Goodbye, Aaja.

Suyash Kamat

It was like any other night in the household. We were a family of four, living in a 3 BHK flat in Goa. Life wasn’t all about drinking beer and going to the beach. We were like any other Indian family. A father who was a government servant, a mother who managed her job and the household, a brother who wanted to be an IITian but ended up at the state engineering college, and me, studying to be like my brother.

During that time, we had our Aaja (grandfather) living with us. He was 90, extremely ill, and had to be shifted to our house from the ancestral place. I remember being scared of him. In my head, back then, old folks seemed so stubborn,  that I always wished never to grow old.

Aaja’s condition, and everything around it, disturbed mom and dad. Fortunately for him, Aaja wasn’t even conscious of this fact. We couldn’t attend any social gathering, mum and dad spent nights staying awake so that he fell asleep peacefully. All this pained me. But seeing my parents manage it all seeded a sense of courage in me.

Time went by, and conditions got worse. Aaja got bed sores from all the bed rest he had taken. And my parents were handed a new routine. Every day progressed from waking up early, dressing up aaja’s wounds, leaving for office, working all day and returning home to remove his bandages, give him a bath, and dress his wounds up again. This went on long enough for me to take it for granted that my parents no longer lived for themselves.

I stared at him for a second, not knowing what to make of it.

One night, the cable TV wasn’t working for some reason. I was studying in my bedroom while my brother was using the computer in his. Mum was cleaning the cupboard, and dad was ironing clothes in the same room where aaja was sleeping.  Suddenly, but very slowly the door of my room opened, and my brother softly whispered “Aaja is no more”. I stared at him for a second , not knowing what to make of it.

I slowly made my way towards the bedroom. I saw aaja lying there with his eyes closed, mum preparing a diva (lamp) in the prayer room, and dad on the phone with a doctor calling him to confirm the death. I looked at my brother, my father, my mother. It didn’t feel like someone had died.

But how can you live with knowing that someone so close to you will never be with you again?

Everybody was OK. Nobody was drowning in tears. Nobody was consoling each other. Each kept to himself, with only silence engulfing them. It was all very unexplainable to me. There was a point when my relatives were talking about how death was the best solution for the pain Aaja was going through. Was it because of this? Had they suffered so much that they had anticipated death? But how can you live with knowing that someone so close to you will never be with you again?

The doctor came by and confirmed the death. We were preparing to leave for the ancestral house. That night I slept with my mom.  And dad slept alone in the same room as his father’s dead body. And I wonder, to this day, whether he slept that night or not.

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