“Tea or coffee?”
She looked at me as though I had asked her a profound philosophical question. Actually, akka would not have an issue with that, after my appi, her one true love was philosophy. But to choose between tea or coffee? Now that was tough. After much deliberation, she blinked once, and I went inside to make her some tea.
My grandmother – my great Akka – never dealt well with silence. She was loud and feisty, and my family’s favourite chatterbox. She could enthrall you with fairy tales and philosophical debates, funny anecdotes and lectures on the art of living life. But alas, last year, she lost her husband – my Appi – and her voice on the same day. The companionship of silence was a bitter one for her, and she made sure that her voice was heard – through her eyes. We had made a language out of blinking. If I had a bad day, she would close her eyes ever so slowly, and I would know it would be alright. If I forgot to switch off the lights, I would be met with a cold, blank stare, and I would know I was in trouble. To me that one blink meant a thousand words, and the silence akka so dreaded often showed up in my conversations with friends and colleagues. Amidst all the emojis, texts, calls and drinks, I often sensed the silence of apathy and loneliness. But not with my Akka.
That night was no different.
“Do you love me Akka?” I asked, as I tucked her in.
I asked her this question every night. She would always smile and blink, and then I’d tell her I loved her, and she would go to sleep. I knew she loved me, but I asked her every day, because that blink would always fill my heart with joy and warmth. It was our thing.
“Do you love me?”
Akka looked at me, and gave me a faint smile. I could sense something was off.
“Akka? Akka! AKKA!!!”
Concern quickly metamorphosed into fear and then into horror. My Akka would never blink again. Her eyes continued to stare at me, but the light was gone. Akka was gone.
The obsequies was over in a jiffy. I barely had the time to process anything as I had to deal with a swarm of visitors every day for a month after her passing. Despite the commotion, I had never found the house so quiet. With every conversation, every visit, the roots of my grief grew deeper. Even time would not be able to ease this pain, I thought. It didn’t.
It had been one year already. I was functioning normally in the eyes of my friends and relatives, but inside, winter hadn’t made way for spring. There could be no spring, no warmth, no love, because there was no akka. I was going through my childhood pictures with akka, desperately wishing for a way to travel back in time. I wanted to tell her I missed her, to tell her that I wasn’t okay, to tell her to take me with her.
At that moment, something inside me urged me to look up.
There she was! My pristine akka! She sat in her wheelchair looking at me, like she always did. Could it be? Was I dreaming? Maybe I had just woken up from a nightmare and nothing had really happened? I could not fathom any of this. Akka…Akka had returned?! I stared at her, first in disbelief and then in joy. I could not muster the energy to walk or talk, so all I did was look at her.
Akka smiled, just like she did on her last night, and blinked. The warmth returned to my heart, and I knew that it was going to be okay.
But I couldn’t blink. I wouldn’t. I did not want to lose the sight even for a fraction of a second. As my tears made their way out of my fatigued eyes, I finally gave in.
She was gone.