It’s been nine years since Appa passed away. The immediacy of the pain has gone, the edges dulled and rounded. Memories do not assail me at unexpected times. Yet, appa is in my thoughts every now and then. He slips into my dreams, looking just the way I remember him best, in his fifties. He is part of conversations I have with Laddu. She sits on my lap, his picture in her tiny hands. “Thatha sollu. Giri thatha” I say, she repeats, her baby lisp transforming it into something heartwarming.
I write word after word, accumulating them against a target when Appa enters the narrative. His white shirt with stripes, his silence that spoke volumes. Parts of him leach into my stories, into characters I create in my head.
I sit across from Saathi, taking modest bites out of my bhatura. I remember Appa and puri masala. I remember pakoda. Talk veers to food and memories and we remember the man who was my first hero.
It occurs to me that when people pass, they live on in the minds and memories of the people to whom they meant the most. It brought home something important. I sat back, reflecting on the people who will miss me if I were to pass on. I came up with four people, all immediate family. Saathi and the kids. Sure, people may rally around at death, but the year after and the year after that? It helps set priorities. To leave behind a legacy worth remembering.
We sat around the table this evening to a simple meal. I closed my eyes and verbalized the gratitude I felt for the everyday things. To family, Ammu and Pattu echoed. Saathi followed them. To family he said. As we broke bread and tucked in, I remember the many days I had sat in a circle like this with my siblings and parents, passing food and laughing. I do not remember the conversations. I wonder if we talked at all. But I remember we sat and ate together. One unit. Bound till we pass on.
“What is Thanksgiving?” my daughters ask. I pause, unsure of what I want to say. True, it is a day for giving thanks. I look up the story and wonder if the Native Americans celebrate? I skim the story and get to the philosophy behind it. I tell them next year we will include foods local to where we live. We will create a new tradition I say and they nod eagerly.
I look back on the traditions I share with my Appa. Deepavali mornings as I sat on a wooden ledge decorated with kolam, new clothes stacked before me edged with crimson and turmeric. Appa ladling a handful of warm sesame oil and rubbing my head with it. The memories come thick and fast. The early morning bike rides from the train station. The times I sat at his foot, my back resting on his legs and watching TV while he stroked the top of my head. The times he stretched out on the couch or the bed, exhausted from a long day at the factory and we would crowd around him, my siblings and I taking turns to press his foot.
Everything is sepia in my head, the colors fading with each year. I try valiantly to recall and pen them down for fear of losing it to an aging brain. I feel sadness wash over me. For what I have lost and what I am losing.