I wish she could have known how much I identified with her. And I hope and hope that after these last few agonizing years, her soul has finally found peace.


At 6:29 PM , Blogger suitablegirl said...

don't be so hard on yourself. she has found peace and she'd want that for you, as well.

your words ring so true to me. i wish i could give you a hug. beautiful entry.

At 7:54 PM , Blogger InAustin said...

Touching post Aditi. I know what you mean about guilt. I promised my aling grandpa I'd call and have not done so in years. He is the one that likes books and classical music and the one who is most adamant that I stick it out and do my PhD. He is inward and withdrawn and though he is venerated by one and all, he doesn't really warm up to anyone....I'll have to buy that phonecard and call him up now.


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