Sunday, December 4, 2016

Early departure without choice

Her face was slightly chubby and waiting patiently for me and my to-be-partner to come out of the airport. She was waiting there to meet me and to send off another cousin to her parents. She was waiting with my uncle, my parents and my cousin who had a flight in a few hours. I had not yet introduced my boyfriend in person to my family. In fact, other than my parents, no one knew he was coming. My aunt & uncle were surprised to see me with my partner but she was supportive. He being american and we being Indian she asked me not to forget my family because she had already assumed my guy would be my life partner and I would be in US away from family. She was not wrong but Im a homer and consider my family a piece of my heart so there was no way I could forget them while I live. When I first found out my aunt and uncle were at the airport, I wondered why, as it was not in the plan. I was worried she won't like my guy. But none of that happened. My aunt Roopakka was my dads youngest sister. Every time I went back to India, Roopakka would always get me some gifts. She had a sense of humor that cracked me up every single time. I loved bringing her gifts as she would always value them as if they were the best gifts she got. It was very satisfying. At the airport she showed me the moisturizer I got her last time, and told me she carries it everywhere to make her hands soft as silk. When she said that, I as usual cracked up. It wasn't a professional moisturizer but when she said things like that, I always felt too embarrassed to have gifted her the daily moisturizer. My aunt was wearing a wig that day as she had lost all her hair to chemotherapy. I found myself relieved to see her in her usual spirits & health and that she approved my guy. We all went home. That trip to india was supposed to be for my parents to know my guy in and out and tell me if they approved. It was a stressful trip but all went well in the end. I saw my whole family at my elder aunts place. Roopakka was there too. As usual both Roopakka and Ashakka(another aunt) bought me gifts. I have told them umpteen times, its not necessary. I knew they loved me dearly and I love them dearly too. But it was of little use, and I accepted the gifts. Roopakka gave me a salwar-kameez that magically perfectly fit me. Usually clothes do not fit me as I expand and contract as frequently as an iron sheet lying around in the sun. She even brought me a pair of sandals that go with the salwar-kameez. They fit me well which was also unusual as I have flat feet and need a wide shoe normally. Ashakka got me some jewelry and I added them to my collection. We all had yummy dinner, most of my family saw my guy, but I couldn't gauge their liking. My trip ended pretty soon due to holiday budgeting and me and my guy returned back to US feeling good about the trip. I was still unsure about a life with him at that point because I have a mind that needs 100% reassurance before even stepping on something. They call it commitment phobia but who cares what its called. We returned and continued our life. Time passed and we decided to get married. I informed my parents and they were all excited. But since we were coming back to India my dad wanted to keep me apprised of reality. So he sent me a picture of them with my Aunt Roopakka. It was a complete heart break for me. Roopakka had lost all the chubbiness which I assumed she had gained back after fighting the horrific disease Cancer. She had become so lean I could not recognize her. Her bones showed and I could see her skeleton behind the thin skin. Clothes were just hanging on her. She loved pictures and always used to smile, but in that pic, there was no effort of a smile. She seemed like she had given up. I suffered some nights after seeing that picture wondering how it took my dearest aunts spirits like that. Asked my parents for some words to help. Her health was compromised but it also took away her spirits and a piece of my heart. I tried to convince myself into miracles and kept it away in my mind for a while. I knew there was a high possibility she won't come to my wedding due to health. Wedding came closer and it was again time to visit India. This time it was just my parents waiting for me at the airport. My to-be hubby was to fly in later. Few days after we landed, me, my parents, my grandma(aunts mom) we all went to see Roopakka. She looked just as in the picture thin and frail. I was able to barely recognize her as I had seen her picture. My heart was broken seeing her that way. She had trouble breathing and speaking to the maid who cooked food for her. My grandma, her mom, entered the living room where my aunt was sitting, and grandma kept asking to call my aunt. She couldn't recognize her daughter. My broken heart shattered to many pieces. I wished it was me, but if I ever said it, I would be breaking more hearts. I dint say anything, but my grandma was directed to where my aunt sat and made to