Dreamt of Ma last night. Don’t really remember much about the dream. Her face was all I could revoke and conjure up. Woke up with this heaviness in my heart, this familiar density and sickening weight. After her death I would often wrap myself up with her clothes and try to breathe in long and hard, searching for that familiar smell. Behind closed doors and drawn curtains I’d sit on the creaky old chair taking in the eerie silence of my own misplaced presence. Her saree, gowns no longer carry her smell and I wonder what should I fill them with now. There was no longer my mother’s warmth inhabiting the clothes now, and certainly no smell. The clothes rested on the shelf and she is never coming back to claim it, wear it. A deep breath and I took my phone, dialed granny, told her I would come see her. She understood the pain in my voice.
She always understands.
A friend once told me he envied my memory, envied my ability to recall exact details and conversations with an almost mnemonic aptitude. I remember wondering how this was a good thing, since most of the memories I collect often tore me up from inside.
Usual scenes at granny’s place. And like every other time I fell in love with the enchanting entrance. The very sight of it begins the healing process. Granny was busy doing which I call quintessentially Indian. Shelling of peas. And my grandmother does this in an almost ritualistic way. She picks up the pea pod, slide her fingers across, deftly opens up its pocket and with the skill of someone that has been doing this for years, her thumb pushes out into a heap on a large plate.
When I was young I would listen to the sounds of the peas falling into piles. How I loved eating the crunchy, sweet raw seeds. But today I simply watched. I could feel the heaviness in my heart slowly losing its cohesion as I watched the small pile grow as my grandmother shells them….a sight that is so, so precious to me.
She looked straight into my eyes and said, ” so you’ve not been eating and sleeping well I reckon. Go check the fridge, there’s something waiting for you.” My face broke out into a huge smile as I opened the fridge door to the little earthen pots of delicately decorated payokh ( kheer ) staring back at me. Despite its seemingly simple recipe, it gave me great comfort because when I was young my grandmother would ritualistically prepare it whenever I was sad. I remember how she would stir the rice and the saffron -infused milk for hours, gently, along with sugar and finely ground cardamom. The aroma would waft out of the kitchen and dance around the whole house. Today Granny has specially garnished them generously with almonds and pistachios. These are happy memories of my childhood. It made me smile, it reminded me of my childhood in the most special way.
I ran into her arms. She said, ” I miss her too. She was my best, my most beautiful daughter. But it will hurt her if we cry. We can’t hurt her majoni.”
I stayed in her arms for a while.
Like I said, she always understands.