Gradually the threads dissolve, the strings come undone. We become footnotes in someone else’s life, remembered fondly in the middle of drying dishes on a warm Wednesday night. In the end, this is all we’re reduced to, this is what we’re left with.
Glib laughter, and a very witty thing she once said. A song at the club that you used to dance to. A secret habit of wolfing down cocktail olives without ever ordering martinis. An old tee shirt and a mini collection of her scrunchies, accumulating in your car.
A few things that last longer than the relationship was meant to.
Tomorrow she starts college. My little girl has grown up so fast, I can’t believe it. Was it 17 years ago that my parents told me, I was going to have a tiny playmate soon? When I first saw her, she looked like a porcelain doll. So white and fair in my sunburned, coffee colored hands. And so very tiny, I was scared she’ll just float away.
It feels like yesterday when she started kindergarten. She agreed to get into the van, because I was on it too. When we stopped at her school, she insisted I accompany her to the class. One day she got hurt and was sitting in the class after school. The teacher asked me to come and get her. All big – sisterly I strode in and picked up her bag and water bottle. “Big girls don’t cry”, I said and my angel stopped immediately.
I remember all this now, some fifteen years later. She’s all grown up and is done with school. No more uniforms and cycle tests. Our baby of the house is suddenly a big girl! And I feel, I should have so much to say.
My mum asked me today, “Do you remember your first day in college?”. Yup, I do. The 8th of August 2001. I walked in and said Hi to D, and sat next to M. The three of inseparable for the next 4 years. The best friends I’ve made in life, I made in the first 10 minutes of college.
The good is rightly thought to be that at which all things aim. That was Aristotle by the way, not me. But if I asked you what you were aiming at, what would you say? Happiness? Identity?
What defines happiness?
What defines you?
Or are they answers to the same question?
All of the above, as I found myself saying earlier today, are perfectly true and completely irrelevant..
I’ve seen many people lose hope because they didn’t get what they want. But nothing compares to the bitter disillusionment of a person who got exactly what they wanted, and then didn’t know what to do with it.
Are we searching for answers without knowing the question?
Then, she was two years old. You were 26. Travelling abroad, alone for the first time. Her father had a thousand instructions, “Keep your eyes on the bags – Bombay airport is dangerous.. Hold on to her, she’s a kid – she’ll just wander off with a stranger..”
Knowing him, I’m sure he sent you a drawing of Sahar Airport in a blue colored aerogramme. Drawn to scale in blue ink.
You’d tell her, “.. must hold on to mummy’s mundhani and not let go.. ok?.. Ever!” She’d bob her head vigorously, wide eyed with excitement. She was bustling about the house on the last few days. Running upstairs and downstairs while you were trying to get the packing done. She would tell Thatha that she was going to a new city where the roads were lined with Gems and all cars were Toyotas. And she would bring back one for each relative who came to see you off.
She held onto your pallu tightly throughout the trip. At the noisy airport where you couldn’t find a trolley for the bags, when you were checking in, at the security check when she saw the metal detector for the first time. All the way till baggage claim at Seeb International when she saw her father waiting outside. She ran to him with a shriek. Customs officials and Immigration counters be damned.
Today, she insists you carry a cellphone and calls three times before you board the flight. “Have you taken your tickets? Keep the boarding pass safe okay? Shall I get you some coffee? A sandwich?”. She asks you to message as soon as you land in Bombay, and again when you get home. “Don’t carry the bags okay Ma, just ask someone standing nearby to get it off the conveyer belt for you..”
She sounds exactly like her father, you think to yourself..
For my mom, For an awesome weekend and For 22 years
*Mundhani(aka Pallu) : the part of the saree draped over the shoulder
*Thatha : grandfather