Awaiting Your Next Birth
Awaiting Your Next Birth16 mins 1.5K 16 mins 1.5K
I clicked on the SUBMIT button of my online examination at TCS ILP, Hyderabad and nervously hurried to the washroom. It was peak winter, yet I was sweating incessantly. There was a cold shiver running all across my body - frozen hands, shaky footsteps, rolling tears and relentless chanting of God’s name! There was another girl in the washroom talking to her family way back in Kolkata. She was probably celebrating the birth of her niece. My scampering mind was suddenly infiltrated with the delicate complicacies of birth and death – I dreaded the worst. With trembling hands, I took the phone out of my pocket and thought of calling my father. I was hesitant, terribly reluctant to dial his number. My throat was progressively becoming dryer.
I walked out of the washroom straight to my seat and sat down apprehensively. My ILP friend Arpita, asked, “Called home?”
“Not yet.” I replied.
She smiled. “Don’t worry. All will be fine.”
I smiled back and summoned up all courage and dialed my father. After three and a half rings he picked up the phone. My heart was beating faster than ever before. After 20 days, I heard counterfeited excitement in his voice and that made me anticipate that the dreaded incident had already happened.
“Yes, Beta. How was your exam?” It was such an unexpected question at this time.
“Yes, good. How is MAMMAM?”
“MAMMAM .... Actually, she died at 1.30 pm." His tone clearly revealed that he was forcibly concealing the loss by trying to sound strong.
“What are you saying? No…. you are lying…..."
“I am at a different place. You talk to your mother.” Saying so, my father disconnected the phone.
I collapsed on the floor, conscious yet craving for unconsciousness; shrieking and sobbing that whatever my father told me was all a lie. I couldn’t believe that my grandmother, my beloved MAMMAM would depart for her heavenly abode so early, and that too when I was not at home.
Of all the people I had met in my course of life – she was the one whom I loved and adored the most! Even at 83, she was the epitome of elegance. She had dark brown glittery eyeballs – a manifestation of her motherly affection. Her face must have been really spectacular in her youth, though now wrinkles had painted portions of it to deteriorate its impression to some extent. Her thin-pink lips always bore the curve of positivity. She had white hair with a few black strands popping out. I wonder how she could be so lively and energetic at that age! She would literally run to the door on seeing my father’s bike approaching our apartment; and wait there with a glass of water and a piece of towel to help him freshen up. She loved to be dressed up prim and proper, neat and tidy; hair parted sideways into a neat plait and sat on the bed near the window overlooking the main road. That was her favorite place in the house. Sitting there she would closely notice the people coming and going out of our complex and read out the same to my mother. Occasionally she used to steal a glance at the switched-on television; but her real interest after 5.30 pm would be on when my father would be back from office.
I didn’t have control over myself. I was frantically hitting the chair beside me. My friends gathered around. They removed all objects that were near me, fearing that I might throw them all in plight and distress. I typically remember Arpita and Sreyasi sitting by my side. Arpita was hugging me. Sreyasi didn’t know how to react. And my roommate, Rituparna was numb. She could only utter words like…”Please…Don’t cry…!” They had seen the worst of me in these 20 days and I can never forget the love and support that they rendered me in the toughest phase of my life. Rashmi sat beside me. She was rubbing my feet and calming me. That’s all I remember. I was crying ceaselessly.
“Baba is telling a lie. He is lying to me.” All of a sudden, I got up anxiously looking for my phone. “I will ask Ma. She will not lie to me…”
I dialed my mother’s number. She was weeping. “Babai, MAMMMAM.....MAMMAM left us for heaven."
“No, you are lying…Don’t you know you shouldn’t lie?"
“No Beta, I am not lying. I would have been the happiest if I could lie to you. But I am telling you the truth. Your MAMMAM is no more…Talk to your aunt..!"
Saying so she handed over the phone to my grief-stricken aunt. Her voice was low and she tried to make me believe that the truth was that I had lost my grandmother, and she had lost her mother. I was shouting at her saying, “Pishi, you are also lying? Don’t lie to me…it’s not good to lie…Don’t you dare lie to me!” She tried her best to console me, but in vain. Finally, she told me to talk to my friends and relax.
I swiped my phone and took out my MAMMAM’s photo and started showing it to everyone. I told my friends how my MAMMAM prepared the appetizing sherbat (lime-juice) for me every day after I came back from school. It felt like a drop of rain in the driest part of some desert. I remembered her playfully insisting me to get a boyfriend, (since I had already got a job). She was eager to attend my marriage before she dies. I lay on the floor thinking of my MAMMAM, and talking about her. Everything was so sudden, so difficult to believe…!
I was totally disheartened as if I had nothing worthwhile left in life. I thought of informing my best friend and sister, Sneha Di about the incident. Sneha was my roommate in college and a couple of years senior to me. That’s the definition with which I met her. And today, she is somebody whom I can look up to when even my family fails to pacify me. She is that imperative to my survival. She loves me more than my own siblings (if I had any), would do. And needless to say, I love her too! She is matured in her words, sophisticated in her behavior and affable in her gestures. She changes the role she plays in my existence based on the need of the hour – she inspires and admonishes, adores and enlightens, commands and tolerates! In short, she is the guardian angel of my life!
