A letter to a stranger

I don’t know this girl. All I know is that she is dealing with her grandfather’s death and that struck a chord.

I have never spoken to anyone about the way I dealt with Thatha’s loss. And I don’t think I can ever elaborate on that.

This is not meant to make one sad.

Dear @dustyalmirah,

I hope this helps you.

Understanding a grandparent’s loss isn’t easy. I say understand and not deal because when Thatha died, I dealt with it and the entire world tried to understand my attempts at dealing with it.

Three years post his death, it requires hours, probably days of concentrated effort to rewind and replay all those moments I spent with him (and took for granted), as compared to the time when he was around. Why is it such a task? On hearing the diagnosis, a part of him died, and the rest died within my mind because Stage-4 cancer eats one up. And it ate him from within that year, leaving behind a man who became a shadow of what he had been. Death isn’t so terrible. I’ll you what is worse – it’s the process of watching your most favorite person suffer and trying to relive those times when he was up at 6 AM enjoying his morning dose of filter coffee, or teaching you Math. So you rewind, pause, replay. The memories give you solace, yet grief punches your stomach when you come back to reality. You don’t realize the ordeal when you’re in it because Thatha’s pain becomes routine for you, but in retrospect you realize that you had indeed survived a nightmare come true.

When it’s over, a part of you experiences crushing relief and the rest feels like a void. It’s not like the movies where the grief-stricken beat their heads and loll on the floor. Instead, you sit staring blankly at the still figure which was once your grandfather. Relatives waft in and out, exchange hugs, shed tears, touch his feet and bow their heads. Occasionally a few questions pop in your head – “So this is it? Thatha has gone to the other side? Is this happening? Why doesn’t it feel like a blow? Why am I not sobbing?”

The point is there was nothing left to sink in. All that was required to sink in was the existence of his terminal illness and death was just the end of it. The anger and the barrage of questions to God about the unfairness of the whole goddamn situation lasted while he did. The Thatha I once knew, became a memory ever since and not after he left us physically.

My mother asked me if I had cried for Thatha. I hated the question itself. Tears are personal, and this is something I didn’t wish to share, even with her. I hate it when family members discuss his death with a sense of pity. No one chooses their death. Thatha was a strong man and was resilient in spite of all the torture he dealt with in his final days.

I don’t know if I miss my grandfather. Maybe I do, because there are times I wish could go visit him in Bombay and give him company whilst he reads a novel. It’s not like I have forgotten him, but the memories that come easily to me are those of his mannerisms and quirky catchphrases. When I think of Thatha, I also think of Calculus, filter coffee and fried pomfret, as strange as it sounds. There’s no sadness associated with his absence but I do get wistful (sometimes) remembering the part of my childhood that died with him. I don’t feel his loss, instead I have learnt to accept that he isn’t with us anymore.

I am a lucky girl. A fortunate grandchild to have been loved unconditionally by a man who was judged and likewise feared by many in my family. I knew a side of him that only a handful knew. It’s only now that I have come to terms with the phrase time heals.

I hope the going gets easy for you.

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