I have just finished reading Arundhati Roy’s ‘The God of small things.’ It makes me want to write and so I do. It was only this morning I was telling my friend who pens beautiful articles that I have been such a lazy bum to not have written anything at all for some time now.. Well, Shruthy, here I go.. Now then readers, there is a fair bit of warning. All characters to be written about in this article are not fictional. There is every possible resemblance of them to those around you too.
It was Mr.D’s funeral yesterday. I wanted to go but couldn’t as I was tied up with my lab and work. My neighbour had gone for the service in the afternoon and I had told her that I would remember him in my prayers. I have known Mr.D for the last couple of years. We have been active gardeners in our community garden and shared a few smiles and conversations over planting and harvests and other times his firm grip while giving peace on our Sunday worship services. His was a picture that would stay now in my memory as man who had a warm ‘golden’ smile at all times and to all. He was always there and found cheerful; ask anyone who knew him, and it was no wonder his news of death came as a shock to all of us. He was found dead in his house and only after police forced in to his property. That too after 2 days. He died in his sleep. Peaceful yet lonely. None of us still can believe he is gone and I mourn his death.
I was at the cash point talking over the phone in Malayalam in Sainsbury’s supermarket that when I turned around I could see a smile from the person next in line. She had a sisters’ habit on and being a convent bred till high school, it took me no time to realise that we were from the same part of the continent, probably same congregation of sisters that made my fond memories of school days and she wonderfully understood all that I was telling the caller. Yikes! I waited until she finished and I greeted “Easho Mishihaaykku Stutiyayirikkatte!” She wished me the same and that paved me the way for a beautiful friendship I could have to rekindle my bond with my school days and the sisters I grew up with. My happiness knew no bounds as I was warmly accepted into their circle and I went to their lovely home and shrine where I was always cared for my emotional healing, shared stories and testimonies and home food! Sister Suma was one among them and the wittiest of them all. She too had her own perspective on everything, may it be faith, music or even cinema!
It was three halloweens ago. I went there for the end of rosary month prayer and was told that Sr. Suma was not feeling well and was bedridden. I went upstairs to find a very much tired, a lady nearly half the size of the person I had seen a few months before. She took my hands into hers and with tears glistening smile she only asked me to pray to God to spare her from pain. Rest she could handle, even the monster named Cancer. I joined the sisters for the prayers, ate a quiet meal and left with a promise to keep.
I couldn’t face another sadness and I never visited them for a long time. Partly because of fear of facing the truth and the other thinking why such things happened to good people all the time? I was not ready for both and so I never went that way until this year’s Halloween. In my mind, I was kind of prepared. Still a part of me wanted to hope against hope. What if? A new face greeted me at the convent and I asked for the sisters details. Even the name had slipped away from my memory. I hated to phrase the question “There was someone who was unwell, a couple of years ago..?” Then they told me. I heard it. She died a year later I had seen her and her funeral was held in India. I found her photo hanging on the wall. With the sister’s permission I took a snap, had a prayer and came home. They assured me that they would let other friends of mine know I had come. I had seen Sister Suma suffer. I wanted her to be free of suffering. I now know she is at rest. Resting in peace. Somewhere in my mind I find solace mourning her death.
This Summer when I was in Cotswolds on a bright summer day, waiting for my bus to return home after a day of wandering, I was sitting by a wooden bench infront of the town’s library. There was around ten minutes until the bus came to fetch us. Two elderly ladies came to the bus stop and started remarking about the time, and from their conversation, it was quite clear that they were regulars for they even knew the bus driver’s name! I smiled to them and they smiled in return. That was just the beginning. I offered them my seat and they thanked me and in return they told me their whole life story. Part of which stayed with me was about their Mum. They told me that their Mum died at the age of 96 just couple of months ago. I had little time to marvel at the age of her death as the way she died left me with no words. The lady whom her daughters adored, had always been an active kind. She wanted to go out come rain or sun shine and she loved her brollies. One for each type of rains! It was a sunday lunch and at the time she was living with the younger daughter. After the meal, she looked at her daughter and just said, “Oh, I am now tired. I think I have had enough.” And that’s it. She breathed heavily onto the daughter’s shoulder and died..What a way to die! Both the sisters nod in agreement saying “Oh she knew!” The bus came and when the stop came for the sisters to depart, they thanked me again for sparing the seat and went on their ways.
For those who have read “The God of small things” would know that it is a heart breaking tale told in a beautiful way. It links life and death in its own way. I have never imagined myself as a person that I would mourn for some stranger, a friend and that too in a foreign land. But the truth is I did, and I do. Its true when they say, everything in life teaches you something. Years on, this would be a marred thread of memory, but I would behold the mystery of death in my own way. Will I ever be prepared? Time will only tell.
Strangers, friends, hopes, memories, faults, sins, dreams, trophies, love, hatred, despair, loss, kindness, mercy, forgiveness, suffering, pain, affection, goals and countless other things..all is just a part of us, and life is that what happens in between…