by Jindagi Kumari

 

Sometimes a phone call may bridge the gap between life and death in a snap. When you announce death you don’t greet. So, my elder sister on that Sunday morning call began with “Had your breakfast?” before telling me that Baba was no more.

Baba, our grandfather, was bedridden for last several weeks. Near 80, he had suffered loss of appetite and weight. Death had chosen not to afflict him with a disease, but as they say, old age itself was an ailment, big time.

When my WhatsApp messenger brought the images of Baba on the pyre, we were at a table in an exquisite eatery — my spouse and kids discussing the buffet menu.

Miles apart, I penciled in my itinerary for attending his last rites. I had concluded death was his bliss; and gone about our sacrosanct Sunday routine — shopping, movie, and eating out — mourning on the go, perhaps.

By Nishi Pulugurtha

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It was a Sunday or maybe a holiday, I think, as all of us were at home that morning. I think I was in grade two. I still remember that day so very vividly. It involved my maternal grandmother, ammamma, as we called her. The four of us, my parents, my sister and me, were all in the living room talking. The grill gate in our home had a big lock and to knock we used to bang the gate with the lock. As soon as I heard the sound of the lock banging on the gate, I ran out to the verandah to check out our visitor.  I saw ammamma, standing at our gate!

My joy and surprise knew no bounds. I rushed in to tell amma (mother) and appagaru (father) that ammamma was at our gate. They were stunned to hear the news, rushed out to open the gate and welcome her. Relatives from distant Kakinada coming over to our place in Calcutta did not happen often and as children we were always excited and overjoyed whenever they came over.

After a cup of piping hot coffee, ammamma freshened up before sitting down with all of us to talk. As amma had been unwell, my father had written to her folks in Kakinada. On receiving the letter, ammamma had decided to come to Calcutta to be with her eldest. Upon purchasing the train ticket, my eldest mama (maternal uncle) had been asked to send a telegram to my father letting him know of ammamma’s travel plans. She took the Madras Mail (as it was then called) from Samalkot Junction which is about 15 kms from Kakinada town.

The train reached Howrah station early morning. Ammamma alighted from the train and looked around. Hari garu, that was how she addressed my father, would surely be there to receive her. But he was nowhere to be seen. She then took out an inland letter that my mother had written to her some time ago, that letter had the sender’s address on it. She walked out of Howrah station after waiting for quite some time. Just outside the station she met a traffic sergeant. She showed him the address. He looked at it and started speaking to her.

By Sunil Sharma

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It was a daily ritual.

On the way to office, Grandpa would peep in to find the little Neha sitting quietly in the corner, her red-nosed, big-eyed clown near the books, on the bare stone floor.  He would say nothing and leave.  As soon as the cook, that fat old lady, went out to chat with the neighbours, Neha, now empress of a silent cottage near the small railway station in the middle of the desert, winked at the clown and said: “Come on, let us play, my little brother.”

The clown, waiting for the invitation from his human mistress, would nod, jump up and down, roll and make faces at the puny girl.  Neha screamed with laughter, eyes lit up.  His red nose twitching, white hair under a faded cap, the ill-matched bright-hued tunic upon a thin body, the clown danced, his painted enormous eyes full of laughter and kindness.  Neha and the clown played together in the silent house.  When the cook returned home, the clown shrank back and resumed his place either on the iron table or the pile of the books.  Neha sat quietly, staring out of the barred window, at the huge expanse of the moving sand and across the stretch of desert, at the village many miles away from the railway station, shimmering in the hot sun.  Bare brown hills, except an occasional babool tree here and there, loomed up high in the arid landscape of hot sun, shifting sands and a cold moon.