sit next to her. They barely exchanged a few words amidst the looming sadness. I looked here and there and found a lock I thought I should talk about. Without the lock, I would have choked. The lock saved me from bringing the ceiling down on all the throats that were choked nearby. The rest of the meeting was a breeze with my dad and uncle lightening the mood gradually. We had a few laughs about how my dad and uncles were nurtured by my grandma, their childhood and such pleasant memories. After sometime my aunt went and slept in her bed. We were about to leave soon after having some snacks. I told my mom I want to kiss Roopakka, and went in to see her. Her eyes were yellow from liver failure. Her hand was swollen and she held my hand. She couldn't say anything, just held and pressed my hand. I kissed her and left her else I would have choked and hurt her more. I went behind her to her little son and asked about his exams. We left soon after. I knew for sure then, one of my favorite aunts wouldn't be there at my wedding. Wedding days came near, and preparation was in full swing. I saw my moms phone buzz and involuntarily picked it up. I saw a group message that had my family member, but only a few of them. I wondered if it was a bug but realized soon it was a smaller group of my family members and the name of the group was different than the family group that we usually message to. I read the message and it talked about arrangements to make oxygen cylinder to be available for "her". I knew it was for Roopakka. It was disheartening and I wished I could leave everything to be with her. But I promised I would go see her the first thing in the morning after the wedding as it was just two days away. I also hadnt shown her my guy before wedding though she had seen him during my previous trip. Wedding day arrived, and everything was moving fast. I ran from one location to the other as instructed, accepting wishes and pleasantries from everyone. The day was half done and photographer caught us to take pictures. These days photography has become a business more important than people themselves. They wasted our time in deciding poses while my guests ate and left. I was rushed to meet the remaining few guests so we could atleast take a picture with the last few. I was so preoccupied, that I dint see my dads side family disappear except my dad. I couldn't fathom what my dad was going through. He never showed. My parents knew I hated the tradition of indian families crying when their daughters left. But here they had more than one reason to cry and yet they soaked it all up for me. I think that was the first time I regretted hating something that caused my parents to soak up their tears. The wedding ended and we all took leave for home to take rest. Next day I called my dad, and told him we wanted to see my aunt. My dad said she was in ICU and we first needed to go to my Maternal aunts place for a last ritual. So we left for her place and thats where my mom broke it to me when I asked about Roopakka. She started crying and told me my aunt had passed away the previous day. I can never cry in front of my people and being at my maternal aunts place I simply tried to console my mom. I hugged her and the day continued. My husbands family was first time in India and we had to show them around. We started to take them to South bombay and showed them around. While getting out of one of the cabs, a crow dropping fell on me. In india, usually this is considered a sign of ancestors contacting you. Im not superstitious but at that moment I did think it was my aunt who blessed me. It might be ridiculous but the hole in my heart that I carried, was only going to be filled by thoughts like these. The days continued and in a few days we came back to US. Roopakka was the youngest of my dads siblings. Some people told me I looked like her. Probably because she was fair and I used to put a lot of powder in childhood. We both have longitudinal faces and very small threshold for jokes. In the past, I remembered trying to imitate her a little bit of her styles like wearing pearl necklaces etc. She had gifted me one too. I believe I still have one in my set somewhere. Its been a few months since we returned from India. But every now and then I see Roopakkas cheerful face in front of me. I never had a chance to cry for her completely even though I used bathroom times to pour out. It was never enough. Today again I remembered her, her love, her spirits, her gifts, her little kids, her loving husband, her times with me that added brightness to my life. I miss her dearly, and I would have done so much if I could only take away the disease from her. She definitely will live in my heart forever. I will wear her gifts and hope she sees how much I loved her from wherever she is. I am glad her suffering is over and I hope the cure to this disease is soon found. I wish nature and mankind finds harmony where people get to depart by time or by karma instead of through pain and sufferring.