"Sneha Di, my grandmother is no more…"
“Han, Babu. I know. I will call you back.”
It was time to go back home and my friends helped me back to TCS hostel. I freshened up and lay down on the bed. My mother called me to inform that my MAMMAM’s dead body was being brought into our home in Kadma. During her last days in hospital, she was getting anxious to be home and so my family decided to first bring her body from the hospital to our home before taking her to the burning ghat for the last rites.
Her beautiful smile, her sparkling eyes and the elegance and charm in her gestures were drifting in my mind. I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I felt as if her voice was echoing,“Aeei Buchuni, shon…!” (Hey, Buchuni, Listen..!)Buchuni – that’s how she lovingly addressed me. I am still in doubt whether it was Buchuni or Puchini – or maybe she used either of them interchangeably. I had this question in mind, but forgot to ask her each time we were together. I felt that there is no urgency and I can get the answer anytime. Little did I know that she would face multiple organ failures all of a sudden, and my question would remain a mystery forever!
I was thinking of the last day I saw her. We were at our residence in Kadma, Jamshedpur. My father had been recently transferred to Barabil, Orissa and I would soon be going to Hyderabad to join my first job. Mammam was very sad about that there would be no one at home. I would be leaving the next day for Kolkata with my mother, and so we were packing to drop Mammam at my aunt’s house in Baridih for a week or so. She was fit and fine, hale and hearty. The only trouble that she had was in her knee. She had recently developed a slight difficulty in walking. So we decided to take her to the Orthopaedic before dropping her at Baridih. She got ready, precise and smart as always. She chose a black cardigan to wear. I touched her feet as I would not be meeting her at least for the next two months of my training and I relentlessly needed her blessings to succeed in life. She was very quiet that day. Usually she keeps talking a lot. But that day, whenever I asked her anything, she would blandly nod her head. She appeared very sad and didn’t want to speak at all. Maybe, her instinct was stronger than mine and she knew that it was her last day with me. I helped her walk down the staircase as she had difficulty walking.
Our regular auto driver, Rajesh Uncle was waiting with his auto. I held Mammam’s hand and my mother was carrying the entire luggage. That was the first time that Mammam couldn’t surmount the relatively low auto. She put her left feet forward, but couldn’t support her body up. A few weeks back, she had travelled to Kolkata and had no difficulty climbing a four-storied building. We were surprised. She tried a lot but couldn’t get up. Perhaps, she didn’t want to go. Perhaps, her body was stopping her and telling her that this is the last time that you are at your residence – don’t go. However, we held her from behind and somehow managed to get her seated. We reached Steel City Nursing Home and helped her out of the auto. My Mammam has always been a very sturdy woman and never needed any support to walk, but astonishingly that day she had too low energy levels and looked for mine or my mother’s hand to walk. We met the doctor and he prescribed a few medicines, a couple of blood tests and an X-ray. We helped her to get up on the X-ray table. Her face was telling us that she was in pain.
I asked her, “What happened to you Mammam? Why is your face so pale?” She was silent. In minutes her X-ray report was generated and we got to know that she had a minute injury in her knee and would require complete bed rest for two weeks. I hurried with my mother to arrange all the medicine. I tried talking to her, “Don’t worry! Doctor said that you should avoid walking and you would be fine.” My ever cheerful and talkative Mammam, just replied, “Ok.”
We reached Baridih, and told aunt all about the doctor’s visit. She ensured that Mammam would be sleeping on the bed near the washroom to avoid walking. I looked at Mammam and smiled, “Ok then, so we should leave now….”
I walked up to the door talking to my aunt. My Mammam was sitting on the bed opposite to the main entrance door. She was looking at me and simply silently smiling. Usually she stands up to wave me a good-bye and then rushes to the balcony and keeps waving till we are out of sight; but that day she sat there with her injured leg. Standing at the door, I nodded my head and she nodded back gesturing, “Ok…you may leave.” I distinctly remember that I wanted to go and hug her a last time, as I was sad on leaving my family and travelling far for a really long time. But, somehow I avoided that as I felt that she might break down and cry. I said to myself, ‘let’s keep the warm hug reserved until we meet next time’, and walked off. I never imagined that ‘until next time’ would really be indefinitely long.
Suddenly, the phone rang. My mother was weeping on the other end. “They are taking Mammam away. Everybody is here, only Mammam is not here.” I began weeping. I asked if anyone was free and could let me see her once through a video call. But, my entire family was grief-stricken and connecting over the video was not possible. My mother assured me that my cousin brother, Dadabhai had clicked pictures of her last ceremony for me. I sunk my head deep down into the pillow and started crying. I was feeling so depressed as if the rest of my life would be unproductive.
Then, finally, Sneha Di called me. “Hello dear, how are you?"
