My grandma was my anchor and in some ways, I was hers. I stayed in Delhi and she was in Kolkata. Our lives were entwined and connected through the mobile phone throughout the year except for my occasional visits to the city when I could be with her for a few days. She began to lose her power of hearing and her memory with age. Gradually our phone conversations sounded like this....
Dida (grandma): Kemon achish? (How are you?)
Me: Bhalo. Tumi kemon acho? (I am good. How are you?)
Dida: Kemon achishhhh? (How areeee you?)
Me: Bhalo achiiiiiiii. (I am goooood)
Dida: Shorir bhalo nei? (Are you not keeping well?) - As she could not properly hear my response, she got worried easily and assumed I might not be well. It would take few more minutes of convincing till she moved to the next question.
Dida: Kobey ashbi? (When will you come?)
Me: December e
Dida: Ashbi na? (You will not come?)
Me: Ashbo Didaaa....December mashey (I will come in December)
Dida: Kotodin dekhini...aye na ekbar (It's been so long since I have seen you, please come once)
Me: Ashbo toh sheeth kaaley (I will come in the winters)
Dida: Ekhon sheeth kothaye? (It's not cold now) - She might have just grasped one word in the conversation and made her assumptions.
Dida:Phone korish na keno amakey? (Why don't you call me?)
Me: Kalkei kotha holo toh Dida (We just spoke yesterday) - Due to her failing memory she would forget having spoken to me just a day or two earlier and would be sad about lack of communication from my side.
Dida: Phone korish na keno? Kobey ashbi? - And the entire conversation would start all over again.
My voice would rise with every sentence in an effort to make her hear better and at times my patience dipped. Also, since such conversations would usually take anything between 15 minutes to half an hour - I gradually started spacing my calls from everyday to once in 2-3 days. I would also ensure that I call her when I was in a relaxed mood and had plenty of time in hand. On days that were stressful or hectic - the calls were 'postponed'. At times these calls became source of amusement to the listeners around us and at times their patience was also tested. My scheduled visit to Kolkata also kept getting 'postponed' due to other factors which gained priority. It is not as if I did not want to meet her and spend some quality time with her - but it was just that other 'important' things kept coming in the way.
Finally I visited Kolkata. Met up with her almost everyday of my stay but could not manage to stay with her even for a few days since I was in the city for only two weeks and there was so much to do and so many people to meet. I returned to Delhi - happy that I had finally met her and spend some quality time with her. As soon as I was back the phone calls resumed:
Dida: Kobey ashbi? (When will you come?)
Me:Ashbo (I will come)
In that year, her health, memory and hearing deteriorated at an alarming rate. Soon she could not remember or recognise family members and had almost lost her sense of hearing. The phone calls ceased to matter to her. She was now living in the past where she did not need a phone to connect me to her - I was already firmly rooted in her past so she had me with her in her mind. I still called but she usually did not hear nor remember a word. I was relieved of my duty to make regular calls. I kept taking 'updates' about her from my mashi (aunty) who had been her primary caregiver. I desperately made plans to visit Kolkata once again to see her soon. This was last year. In december 2009 - my dida died. I relocated to Kolkata in February 2010. I was two months too late.
I have no clue why I am sharing this very personal experience in a very public forum except maybe because writing is the strongest form of catharsis for me and also perhaps to make an appeal:
If there is a friend whom you have not spoken to in a while and have been meaning to call - pick up the phone. Do it now.
If you have been meaning to take up a hobby but just have not found the time yet - Do it now.
If you have been meaning to say something to someone but the time just did not feel right - Do it now.
If you feel like chasing your dreams and turning your passion into profession but are not sure if it would be the right thing to do - atleast give it a try. Do it now.
Living life without regrets is the only way to live it. Maybe the behaviour or action will be considered impulsive or even wrong by everyone else but if it brings you happiness without hurting anybody - do it now. Following your heart every moment of your life is perhaps the biggest gift you can give to yourself. Maybe the logical thinkers will want to crucify me for even suggesting such a thing - they are entitled to their views - just like I am entitled to mine.
*As I see the rain pouring down and feel the cool breeze soothing my parched soul, I feel this strong urge to step out and take a walk in the rain. Everybody else around me is huddling under shelters - protecting themselves against this downpour. My mind shouts - you know you have a perpetual throat problem and getting drenched is not a good idea - I repeat 'Not' a good idea. My heart smiles and softly whispers - go ahead - Do it now. I ended up in bed - sore throat, severe cough, runny nose, constant headache, throat infection induced fever. Was the momentary insanity worth all this? U bet!!!! :-)