Its three years since you left us, left me. I think of you often, and I think of all the things you shared with me, gave to me. The copy of Great Expectations you gave me on my thirteenth birthday with the warning, "You deserve the one you choose to love." in your writing on the first page. Pickwick Papers. Your love for Dickens that I think I inherited from you. That and my nose.
Cezanne. Van Gogh. My first box of poster colours. The "Sunflowers" you stuck in your old red book, I remember you seemed truly excited when I gave them to you. Dali. Your pencil sketch of me, made when I was seven years old, standing in the park with one hand on my hip, and my eyes searching for mummy.
The red Ferrari car pencilbox I insisted you buy for me. I sat down on the road outside the shop till you bought it and placed in my chubby hand.
The endless times you defended me against mum or dad's scoldings, when you shouted so loudly the first and only time mum beat me.
Your fascination for Readers' Digests and the words you taught me.
Remember when you said, you dont have to read the Geeta to know the truths of this world, something nobody else's grandparents had the gumption to admit.
When you gave me aaji's delicate pearl bangle and said, "This is for when you get married." and smiled toothily.
All the times you giggled with me as you brushed your dentures.
When you held my hand and wiped away my tears outside mum's hospital room. The way you comforted dad, the first time I'd ever seen him cry.
You helped me make flower garlands out of zendu flowers for mum's next Diwali when she was too weak to make them herself. How you taught me to roast papads on that Sunday, setting a stool under my seven year old feet, to prop me up to the level of the kitchen range.
The way your chest expanded with pride, when dada told you Carnegie Mellon had accepted him and he was going to be the first of us to go to America.
The time you asked me if I was sure I didnt want to do a B. Sc. instead of MBBS.
You knew me so thoroughly that I dont think I needed to answer any of the questions you put to me anyway.
I prefer not to think of the last days. That was not you. The 'you' we knew was already gone. That body was somebody else. Somebody who wud never sketch or solve the Times crossword, or collect Readers' Digests or buy Amul chocolate, or talk to us about Picasso.
When we heard, I cud not bring myself to cry. Tears wud not be enuff. Nor wud words. Ever.
Last year, this day, the neighbour we both secretly hated asked me, "Havent you learned to live with it already? Its been two years now."
I wanted to say to her, the death of someone you love, is not something you learn to live with. Its something you learn to live inspite of.
I miss you. I love you. Happy Birthday, aaba. :)
"The dead we loved never truly leave us. We recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble.They live on inside us."
Professor Dumbledore to Harry Potter, in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.