(Tamil words used: Aachi- Grandmother, Appa- Father, Amma- Mother)
It was the summer holidays. Eight year old Millenia sat by the window, daydreaming about the previous summers. Oh, how she had loved visiting Aachi every year at their ancestral home with its garden and the little pond! Thinking about that brought back the memories of all the delicacies Aachi used to cook for her. The sweet fluffy little paniyarams, crisp homemade papads seasoned with cumin seeds and the mouth-watering tangy spicy mango pickle.
“Don’t you miss Aachi?“, She asked Oswald who was lolling on her bed. The cat looked at her and purred.
“I know Appa said that she is with God. I think this God person is really mean”, Millennia said with resignation. Oswald rolled down from the bed and jumped into her lap. She ran her fingers through his glossy brown hair petting him.
Millenia went over the contents of the Aachi’s old trunk case for the second time that day. A pocket diary fell down from a folded blanket. The edges were blunt, pages faded but legible. It was a handwritten recipe book with Aachi’s signature dishes! Excited, Millenia ran off to find her mom.
“Amma, can you make Aachi’s mango pickle with this?” She asked clutching the recipe book. Her mom’s eyes clouded as she nodded.
Fifteen minutes later, Millenia with enough money in her hand and Oswald on her heels went to buy raw mangoes and fenugreek seeds. Her mom had said it’s the fenugreek seeds along with asafoetida that made Aachi’s pickle so special. But even after visiting almost every shop in the market Millennia couldn’t get the fenugreek seeds.
“What do we do now Oswald?” She asked miserably and Oswald purred again.
“You know purring doesn’t always help?” She snapped and the cat meowed its disapproval.
They ran into Prem uncle, her father’s friend, in the market and Oswald hissed. Millenia couldn’t blame Oswald. Ever since Prem uncle had sat on the couch mistaking a sleeping Oswald to a cushion, they had hated each other.
“What’s the matter kiddo?” Prem uncle asked Millenia with concern and she felt like crying. His eyes softened as she explained the situation. He asked her if she knew anything about the Root rot.
“Root what?” Millenia asked confused.
“It’s a disease that has destroyed almost all the fenugreek plants in our country. It will be some time before we can grow new plants.” Prem uncle explained.
On reaching home, Millenia noticed a draw string pouch at her table that she concluded must have fallen from Aachi’s trunk. She undid the string and found a fistful of yellow-brown fenugreek seeds in it.
Later that night after of meal of rice and mango pickle she wondered, “How did Aachi know we would need fenugreek seeds?”
When her mom remained silent, Millenia continued “Maybe Aachi never really left us. She has just become invisible”.
Oswald, who was gazing at the kitchen garden where they had planted the rest of the fenugreek seeds, purred his agreement.
My Grandmother is still not dead
In my dream,
We’re still in the hospital.
There are more people coming,
To pay their respects to the last
Of my grandmother’s shallow breaths
They have enough of their own
To waste in platitudes
They insist that saying goodbye
Is the only proper thing to do,
I tremble as I touch a hand
That raised me to know sunlight
A touch I can remember now
When I hold snow for too long
In my dream,
She’s always alive as my hand meets
Her oxygen mask
And because I know how it has to end
I do it.
In my dream,
Is it because I killed her?
It’s been seven years since she last breathed
And my grandmother is still not dead.