I don’t know from where to start and where to end. In times like this I miss you the most. It was so rude on your part to leave me like this – the way you did.
Nana… I still remember the last time we met… it was one of those hot and humid monsoon days – some day in August I know for sure. You were in town. I did not know that. You had called me a couple of times and I did not take your calls deliberately. And then my phone screen flashed – Nana Residence…. I answered the phone promptly.
“You are in town?” I asked and without waiting for an answer I added, “You should have told me earlier!”
“Earlier?”, he asked with as he rolled with laughter.
There was a long pause.
“I am here since the last three days. I am leaving day after”.
I did not even have the courage to say “sorry”.
I hemmed and hawed for a while. I felt at loss of words.
“I long for the coleslaw and the baked fish”, he said.
“It will be there tomorrow evening”, I replied and we hung up.
Nana came over the next evening, with his cousin – from his father’s side – someone I barely knew. Both the men ate greedily and in minutes the coleslaw and the baked fish were finished.
The meeting was a small one. They stayed for a while – maybe an hour and half. Before he left, he gave me a tight hug and kissed me on my cheeks and said, “Do answer when the pone buzzes”.
And then they left. It was the last time I ever saw Nana. He was wearing a light blue faded denim shirt and a three quart pants. He had put on a wee bit of weight and boy he was looking good.
I wish I had known that it would be the last time I was seeing him ever. But then that’s how life is. You do not know what is in store for you in the times to come.
The days and weeks that followed were not amusing at all. Nana would keep calling me relentlessly at odd hours and kept talking endlessly. Half of the things I did not understood - it is because he usually spoke what was in his mind at that moment. He would not even care to go into the outer periphery of the story to let his listener understand what that was all about. It got a bit too much for me. And then I decided I would “seriously” not take his calls and listen to his nonsense any further.
One fine morning when I woke up and checked my phone I saw I had 127 missed calls from him. It scared me. I sent him a message – a stinker rather and asked him not to call me at odd hours like the way he did. And then and there I added all his phone numbers in my “call reject” list.
I still feel sorry for doing that.
This was about a year ago. And I also got myself a new phone number. No! You are wrong if you are thinking I got a new phone number because I was not looking forward to take his calls. It had more to do with my bill plans.
After my new phone number was fully operational, I messaged it to all my friends except him. I am sorry again Nana.
Yes, after a long time my phone was silent. It did not beep at odd hours. I did miss speaking to him but slowly and slowly I got used to it.
And then one fine day my cousin called up – you know the kind of cousin you normally meet at social and family functions. You exchange hellos yet you are not too friendly to be in touch on a regular basis. So when she called me I was quite surprised. We were talking about everything – the price rise, weather, weight , health – it was basically wasting time and money talking all this out of the blue and I was telling myself at the back of my mind – come to the point without much ado… and my prayers were answered when she said, “Nana is in a rehab, in Cal. Do you know about that?”
There was a long pause and then I said, “No. I did not know until now. The last time I met him was a year and two months ago. I haven’t spoken to him after that.”
She continued, “He will be out of the rehab in three months time i.e. Jan”.
“I hope he does not get back to alcohol once he is back”, I replied and we ended our conversation.
I remembered him as we stepped into a new year and I thought, “He should be out of the rehab one day or the other. I hope he takes care of himself and does not go back to his heavy drinking”. There were times when I had this desperate urge to call him… if not call then at least send him a message and let him know my new number. But I did not.
Days passed on. My life was going through some major changes as well and I was quite preoccupied with that. Staying alone in a city with a six year old daughter has a lot of perils and responsibilities. And I was totally investing my time managing the house and my daughter.
Once in a while I did remember Nana. But I decided I would call him on his birthday and surprise him. Nana’s date of birth is one date one cannot forget easily. It’s on 25th December. Now as you are reading this I am sure even you will remember the date if nothing else. So I waited. I had made up my mind and that was it. I would call him on 25th December and wish him a Merry Christmas and then a very happy birthday.
I wish life was as easy as we plan out.
It was the 21st of November last year. I had just reached home, dropping Nior at school. My aunt – someone I rarely speak to called up. We spoke about everything – like I had spoken to my cousin about everything under the sun and the she asked me,
“Did you get the news?”
“What news?” I asked her.
“Well I am not too sure, I do not know if it is true or not but Nana passed away last night”.
My world stood still and I froze. There was nothing to say.
We hung up. I called up his friend in Shillong and he was as shocked as I was when the words hit me first.
But yes it was true. Nana was no more.
I took the night train the next day to Jorhat with an aunt of mine and our family friend – the writer Uncle. My daughter is to young to understand what death is all about. It did take a lot of effort on my part to tell her that she won’t see her Nana Mama again.
Nana was kept in the morgue. All were waiting for his younger sister to arrive on Sunday.
Dipli, Nana’s sister arrived by one in the afternoon and by that time there were a lot of movements. Some were arranging his “sangi” (the bed made of bamboo straws on which the body is carried to the cremation ground ), Zulu uncle had already left for the morgue. I was getting uneasy. I did not wish to see Nana in that state. He was a very good looking man. I always said he resembled Sly Stallone. And this was not what I wanted to remember for the rest of my life. We came back to the guest house and rested a while.
That same evening we took the train back to Guwahati. I went to visit Dipli and their Dad. And as I hugged her, it was for the first time I broke down.
Its been close to three months now but I am yet to overcome the fact that you are no more.
Nana… your phone numbers are still my call reject list. What is the point now to remove those? I shall never get to hear your voice again. I shall never have the brother whom I loved so much. I will miss the way you pampered me. I remember how much of cajoling and emotional blackmailing I had to do so that you part away from your Ralph Lauren golf shades. You said they were a limited edition and you bought them for 500 dollars. But then you gave me your shades… and I still remember I said, “Aah! These shades! You could have given me one of your tee shirts instead!”
I wanted to learn golf from you. I wanted you to live to see my grand children. I wished you lived long to see me get older and fatter.
And now I know if you really want to speak to someone do not hesitate or wait for the right moment. That might never come at all.
25th Dec from now on will never be the same.
Nana I hope you are in a better and a beautiful world now. You will be missed always.