by Sanya Gupta
a letter to my grandfather, my nene,
I hate you. You were always there for me, at every moment in my life. You celebrated everything I did and helped me get back up when I continually fell down… literally and figuratively. You taught me lessons about family and pride and self-confidence. You helped me grow up, making me sure of the person I would become. You helped shape my dreams, my ambitions. You did so much for me, but you didn’t even let me say goodbye, and, for that, I hate you. I hate that you knew there was something wrong. I hate that you did not go to the hospital. I hate that you did not wish me a happy new year. I hate that you did not talk to me one last time. I hate that you left me. me and everyone who cared about you. You left me in shambles, trying to piece myself together. I hate how everything became a spectacle, a battle for money and ownership. I hate how family who could not have cared about you otherwise, rushed to the scene with fake tears, hungry for a piece of the green, papery ladoo. No mom, I do not want to look at him through a glassy phone screen. I want to be there, celebrating the beginning of the year with him. I do not want to be thankful to your god for having mercy. I want to hear him laughing at my childlike yelps as a brilliant display of colours exploded into the night sky welcoming another 365 days. I do not want it to be over.
You are a good 12 or so hours ahead of us, so it goes that we would have talked to you, waiting for our own new year. Did I even talk to you? Did I wish you with my stupid nervous giggle? Did I ask you how you were? How everyone else was? It is bad that I don’t even remember? I know I asked you within the month of December how you were doing. You had been ill for so long, it makes sense that I would have said something. Or could that just be my conscious trying to persuade itself of something that did not even happen? Do you know how painful it is when you have spend 15 years of your life with someone but you don’t even remember the last time you talked to them, you hugged them? well, it fucking hurts. I am sure I must have talked to you in person when I came to the motherland 3 years ago. Did I have lunch with you? I am sure I did. I am not so careless as to have ignored you in the mayhem that is Indian weddings. I know at the very least, I must have told you how much I love you. I have to have said that.
When I was a young girl, you used to smother me in oil, vaseline, and dettol because mosquitos had seemed to take a likening to my blood covering my chubby figure in an array of bites. You used to explain to me why each part of the mixture was essential. I used to wonder when the agony would end. Now, I wish I could sit down next to you one more time and listen to you explain. You said that the oil made my arms and legs slippery so the mosquitos would fall off when they tried to land on me. I would giggle and explain how that did not make sense bringing a small smile to your lips. You would sigh and tell me that it made sense and I would wave it off. Sometimes I would mischievously run off when you turned around to replenish your cotton ball with a generous amount of dettol to keep those pests away from me. I would squeal running off to hide behind the cooler or into the weird thingy that connected the floors of your home. You would smile gently, pretending to look for me despite my obvious giggle giving me away. You would always find me, tickle me until my eyes twinkled with laughter, and plop me right back down. You were the one who introduced me to gardening taking me to the roof where you had a vast array of flowers, fruits, vegetables, and everything in between. You used to garnish my hair with white roses that you had named after me. When my antics would become too much, nani would tell me to grab a few of my roses to give to mama to put in the temple. I would instantly smile taking my chubby little legs up to the top floor jumping up trying to reach the latch that was far too high up. I would call you informing you of the important mission I had been assigned. Will I be able to reach the latch now? Does that mean that you are no longer essential, that I have grown up to be independent of you? Will that garden where you taught me how to believe in myself still be there when I come back next week? Or have all the flowers faded away like you? Ever since I was little, I was told you stopped smoking for me. For the reason that you had a granddaughter now. The doctors called your ability to fix yourself a miracle. They marveled at the fact that you used meditation like no one ever could. You taught me how to surround myself with nature and believe that everything would get better. But… did it… did. it. even. matter?
It was 2:30 pm on the 1st day of 2019. My “grandmother”, your sister in law, called my dad. something that had never happened before. I was confused yet giddy, I handed the phone to my dad, not even prepared for what I would hear moments later. Her rushed voice echoed through the house “don’t tell meenu!” as he crumbled to the floor calling for my mom against her orders. I was confused. My mother rushed down confused as to what was happening. He told the two of us, his eyes glossy with tears for maybe the first time. I was broken. In every sense of the word. broken. I had absolutely no idea what was happening. I did not believe it. the first stage of grief. Impossible. Preposterous. simply not true. I could hardly breathe. It was true what they said. everything was in slow motion. the moment perpetuated. Next to me, my mom sobbed gently trying not to show emotion. “it’s fine, he was struggling for so long.” “everything is fine.” my arms tried to hug her but she turned around visually consoling herself. She called my nani and mama telling them to stay strong and that everything would be okay. She told them to take care of my cousin, for how could she understand what was going on. The small child, the same age as I was, bound to forget. My mom, tears streaming down her face said that everything was going to be fine. How did she know? How could she know?
Tomorrow (in accordance with when this will be released) will mark 7 months. I still cannot believe it has been 7 months. When I was younger, all I had to worry about was not stepping on the cracks on the sidewalk as that would theoretically break my mother’s back. I had experienced this before but not in the full sense of the word. The first time, I had cried sure, but I was 4, I hardly knew what was happening. The second time, I was 13, I had some sense of the world and was devastated, yet I hardly knew the woman. I loved her, but not enough to truly hurt me. This time. This time, I spent a full week spending every moment crying. crying because I did not know what else to do. I was utterly destroyed with no one to pick up the pieces. I went to school a few days later with a fake smile plastered on my face, my eyes slightly swollen. No one asked what was wrong because I had become so apt at hiding my feelings. I had, and still have, this tendency to push people away. I don’t like talking to people in general, let alone talking about my feelings. I consider my feelings to be this separate thing, certainly not a part of me. I hate emotions and it killed me from the inside out. He was one of the few people I did not hate opening up to. My nene taught me so much about life, about becoming the best version of myself I could be, about believing that I could do anything. For that whole month, I was almost on auto-survival mode. I was hardly alive, doing the bare minimum to survive. Every mention of something that reminded me of him and I would try to find some secluded place to cry. to do something to ease the pain.
I don’t know if anyone I know will read this broken letter. Hell, I don’t even know if anyone at all will read this. Regardless, I know for certain the one person I could possibly muster enough courage to to say these words... he can’t hear them. I wish he could. I wish I had talked to him. For that, I am so sorry nene. I am so sorry for any time I yelled at you. I am sorry for being mean to you. I’m sorry all the times I laughed at you for not remembering my new friends' names. You would ask me how Serafina and Sophia were and I would laugh saying that I was in whatever grade now, I was a big girl. Those people weren’t my friends anymore. I’m sorry for not talking to you more. asking you how you were amidst laughter. Most of all, I am sorry for saying that I hated you. I don’t. I love you.