|Photo by Kankan, used under a (CC BY 2.0) licence.|
The blood in my veins freezes every time I hear my mobile phone go off. For two days I’ve been expecting the call from my mom confirming the worst. I expect to pick up the phone to hear my mother’s distorted voice from a seemingly faraway place, uttering the words I dread to hear. I imagine myriad voices in the background: my grandmother’s wails of despair, my mother’s incoherent words mixed with sobs, the nurse whose sensitivities are numbed by years of service trying to usher my family out of Intensive Care and the doctor who dispenses hollow platitudes in a vain attempt to assure that my grandfather is in God’s hands now.
I imagine the sea of faces, both familiar and not, visit our domicile to give their condolences. Grandpa would lay in his iced casket- a mute spectator-to the throng of relatives, friends and neighbours who would linger over him, shedding tears and consoling my aggrieved mother. My uncle would have to steady his heart and heed the instructions of the scholars schooled in the traditional wisdom of commending souls to their creators. There would be elaborate rituals involving sandalwood, holy ash, silver vessels and water. There will be womenfolk crying silently into their saris. I too would be standing in the corner observing the grim proceedings and holding my mother’s hand whilst holding back my tears. The time would come when Grandpa would have to be carried out to be “witnessed” by all, one last time. The assembled gathering would place grains of rice near his mouth as a token of respect before he is taken away and his ashes subsequently liberated to the very womb of Nature itself- the ocean. After which the unbearable silence of the household would trigger memories of immeasurable sadness for years to come.
The ringing of the phone brings me back to reality.
I pick it up and I listen.