I kissed her cold, clammy cheek as tears rolled down mine. The room was filled with deathly silence interspersed with bursts of noisy tears from some. As the calming music played on softly, my grandmother lay cold and lifeless on the floor. And I was with her when she died.
Going without sleep for almost 44 hours was not how I envisaged the start to my holiday after a gruelling dissertation. I had booked my tickets to return home to Dubai 5 months in advance. An eerie coincidence, that my Dadi (father’s mother) had been put on life support just a day or two before and my presence was required immediately.
After over 24 hours of flights, food and packing, I landed in Bombay. Whisked off straight to the hospital, the guards wouldn’t let me inside the visiting area.
“It’s full,” they said.
“But I’ve come from Dubai!” I wailed, before my Fui’s (father’s sister) friend saved me from their clutches and pulled me inside without so much as backward glance at the protesting guards.
I saw the guards’ point when I arrived in the waiting area. It wasn’t very big and apart from 3-4 people I did not recognize, the entire place was crammed with my relatives. It was as if we’d taken over the place.
They took me to see her. She was hooked up to machines, her body unmoving, eyes closed…it was painful to see her the way she was. I could not stop crying.
Hours passed. It seems like days in retrospect.
When I arrived at the hospital at 9am, her heartbeat was – although helped along by the machine – around 60. By 3pm, it had gone down to perhaps 20. It was a matter of time.
I went to see her around 3.45pm. Holding her hand, I kept talking…telling her about anything I thought she might like to know. Her heart rate was steadily dropping. I called my Fui urgently. I held her left hand, my Fui her right. We kept talking to her and holding her…and at 4pm, she slipped away.
She was…my Sunday morning phone call, my only reason to revert to Gujarati (one of my mother tongues) and the maker of the best puranpolis in the world. She was my grandmother.I don’t get my Sunday calls anymore. Neither do I speak in Gujarati anymore. And I certainly won’t get puranpolis anymore.
She was my Dadi. And I was with her when she died.