Then she started talking to me about everything else but my grandmother to lighten my mood and ease the situation. Finally she came to the point. She told me not to take my grandmother’s death negatively. She explained to me that since she was suffering for two weeks and was in intense pain, it was better that she had departed to heaven to attain eternal peace and rest. She told me that it was a big day for my Mammam. She would be meeting her parents and relatives; her elder son, whom she had lost 7 years back; and of course her loving husband, whom she had lost 28 years back; and so it was a day of celebration for her – a day when she would be relieved from all the earthly pain and sufferings, and so I should be in high spirits in her happiness. She said that I should not be so selfish and retain her on earth for my contentment. I should share her with my grandfather, uncle and all other loved ones already in heaven. She dictated to me some beautiful imaginative situations by means of which I began to envision her happy in heaven with my grandfather, chatting with him and telling him all that happened in the 28 years when they lived separately. I don’t know if these reunions really happen in heaven or not, but at that juncture Sneha Di’s words lifted me up from the temporary depression that I had fallen into. And that’s the reason I said, when my family fails to pacify me, it’s Sneha Di who is always there by my side. Even my parents said that the only person who could placate me is Sneha and so they requested her to set me back to work.
I was jovial when I spoke to my parents at night and told them everything that Sneha Di told me. Each time I felt sad, I imagined my Mammam happy in heaven and it gave me a momentary bliss. But deep inside I knew what I had lost – the unconditional love from my Mammam.
That night I received my first ever salary slip via email. Tears rolled down my cheeks and dried in minutes. It reminded me of something that my Mammam had told me long back.
One day when my parents were not at home, my Mammam said,
“Buchuni, listen…Don’t tell anyone, I am just asking you for something.”
I was eager as she never asked me for anything ever. “Yes Mammam, say!” I questioned her back.
She said, “When you start earning in your permanent job, just do one thing. Give me Rs.50 per month, not more than that. Ok? I will shuffle with it.”
I can barely explain how happy I was on hearing this. I promptly replied, “Only Rs.50? What are you saying! You don’t need to tell me that. I will give you much more than that, and whenever you want. All is yours.” She seemed greatly contended with my promise.
Those days, I was doing a part-time freelance job and was earning quite a few bucks every week. I instantly rushed to my nearest ATM that very day, withdrew Rs.200 and handed it over to her saying, “This is just the beginning…I said all is yours…!”
She was glad and surprised, “I told you when you earn in your permanent job, not now…!”
I said, “So what? Shuffle with it…”
Very happily she opened her locker and kept the money safely inside it. Do you know what she used to do with that money and all her savings? She treated me and my family with our favorite food items! My favorites – prawn, chicken, ice cream, chocolate, jalebis, etc. She occasionally took out her purse whenever she wished and ordered us to bring something nice so that we could all enjoy Mammam’s little treat. So it was – my happy family of four – my Mammam, my father, my mother and of course me! Now, we are down to three yet we will love you forever because nothing else can replace or fill your void!
She was my favorite TV partner, be it movies or cartoons! Even at 24, I held her hand to cut my birthday cake and that's a small ceremony we celebrated amidst thousand others. I don't remember her scolding me for anything ever - she was more a friend to me than a grandmother! She was elated in my joys and had teary eyes in my sorrows. I was always happy in her presence, and sometimes I was too selfish to share her with others. I even fought with her when she wanted to visit her relatives saying that I would miss her! Could I fight with God now? We had a bond that cannot be described in words – a silent way to express love!
And so, when I received my salary slip I couldn’t believe the irony! Had she lived one day more, I could have fulfilled her wish. It was the 28th of January, 2016 when she died and that very night I received my life’s first ever formal salary from a permanent job– something that she desired to experience.
According to the law of Karma, which is something similar to the Newton’s law of ‘To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction,’ each soul is entitled to return back any favor that he/she had taken from another soul in the course of their lifetime on earth. Till the favors are not returned, the souls are tied by an inseparable bond and have the tendency to re-incarnate as relatively close individuals in earthly encounters to neutralize the favors piled up in the duration of previous birth life.
I firmly believe that in this life, all that has happened between me and Mammam is that I have constantly been on the receiving end, taking favors from her – from the oil massage to changing diapers when I was a baby, from cooking lovely meals to taking care of my health in my growing years, from staying up with me to watch movies till late night to being a part of the audience and applauding to her best during my prize distribution ceremonies in school, from bedtime stories to cutting my birthday cake with me every year – she kept on showering her love on me, but I didn’t do anything for her. She held me in her arms as a crying baby and delivered me as a confident woman at the end of 24 years. And, I wasn’t even there by her side when she was suffering in the hospital for 20 days. The only favor that she asked me was the Rs.50 each month, and even that I couldn’t fulfill. I missed it narrowly by a day. This implies that God has certainly destined another life when I would be delivering the favors and she would be receiving them to compensate the law of Karma. Thankfully, you died on 28th January, 2016; because maybe if you would live just one day more, we could have lost one life together…!
I am certainly awaiting your next birth to fulfill your incomplete desires and dreams and to keep some favors unreturned yet again to prolong our cycle of togetherness…