I just wrote a long, impromptu post, but I lost it. So here I am, backing it up before I write, as I usually do.
I’ve been away because my grandfather passed away on the 8th. It was not entirely unexpected; he was 84, and he lived a full life. And though I’d decided from the start that this would not be a personal blog, I feel the need to memorialise.
My grandfather called a month ago to tell us that he and my grandmother were celebrating their 63rd wedding anniversary. Even in an absolute sense, that is an astounding achievement; with our generation, it is nothing short of a miracle. Can you imagine spending 63 years with a person who was not, to start with, family? I’m not even sure we can any of us stick our families for 63 uninterrupted years. My grandparents were special.
When I left here for the funeral two days ago, I found my grandfather’s body laid out on the floor. It is a cliché, no doubt about it, but really – he looked like he was asleep. His feet tilted the same way they always did, and nothing looked especially different about him. My grandmother was sitting next to him on the floor and stroking his hand as if he were in a fever and she was sitting by him until the doctor arrived. Every once in a while, she would stroke his cheek. She didn’t look any different either.
When I was on the flight there, I expected to be quite detached. After all, he was 84, I thought. There was nothing to regret and there would be much to observe and assimilate during a funeral. I said to myself we’ll see if nani has taken off her pottu, expecting a certain bitter confirmation of the unfairness of social customs.
Nothing turns out as you expect it to. Which is good or bad depending. My grandmother was as she always was, bangles and everything intact. In fact, she was more detached and accepting than I expected her to be, and I less so. The sight of my grandfather laid out like he was threw up so many memories: his stories when I was child, never of mythologies, but of places, natural phenomena, chemicals; nonsense words and rhymes, a continuous, soothing patter; his way of taking the skin off mangoes, or eating bread-toast as he called it – with total attention and enjoyment.
Just before he died, my grandmother said, he couldn’t speak. He pulled at his ear, and my grandmother bent down to whisper some prayer. Perfectionist that he was, he laid out his hands neatly by his side and stopped breathing.
At his funeral, a wealth of family, friends and well-wishers turned up to pay their respects. He was with his family when he died, and it was a short death, brought on by no illness, accident or wasting disease.
We should all be so lucky.