It has been close to two years since I have seen you. Yet I am engulfed by a strange feeling – as much as I miss your sunny presence, I don’t feel the distance that has separated us irreversibly. Is it possible that I wake up every day striving to internalize the spirit that personified you? There are times that I know that I am failing to live up to the Himalayan standards of character or unable to plumb the oceanic depths of generosity and unconditional affection that you immersed your loved ones in. But you know, I am okay with putting effort into things that you came to you effortlessly. I mean, how did you know to put yourself in a newly-wed daughter-in-law’s shoes? And tell me that my apologizing to my wife when I was in the wrong would mean a lot to her. How did you manage to convey that in just a simple, well-worded line during your first outing with her? You didn’t sound like you had prepared that line! Okay, please don’t tell me that that’s why you are you! I get it, Ms. Modesty. I am just asking for a little help here!
In a conversation with your friend Anush, I was telling him about how yoga is an effective way to rid oneself off toxins and how that was helping me be more centered and love my loved ones deeper and in a balanced manner. He smiled and replied, “Shoba never needed yoga because there were no toxins in her.” I agree with him partially. But you will be happy to know that I continue to practice yoga every day. I do put my yoga mat in front of the photograph of yours that is in my prayer room. As I focus on the rhythms of my breathing, the scents of nostalgia sweep across me. The fully functional clock seems to be hopelessly inaccurate.
In the last week of Sep 2016 - it was the ‘last’ week in more ways than one – you were probably wondering in that hospital room where you were preparing for a one-way journey, how the apple of your eye, your lovable daughter, was going to live life with only one parent. Before I write anything about her, let me share with you what her Dad wrote to me:
"Yes, like every other person, she too cried initially and asked the WHY questions. But what, I believe, she did with an innocence of a child, is sacrificed her unhappiness for her mother’s happiness. When she understood that her mother is supremely happy and completely healthy in Heaven now and that she would have continued to suffer if she had survived, she displayed true unselfish love. She stopped focusing on her grief, her loss, her more difficult future and just focused on a wonderful vision of a healthy bright mother in Heaven. Her happiness for her mother she so loved diminished her own unhappiness."
Am I surprised? Not really – she is your daughter. I used to wonder how despite all your health issues you never lost that radiant smile, your willingness to derive happiness from that of others. I now understand why everyone thought that your eyes were so beautiful – they were a pair of lenses that you used to focus on others. You smile was perceived as genuine because it went all the way to your eyes – I can never forget the way you received me at the Chennai airport. Tears rolled out of those same eyes unstoppably when I bid goodbye to you at the end of the trip. I recently watched a speech by Martin Crowe, one of my favorite cricketers. He uttered a line to a fellow cricketer which I would like to steal for you – “I thank you for your emotion.” I know that you were not a fan of the word, “thanks.” But how else am I supposed to acknowledge the rarity of your purity? Your daughter at 13 is already showing the same signs of genuineness and generosity. You did good, Chithi. (I know you would have loved to hear the word ‘Chithi’ a little more; I thought that that was too formal, sorry!)
There was a moment at the Express Mall in Chennai where your little angel behaved just like you. Actually the whole visit reminded me of you. She called me a couple of hours before the visit and asked, “Would it be okay if I bring a friend along?” Just like you, right – I remember you asking your friend Gomes to come with you for a 'family' vacation to Yercaud in 1985. Yes, I get it – Gomes was family for you. Similarity #2 – she played air hockey with her friend at the arcade at the mall. Her friend lost and looked a tad upset. Immediately, she went and consoled her friend stating that she played very well too. Trust me, I never had this grace when I defeated a friend at cricket. (You knew that, didn’t you!) What was truly amazing to me was that the trip to the mall was to cheer her up following the unthinkable events at the hospital that October. She had lost her mother a few days prior and yet she didn’t want her friend to feel bad? I suppose the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. In May, when Thathama decided to join you, I tried to take a leaf out of your daughter dearest’s book – Thathamma had suffered quite a bit this year ever since her heart attack on Jan 1. Maybe it was time for her suffering to end. If as a 37-year old, I had that thought about my 81-year old grandma, it was due to a 12-year old who had that selfless thought about a 49-year old mother. I reckon that the ability to teach and inspire by doing, by being, clearly runs in the family. As I said, you did good, my dear.
