As of today, it’s been a year since you left us. I remember being so shocked and in denial that I still went to the Maroon 5 concert that very evening and actually enjoyed it. I didn’t forgive myself for doing that for a long time. I guess I just couldn’t imagine a life without you, or anyone who matters to me as much as you did, in it. I still can’t.
You were, to say the least, amazing. You were a strong, respected woman, a wonderful wife to my dadu, an incredible mother to your four children and an even more incredible mother-in-law. As a child I saw you and loved you through my parents’ eyes, because I was too young to know you personally and have an opinion of you as an individual. But I saw the tears in papa’s eyes when he sang that song Aamar Saadhna Mitilo and I couldn’t help but cry because I saw the emotion he must have felt for you every time he sang that song. I always thought of you when I heard that song, and I think no one sings it like him. I heard stories of mamma adjusting to a new household and a new family and she would always tell me how lucky she was to have you as a mother, and I looked up to you even more. You would also tell me stories of what papa did when he was young. It was as though you and dadu taught me how to love and appreciate my parents even more than I did already.
As I grew up, and developed a connection with you and dadu independent of my parents, I came to love you even more. I think the first time I spent time with you alone as a person who could form opinions independent of my parents was during the week I spent in Calcutta in one of the winters while I was at Woodstock. I remember going around the house in the afternoons while you and dadu slept, closing the windows to avoid the mosquitoes that came in the evening. At night we used to talk till we fell asleep, as I did with my pishis later. I think that’s when I picked up the habit of listening to music when I had trouble sleeping. I still do that, and I know you loved doing that. But for me, the most precious moments I’ve spent alone with you are the times you and I sat together to cut up your old saris and sew little diapers for Brishti. I have never felt closer to you than I did in those moments. It was also the last time I spent with you, and I wish I had had more time. At the same time, it was the first time I met my niece, and the first time in my life that I ever felt a maternal instinct towards a baby. I love her in a way I have never loved someone before, and it was because of the way you taught me to be around her. Also, watching you with her gave me an idea of what a wonderful and natural mother you must have been to the four amazing individuals of your creation.
I miss you so much. I miss your narkol nadu, nimki and pati shapta. I miss you feeding me bhaat-bhaat-maach, and sometimes maach-maach-bhaat, and getting all the fish bones out for me, and telling me stories of tia pakhi and rakhhosh at the same time. I miss wiping my wet hands on your soft, old cotton sari. I miss watching you use your Nivea and your talcum and comb your long hair and tie it with a black thread and put on sindoor and bindi with that cute little two-sided instrument that I’ve never seen anyone else use before. I miss watching you knit on the long rexine sofa, feet up, with ETV Bangla on full volume, while dadu reads his second or third newspaper. I miss taking all the nokul dana after your daily pujo. I miss the way you said hello on the phone; bodo pishi says it exactly like you used to. I even miss you yelling at papa when he forcefully made you stand up straight. I miss your childhood stories of when you lived in a big house in a jungle. I miss your smell and your voice. I miss you always being on the phone with your sisters and your daughters. I have such vivid sights and smells of your memories in my mind that couldn’t possibly ever go away.
You are my role model. You fought and overcame breast cancer. You were the wife, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother and great-grandmother that I someday hope to be. The entire family revolves around you and dadu. I guess you lived a full, hopefully happy and satisfied life, and you had to leave one day. But you were such a huge part of my life that it’s impossible, even after one year, to cope with your absence. I haven’t come to terms with the fact that everyone got to say goodbye to you except me. I haven’t been to Calcutta since before you left us and I can’t imagine that house without you in it. Maybe when I go there next I will get some closure. But just so you know, I’ll still be looking for you on the terrace, waving goodbye when I leave your shrine. I love you.