Ammu, Pattu, Laddu and I clamber into an auto that is standing a few feet from our home. I throw my bulky bag at the back and adjust the baby on me before the auto jerks and moves. The traffic is minimal and the breeze feels lovely in the morning sun.
“Your Appa went to the hospital for the last time in my auto,” his voice is disembodied, breaking up in the wind. I feel myself go still. Tears sting my eyes. It is unexpected, this little nugget of information. We talk about my dad and in some weird way, I feel like I must experience his presence around me. I don’t. “He was such a gentleman, always had a minute to stop and say hello, always had a smile…” he pauses and is lost in a world of his own.
I let distance and time get in between us and the moment and say, “I am proud of being his daughter.” At that moment, I know it has never been truer. Surrounded by people who knew him as himself, not a role he was playing, he is being remembered for who he was. A man who was genuine, made friends easily, had a kind word and smile for everyone he met. His presence envelops me and I dry my tears on Laddu’s dress.
Something about being in this city brings back ghosts. Wisps of people and memories long buried. A couple of days back, we passed the Cancer Institute in Adayar and I almost told my children that their grandma breathed her last there. As we passed, I half expected to feel something. Goosebumps, a warmth, a chillness. Something.
As the auto trundled on Doraisamy subway, I scanned the sidewalks for the presence of a dear departed uncle. The pockmarked concrete and the dusty track along the road ceased to be just physical things and took on imprints of memories and souls that left their mark there.
Somewhere in my head, the living and the dead merge and I feel a connection to this earth and air. Many before me have spoken about the pull of the land and I realize perhaps in some way this is what they were talking about. A connection that defies logic. A thread through time and centuries connecting people. Imprints of lives lived, living on past their time, touching us in intangible ways.