I wish I could have agreed with Anush fully. I wish that the physical toxins had the heart to bow down to the purity of your heart and say, “I lose.” Shame on them for taking you away from us so early. But I shall continue to pray to you to give me:
Clarity of vision to focus on my loved ones even when I have pain in my eyelids…
Generosity of thought to brim with pride when someone else’s cup of joy overflows…
Kindness of heart that prevents me from causing indelible wounds to others…
Strength of character that nurses my wounds with the balm of forgiveness…
And finally, the willingness to pardon God for making me bereft of your luminous presence for the rest of my life...
But I assure you that within the heart flickers your bright spirit...
But I assure you that within the heart flickers your bright spirit...
I miss you a lot, my friend, my sister, my mother.
With all the love that you gave me,
My God ! is it two years since she passed away ?? I still remember our conversation over the phone when you'd come down to Madras and I admire your fortitude at that time and your enquiries about my son's travails.
Wonderful reading this Ram ! Very beautifully conveyed.
Very very nice Ram! As you said, Shoba was always smiling , so genuine. Sri lalitha is so mature beyond words. When I was in Chennai now , she had come over to see me and the same day chitthi was admitted in the hospital , she was so worried , she kept asking how Brims was . We could not distract her at all. It is so tough to not have a mom around at that vulnerable age .That girl is going to do so well for herself . She has so much emotional intelligence and that is such an important quality to have, will take her a long, long way. Keep writing Ram, love to walk down the memory lane with you!
Yes Ram, you are right ! Shoba did see me as a part of her family. It’s not just her but your Thathaa and Thathama too. I feel so fortunate that she was part of my life and filled with so many beautiful memories that till date I cherish all those memories. While speaking of memories, I have tons of them but would want to bring out couple of them. All the memories with her are still fresh and picture perfect in my mind. I remember Uncle, Aunty and Shoba waiting outside Santhome Cathedral on few Sunday mornings to pick me for a movie, since my parents were not movie goers. I remember her taking me to Mr. Sivasailam house for Lakshmi papa Thottil (She used say “Lakshmi papa” and its stuck same in my head always) and to Guhan house for family party (Hope I got his name right, their house is backside of Nagasewara park, Luz) I didn’t know these two people but she insisted that I too tag along. That’s Shoba because she cannot bear to see someone left out. I remember her gifting me a yellow with purple border pattu pavadai because I didn’t have any pavadai chattai to wear for Gollu. This yellow purple pavadai was my first pattu pavadai. That’s Shoba who has big heart to give what others don’t have. I remember our trip to Yercaud. My first ever hill station holiday trip (my school days holidays was usually trip to Calcutta our home town) I remember our stay at Mr.Puru house, the jeep drive (uncle drove), our stay at the guest house next to Monforts, our picnic lunch served by Hotel Savoys, film shooting we watched enroute, fruit custard made by aunty and myself, making the bed everyday (in fact I learnt to tuck up bedsheets and making bed there and till date follow as my routine) and those everyday boating rides. Speaking of boating, Ram hope you are able to recollect the incident. Remember, how you decided to take a dive out before the boat man could reach the dock. Thank God, at the nick of time Shoba and myself grabbed your arms. You were chest down deep into water. When the boat man reached the dock, we pulled you out. All our tensions and trembling vanished when Shoba bursted out laughing saying “Look he didn’t let go his chappals, he is so smart held on tightly to his chappals” That’s Shoba who is ever giggling. She took joy at the simplest of things.
I can go on and on since have so much memories. I live everyday with those memories. Few which have become my habit and I apply them everyday. I learnt a lot from Aunty on housekeeping which I follow, I learnt from them sharing and giving, I learnt from them friendship matters (don’t wait for others to make the move or call, you keep in touch always). I learnt from her, between friends its ok to fight and have misunderstandings but forget at the next breath.
Honestly, miss her so much. Some days feel like picking up the phone to talk to her. Love you always Shoba.
Yes Srilalitha reminds so much of Shoba. Wish I was there to meet her often. Whenever possible I try to speak to her and her first question is "When are you coming for good". My heart twitch when she asks that.
Thank you all for your kind words and your memories of Shoba. I am sure she will be smiling from up above...
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