After mum and Cuz Sulo left for the hospital, Velu, Thangamma and self started on the cleaning. For the rest of the world they were just two hired aides, but for mum and dad they were like family, for V and T as well, mum and dad were like surrogate parents, they cared for dad not just for the pitiful salary they earned, but because they were treated like equal humans, they knew this was a couple who genuinely cared for their well being.
In most houses, they were not allowed to sit on your normal sofas, the aide/help would either have a small stool or they would sit on the floor, they would have separate plates and drinking glasses, slightly inferior in quality, may even have a chip on them. Never in par with the owners of the house. It was never the case in our house. Dad felt a terrible sadness and guilt at the plight of the poor. Time to time Dad would talk about it and say to me, “I know I can’t save them all, in the scheme of things, maybe what I or us as a family, what we do, may not make a difference, but for that one person that we helped, it would make the world of difference”. I know he was just repeating what he had heard or read somewhere. But within him, he wished he could change the world, or at least this society, change the way people treated each other. He would say “it costs the same to smile at a rich man and a poor man”.
I think the above paragraph is my procrastination or hesitation to write what happened next. Where I was going with all that was, V and T were as excited as me of the arrival of dad. I was holding the ladder for Velu who was now attacking the cobwebs on the ceiling. Thangamma decided to leave us with the cleaning, she wanted to make some cutlets (a Sri Lankan delicacy – fish balls), it was dad’s favourite. And it would be a great thing to serve to guests who would visit.
The phone rang. It sounded the same as when dad rang to say that he was coming for my birthday, then again it sounded the same when he rang to say that he was not coming, he was unwell. The ringtone never changed, just the tone of the messages kept changing. It wasn’t me who answered the phone, my cuz’s mother-in-law did. So, I don’t know the exact words that were parted by my cousin.
It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. I don’t think I heard all the words. Parames Mami (cus sulo’s mother-in-law) came up the stairs. She called my name out as she came up the stairs. She was out of breath. But she, does pay us random visits like this all the time. So, I didn’t think much of that. I answered “Om mami” (meaning yes aunty), She told Velu to come down the ladder, not sure what happened after that. I am not sure if I was sitting or standing, what words were used. No, I can’t remember the chain of events.
Dad had another aneurysm the night before. He had gone into a coma. Cuz Sulo unaware of all this had skipped to his bedside joyfully with Hi mama (uncle). She was surprised that there was no response . There was no smile on Dad’s face. Just a fixed gaze to the distance. She knew there was something wrong. She looked at his bed notes. It was really wrong. She had a chat to the nurses, and her worst fears were confirmed.
Parames Mami asked all the cooking and cleaning to be stopped for now. Well, no one was in the right frame of mind to continue anyway. She told me to get ready and we were going to the temple. I obeyed. No tears as yet. I was dumbfounded. Wish Jana was with me at that moment. She had just left that morning to see her dad and brother. Not sure what Velu and Thangamma did after that. I left for the temple.
We did some pooja’s in dad’s name. It was all rather mechanical. I just repeated the rituals as others performed. After all the poojas, touching the idols, kneeling on the ground, flowers, pottu ( red powder and yellow paste in separate containers, you use your middle finger to dip in to these containers and wear it on your forehead), we sat down to meditate on our own. I could feel the tears escaping my eyes and now rolling down my cheeks. I dipped my head, so no one could see me crying. I can’t remember the conversation between god and me. I didn’t bother asking him “Why me? What did I do wrong ?” I just wanted him to fix it. I was asking him very humbly. I was scared of getting him on the wrong side, didn’t want to jeopardize my chances. I will do anything, I will give up anything. I was trying to bribe god. I understand the stupidity of it now. But I didn’t then.