Today marks four years to the day since Appa breathed his last. As my mother, sister and I stood around his bedside and watched the monitor mark the end, it also marked the end of an era. A period of my life marked by unconditional, silent love.
Today as I grieve the loss of my Appa, I also relive and cherish the memories we created. The crooked smile, the crinkling of the nose, the bushy eyebrows, the long ear-hair, the balding pate, the paunch, the weathered legs and callused palms.
Images of the past thirty odd years flash past my eyes. Appa in cricket gear arriving home on a TVS moped tired and grimy. A suitcase open in our tiny bedroom filled with bottles of Charlie cologne and flimsy rayon sun dresses for me and my cousin. An orange and white hammock that lay unused for the longest time. Four of us crouched in an impossibly tiny kitchen with a brick tiled roof sharing dinner underneath a naked 60 watt bulb. Snores permeating all of our home in the dead of the night possible only after a gruelling 14 hour day of physical labor. Grease and sweat stained slacks in a pile of unwashed laundry. Plates of puri and vengaya sambar on a Sunday evening relished in silence with the flickering images from the TV casting dancing shadows on the walls.
Dinner at a hotel every once in a while. Appa indulging us while we gorged on exotic panneer dishes. The annual deepavali shopping with a four figure budget. Smiles all around. Modeling the just bought clothes that elicit a beatific smile from Appa and critical comments from Amma. The boxes of sweets around festival days and the constant “Don’t touch the sweets appa!” resonating around the home. The dark brown deepavali lehiyam that disappeared rather suspiciously when Appa was around the home. The sound of the ubiquitous Hero Honda that heralded the arrival of Appa, often with bags of grocery hanging from his wrist in white plastic bags. The thick lines of ash smeared across the forehead with crimson streaks indicating a visit to the temple. The whispered sounds of Kanda Shasti Kavasam on Tuesdays.
The look of pride as I held out an offer letter that indicated I was now a financially responsible adult. The patient and world-weary eyes that received me early mornings at the Madras Central Station. The conversations that eventually slipped into English as the gravity of the subject matter grew. The stoic face as he ate the first meal I cooked for him – macaroni with vegetables. The relentless pursuit of a groom for me, not once taking me to task for the seemingly unpardonable fault of walking out of a relationship doomed to fail. The happy smile on his face as he saw me step into married life with K. The pause on the phone as he grappled with how to comfort me as I learned that my brother was to be a dad before I could be a mom. The huge assortment of bakshanams each time I visited home with K in tow. The uncomplaining trips to visit me even if it meant he was going mad with boredom. The never-ending temple visits to ensure that my siblings and I were blessed with happiness of every kind. The predictable phone conversations as he passed the phone on to Amma just to sit by and listen as Amma and I traded gossip.
The single-minded perseverance as he took up any job. The drive to prove himself. The occasional sarcasm and witty anecdotes. The oversized glasses that covered half his face. The brave face as he battled for life on the hospital bed. The raised hand blessing me for the last time before I lost him.
The memories are countless. The grief muted and the sense of gratitude overwhelming as I reflect on the exceptional person I had as my Appa. Four years since, Appa’s presence in my life is just as strong as it was before.
Appa, you are missed deeply and loved ever so much.