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RING! RING! RING!
The sound of my phone disrupted the humorous conversation I was having in the car with my friends Alex and Daisy.
“Wait” I managed to say between several giggles, “my phone is ringing, and if I don’t pick it up, my mom is going to kill me!”
Alex turned red from trying not to laugh, and Daisy pretended to slit her throat and started giggling. I glared at both of them, but only in a playful way. Then my attention turned back to my phone. Before answering, I quickly glanced at caller id.
“Hey mom” I said, just as Daisy’s dad turned onto Drake Avenue.
I listened attentively for a reply, trying not to laugh at what Alex was saying to Daisy. Suddenly, my heart stopped at the sound of loud sobs on the other end.
“Mom what’s wrong?!” I shouted
“Your grandma…(sob)….she…her…” before completing her sentence, she began crying hysterically.
Oh no, I thought. My throat went dry. Mom never cries! What happened to grandma? Just then it occurred to me what might have happened to my mom’s 62 year old mother. My stomach lurched and my eyes began to fill with tears.
“Mom,” I demanded, my voice cracking “What happened to grandma?”
“She…” my mom said, holding her breath, “She… She stopped breathing,” mom completed, breaking into her hysterical sobs again.
I almost dropped the phone. Only one question was running through my mind. How? As far as I knew, my grandmother was the healthiest woman of her age. And she was only 62. It didn’t make sense for her to…stop breathing. Before I could speak, my mom said something really quiet that I couldn’t catch.
“What did you say mom?” I said, almost yelling.
“I said,” My mom continued, I could tell she was pulling herself together, and that sent a wave of relief through my body, “We are going to India, and we’re leaving tonight”
Shock paralyzed my body, because I was in a situation I had never been in before. We never went to India with such short notice, and under different circumstances, I would have been bubbling with joy. But I wasn’t exactly sure if I should happy or sad at that moment. “Yay! We’re going to India!” thought a selfish part of me. “You shouldn’t be happy stupid!” replied another part of me. “Honestly,” I thought to myself, “I have no idea how to feel!”
We boarded the plane at 11:00 pm. We were going from JFK to Doha and from Doha to Bangalore International Airport. While I was sitting in my seat, watching the Simpsons, I couldn’t decide whether to be happy or sad. As much as I loved India, and spending long summer vacations there, I didn’t want go there for the funeral of someone who was so close to my heart. I couldn’t stand going there and not running into her arms, and telling her all about the school year, and my life back in America. I was going back to an entirely different India. Sure I would still have fun with thousands of my cousins, but there would still be that feeling that something was missing, like my vacations will never be whole again. Of course the reason we were on this plane on now, wasn’t to have fun and enjoy a vacation. We were going to say our last farewells to someone who had given us so much, and been through all the ups and downs of life with us. We were going to say goodbye to grandma.
I was interrupted from my deep thought when the airhostess brought us our dinner. I didn’t really eat my food, just picked at it here and there. I looked over at my mom’s seat, and can see that she is struggling to not cry, as she feeds some pasta to my then 4 year old little sister. My little sister, on the other hand, was enjoying herself. She loved to travel, and was watching Barney and friends. My dad was sitting next to me and snoring away. I decided to take a nap as well.
When I woke up, the plane was about to land at the Doha Airport. My ears popped as it began to descend. As we rushed out of the terminal, and ran to make our way to the connecting flight, I caught a glimpse of a little baby in her grandma’s arms. Great, I thought to myself as I looked away, knowing that it would make me even sadder if I looked any longer. Soon we were on the plane, and heading for Bangalore, India. I decided, once again to nap, realizing that it will take my mind of things. I might have slept for longer, if it hadn’t been for constant yelling towards the end of my dream.
“Wake UP!!!!!!!!!! Wake UP akkha, it’s time to GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!! UGH! Wake up sleepyhead!!! UGH! She won’t wake up mommy!”
The sound of my sister’s voice brought me back from my dreamland. I smiled at something familiar. She had called me akkha, meaning big sister in my language. I stretched, and snuck up on her from behind. As she turned around, she let out a small shriek in surprise. I chuckled to myself, after she smacked me for being so obnoxious. She informed me that we had landed in India, and then hit me again, smug with satisfaction. As we get off the plane, I took in all the familiar sights. The long pillars near immigration counter, and the large glass doors near the front. I quickly caught sight of my grandfather, waiting to pick us up. To my surprise, he was not crying, and he didn’t look like he had been crying. I guess he had accepted what happened and decided that it was better that he didn’t think about it, I thought to myself. But on the ride home, I realized that almost everything around him reminded him of my grandmother.
“We’re almost here,” Grandpa said, as he turned onto the road, “You know, your grandmother used to hate these bumpy roads, although she didn’t bring it up much…” he trailed off, looking into the distance, almost as if he could see something that I couldn’t.
I gasped as we entered my grandpa’s huge house. It looked just as marvelous as it had during summer vacation. The large stone walls and the huge circular windows still stunned me. But still, it seemed to be oozing despair. I suddenly felt the urge to turn around, and run back to the direction that we came from. I knew that I came here for a funeral, but since I had never experienced losing a loved one before, I hadn’t expected it to be so hard.
“The funeral is today” my mom said, interrupting my fearful daydream.
“Ok” I said back
“You should go get some sleep, it’s been a long journey. You’re probably exhausted”
“No it’s fine. I’m not tired. I think I will just walk around.”
“You could go to your other grandparent’s house for the day if you want”
“Oh Ok” was all I was able to say
So I went to my dad’s parents’ house, which didn’t seem to be oozing the same sadness as my grandfather’s house. I said hi to all my aunts and uncles, and all the maids. The day went by much faster than I would have liked. Soon we were on our way to attend the funeral.
It was early afternoon, as I watched as they brought her out. Her lifeless body wearing her wedding sari, which was a brilliant red and gold and covered in jewelry, flowers, and colorful rice. Everyone was crying, and I was fighting back tears, as we went to pay our respects. I looked at her face, expecting her eyes to flutter open, and for everything to back to the way it was. But that never happened.
“Well, this is your last chance to say good…goodbye to her” my mom said, as they carried the body to the van. Tears were pouring out of her eyes, and she was breathing heavily
“Wait. Aren’t they going to cremate her?” I asked, surprised.
“They are, but we’ve decided that it might be too much for you and your sister to handle, so you two are going to your dad’s parents’ house for the rest of the day.”
I was disgusted by the sudden flow of relief that filled my body when my mom told me this. I was relieved that I didn’t have to see my Grandmother’s body being cremated. I was glad that I didn’t have to see them place the pot of ashes into the river. But I was also saddened by the fact that this would be the last time that I would ever see my Grandmother. I would never see her face again, except in two dimensional photos. Seeing her in photos wouldn’t be the same as hugging her, and inhaling the sweet scent of home, in her clothes.
I walked over to my grandmother’s body, and took one long hard look at her, before turning around, and starting to sob. I was consoled by my other grandmother, and I was glad that she was still with me. I hugged her as the driver got into the van, and started the engine. I leaned against her for support, as the van started to pull out of the driveway. I hugged her as I watched the van disappear into the distance, taking my grandmother with it.
“Goodbye Grandma” I whispered