The other day, I was on a friend’s terrace, 7 am, doing Yoga. You smiled down at me from every cloud. Your smile stretched from ear to ear. The eyes twinkled, and then shut with uncontrolled mirth. Those eyelashes that should have rightfully belonged to a woman (ME!) came down on your cheekbones. That’s how you always were. That’s how I remember you. For ours was a bond of laughter.
I smiled back and then wanted to cry in the middle of my asana. And I did. Prachi pretended not to notice and let it pass. When I told her the next day that I was not coming back for Yoga, she understood.
There’s a photograph of you in every room, the joy in your eyes dispelling the desolation I often feel. That is when I remember what you told me a day before you left us. You were so horribly sick that it broke my heart and that of everyone else around. Breathing valiantly through the ventilator, you signaled vigorously that I should not cry. “I’m coming back” you mouthed, many times. But you didn’t. Twenty four hours later, you were still, blue, and silent. The laughter lost.
We gathered our wits and did what we knew you would want us to do. Donated your body to the hospital. And after the ceremonies, served to friends and family the ‘bhuna gosht’ that you had been longing to have but could not. There was a lot of love in the air that day. You smiled down comfortably from your photograph, while all of us remembered you. You were at peace. You no longer had to struggle through cough and shortness of breath. Someone showed me a video of yours, singing ‘Jeena Yahan, Marna Yahan’ at an office party. You had sung with a quietude and joyful acceptance.
That’s something both of us had learnt over our roller-coaster twenty seven years together. Up, up and up, then down, down, down. Sideways and circular. Never according to the route map. And finally, when we were tired of making life difficult for ourselves - smooth sailing. Joyful acceptance of each other, of everything.
However, a divine plan lurked round the corner. We discovered you had a lung condition. ‘Degenerative, and would eventually lead to respiratory failure’ declared the doctors. It was early days, the symptoms not so evident. And ‘degenerative’ was just a scary medical term.
Then came the first major setback and the long hospitalisation! Then you came back home. Time was running out. Except the medical regimen, we took nothing seriously. We laughed a lot. Did silly foolish things and felt good about them. We fought over the last piece of barfi. You WOULD have that tot of whisky, insisting that you had a disease of the lung, not the liver. We argued over meal times and the best bedtime for you, and what I should or should not have told the doctor. We fought and made up within minutes – who knew what the next moment would snatch away.
We played Scrabble, loads of Scrabble, and gloated when we won. I have pinned the scorecard on our flannel board. On Valentine’s Day, you repaired my favourite earrings for me. And you went berserk getting that new bookcase in place. [It looks beautiful. Your Tom Clancy collection and the Vivekanand collection occupy pride of place.] We held hands, held each other, a thousand times a day. All in fast forward, for we knew the sand was running out. Only, it ran out even faster than we had expected.
After all the ceremonies, when all the guests had left, I decided to spend my first weekend alone away from home. But it was not to be. Your voice in my head “Honey, COME HOME!” had me hotfooting back in no time. I spent the weekend smiling back at your photographs. Ours was a bond of laughter, after all.
Its three months now. I have a life that I miss sharing with you. I don’t stop my tears. Then your eyes smile at me. I smile back.
The laughter, your legacy, shall not die.