There are some days in your life that you cannot erase from your memory. Days that are dark and filled with misery but lighten up with the love someone shows and gives you the courage to get up and walk on.
In my life one of those days came as 1st February 2012, the day my grandmother passed away. I had just returned from the hospital, and I had the enormous task of not letting my grandfather know about what had happened. I was the only one at home and it was with enormous effort that I lied to my Dadu. That was the first time I was actually grateful that he could not see.
I lay on my bed, my body numb with shock and my mind mercilessly playing that one image of my Dadi lying on that hospital bed, how her hands were still warm when I shook them, and how the blood had gushed out when the nurse pulled out the IV.
I could not cry. I just could not. I could not accept the fact that she was never coming back. Even after 3 years, there are moments now when I involuntarily get to thinking what I would tell her when something major comes in my life. That is how it always had been and there is nothing crueler than the person you have grown around for 17 years being snatched away from you like that.
My parents came, along with a couple of relatives- details my brain took in vaguely as I continued doing a detailed survey of the bedroom ceiling, my Chemistry notebook (I had my exam on 3rd) in my hands.
I remember replying to my father's queries on when my practical exams were going to end so that he could do the reservations to Rajahmundry for the final death rites. I remember the hushed tones of that conversation, the closed door of my Dadu's room, the way my mother's eyes kept filling with tears automatically.
My mind still refused to register what had happened and the only thing I remember thinking as soon as I heard that we had to make a journey was that I had to get books. Journey=Novels. The mantra I had been following since childhood.
"I need to go to Antara's place", I said suddenly, jumping from my bed. "I need to get some books to last me a one week trip", I elaborated.
I called her before I took my cycle out mechanically and cycled to Antara’s place. I stood at her doorstep waiting after I rang the doorbell. She came then, and before I could even start talking, she hugged me, hard, so hard that my insides seemed to melt from their frozen state. She just held me like that and I remember whispering “I don’t know what to do” repeatedly into her shoulder.
I was never a hugger. My mother is the only one in my family who has the least bit of inclination towards showing physical signs of emotion and I certainly was not of that category. I don’t have the memory of hugging my sibling, or my best friends or anyone for that matter.
So that was my first hug, a proper one and it did something to me. Something warmed my numbed heart on that chilly February night and when she released me and I saw in her eyes the empathy I had been unknowingly searching for, I felt a strange hope in my chest.
She never said anything that night, did not give me those empty words of comfort and condolences that I learned to hate in the coming days. Sometimes a whispered word, a look of understanding, a touch of love work more magic than an elaborated talk. I got all of those that night and I will always be grateful for that.
I returned back home with a stack of Agatha Christies and the courage to cope with my loss.
There is a quote from one of my favourite books Winnie the Pooh where Christopher Robin says to Pooh : "Promise me you will always remember: You're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think." Antara is the friend who always reminds me this. The first person I call when I feel low on self esteem because I can always rely on her to give me that tiny nudge to bring me back on track.
Oh, what would we do without such friends!
This post is written for Housing.com