Thursday, February 2, 2012

A letter to my Grandma

Dear Grandma,

When you sat on your death bed, leaning against the hard cushion fighting for your last breath, I could see your lips move. You tried hard to speak out something but then the icy hands of death had already caught you cruelly. So cruel, that you weren’t able to convey your last words. By looking at your state, my mother became blank and speechless. She sat beside you helplessly holding your hand. With her head drooping I could see her shed tears of pain and despair. I was a young school boy then who was on winter holidays and had only little knowledge about all these affairs. I didn’t know what to do. I sat near my mother and silently cried along. But deep inside me, one thing kept questioning me constantly, “What were you trying to say?”

This is my mom. My grandma looked no different from her.
And then you left us creating a hall of silence in that cozy room of the ground floor of our three storied ancestral home. It is in that silence that all sorts of thoughts propped up in our minds. I’m sure my mother was losing her consciousness frequently due to all these thoughts. My mother cried out, “Ama, as an only child to you, I’ve not been able to keep you happy. I’ve only caused you troubles. And now you are gone. How will I take on this family without you? Whom should I look unto for guidance and help? What am I going to do without you?” and with immense regrets she prayed, “Please come back as my grandchild for I remain indebted to you for the great love and affection you’ve showered upon me until now.”

My mother was right. When you left us, we weren’t doing well economically. We did not even have a proper home to live in. You must be well aware that we just lived hand to mouth and our fortune remained just a distant dream.

But my mother has not given up her hope on this even today. Once she had gone to consult a soothsayer in Trashiyangtse and came back convinced that you have taken rebirth in a nearby village. Instantly she wanted to go on looking for you. But how and where would she look for? Will it not sound funny? Will people not think that she is insane? When would she complete combing hundreds of households and villages? And after all these efforts will she find you? Well these were some of the questions that only suggested impossibility of finding you. But she still thinks that you are close by. And this only shows how much she loved you.

Again, about few months ago my Acho dropped in at my place to see my family in my absence. My wife offered him a cup of tea. I was later told that my younger daughter who has just started to take on few steps went near my Acho and pushed the tea cup indicating “please drink.” Later Acho told me that, he shared this incident to Ama. You know what? Ama had straight away responded, “She could be our grandma’s rebirth.” If it is true, I would be the happiest person on this earth to have you together once again because… 

I spent more number of days with you than any of my other siblings. Remember when my father was still in arm force how we used to retire for the night in that dark store room. Just before going to sleep, you would chant few rounds of mantra “Om mani padme hum…” And then you would stretch your arm to fetch an ara stored in your favorite aluminum container from underneath our old wooden box. That aroma of ara still lingers around my nose while your soothing mani chant still resonates to my ear. This way, I spent more of my childhood days with you then with my parents. All these make it so special to have you once again in our family. May be this is one reason why my mother loves you so much and always prays for your rebirth in the same family because she left you behind for so long.

But my mother did her best even after you left us. As a respect and gratitude for your love and affection, my mother didn’t want to take your funeral rite to distant crematorium. Therefore, your funeral rite was conducted in our own field very close to the ancestral home by our Meme Lama. After the funeral, to get into the house was just so difficult for every corners and objects within brought forth vivid memories of you. Without you our house looked empty and every moment was filled with hollowness. And within that emptiness, my mother looked completely lost not knowing what to do next. Fortunately, there were our neighbours who had been very helpful all throughout. It is one positive thing to note that in our part of the country people always come forward (even today) with ara, cash and kind, and some with labor contribution during the time of any misfortune in the family. My mother mourned your demise for months. With the passage of time and other priorities pushing in, it gradually died out at least from our daily chores.

With my younger siblings all at their infant stage, father and mother underwent all sorts of difficulties with field works on one hand and their growing children on the other hand. I could see desperation and frustration on the faces of my parents. Therefore, my younger sister Sonam was kept out of school when she completed class three as a helper to our parents. But today this decision has become a matter of regret for all of us. I remember once when my Acho expressed his regrets over this, “Had she continued with her schooling by now she would be in one of the jobs earning her decent living. Now she will have to suffer like our parents.”

Few years after your demise, Acho graduated from India, and got into civil service. Since then Acho helped our poor parents as he took over part of their responsibilities. Finally Acho came to our rescue as he started to support our schooling and home expenses. Since then our lives started to improve gradually. As eldest among us I know he has done his best while he may have suffered too in the process. Therefore, to me he is always like another parent. I’ve my respect for him and I love him.         

Dear grandma, I’ve often heard our elders and neighbours talk about Drongmaed family being filthy rich few generations ago, with its popularity spread far and wide. Upon hearing this again and again, I only wonder where all those riches went. But it is all the more better for us, so as not to have any disputes over it, although hardships at times were unbearably painful.

As you may be aware, we needed a proper home very urgently. The one we lived in for more than a decade wasn’t feasible at all. Except for one room, rest of the rooms was no less than a dungeon-like without any ventilation. But then my father single handedly constructed a kitchen outside and provided wooden floorings to those rooms making it a decent livable home that earned him all praises from our village mates.

We needed a home – at least an independent structure, where we could proudly enter when we come on holidays; where my sister Sonam would raise her young family; and where my parents would live peacefully for the rest of their life. But Acho alone cannot afford it. We waited until I got into the job.

Once my job was confirmed, internally my father started mobilizing resources. Unfortunately, when I was about a year into my job, my father expired. Another misfortune struck our already weak family. By then he had already collected enough stones and sawn some timbers while few more timbers were identified and marked for cut down. After his demise, we could not wait any further for we believe that the soul of the one that initiated the task would not be free until the task is completed. We did not want that to happen to our father’s soul. That same year, we constructed a beautiful house for our family at Tongitsa, just below your personal garden. Thereafter, our lives improved constantly with our younger siblings getting into job one by one. I can proudly say, today we are an independent and self-sufficient family.

Today, as I reflect upon the path we traversed and the state where we are now, I can read your lips and I can hear your voice from that murmur you made at the time of your departure. It was your final prayer and the last wish. You prayed and wished,

“Let this family be blessed with peace, prosperity and happiness; Let this family get a new home; Let not my daughter (our mother) suffer like me; Let my grandchildren get good education and grow up as responsible person; and, Let their happiness pass on generations after generations.”

Today I feel your prayers are being realized and I know you would be watching us from the heaven above wearing a pleasant smile as we reap the fruit of your prayers and wishes. Thank you grandma for your genuine prayers and wishes. I love you even more.

Yours loving grandson

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