Today marks the 35th year of your death mom.
I didn’t even remember the date.
Your daughter texted me today morning.
I love this picture of yours. I love your smile in this one. How your eyes have that knowing look, amused at some joke only you know. And maybe your husband. They say if you just cut your eyes from a picture and superimpose on mine, no one would know. Or my sisters’ for that matter. Or they said so. I dont know. Maybe once upon a time. Now the whites of my eyes are yellow. They aren’t white but we’ll keep calling them white just the way we keep calling the sky blue when it is grey or almost white, we dont really look do we? So often my kids tell me papa why are your eyes red today?
Maybe it was a gesture, that look. To your husband and your lover. I love the way she is looking at you in absolute adoration. I know the look. My younger ones look at me in the same way. As if i can do no wrong. I know the spell will break in a few years when they will come face to face with my frailties, and there will come a time when they will like nothing in me, before they start liking me again.
You escaped that. In my eyes, you can still do no wrong. Because you can be whatever i want you to be. You are that crutch i can use to create alternate realities. If she hadn’t died, i wouldn’t have been this. If she had lived, we’d have immigrated. If she had lived, we would have loved. Or maybe, when I am in throes of that dangerous crutch called self pity, i say to myself, maybe she’d have noticed that the whites of my eyes have turned yellow and asked me about it. Maybe I’d have been enough for you, and I wouldn’t have this urge to prove myself to the unknown out there every single day.
But I think I will probably never be enough. I am ok with that now.
The love i have for you is convenient to me. To use when i need to. To explain away what I do not like about my life. Love and use cannot be in the same sentence people say, but i believe if there’s anything you can use whichever way you want, it is love.
Maybe what I write for you today should be about you and not about me. Maybe i should say that I will be half as lucky if someone writes about me 35 years after i have died, melted by just a picture. But then pictures have always had a particular thrall for me, a picture of a loved one always triggers my writing genes. And i think people will always love you for what you didn’t do for them, of what you could have done for them. They always end up resenting you for what you have done for them. Its either resentment or indifference, or even worse, gratitude. Never love. You cannot do stuff for people to make them love you, you will always remain separate from the things you do.
Recently me and my wife decided we will praise each other much often, we realised after a minor fight that we end up criticizing and critiquing each other way more than just praise each other. Everything good we are and we do is taken for granted, as is. So suddenly one day she tells me, I love how you can put down exactly what you are feeling into words so easily. I’ve learnt to accept compliments better now, i only had one way of accepting compliments earlier, which involved self-deprecation. I can tell you it is good to hear good things about yourself, it triggers a childlike glee in some corner of your head.
I do agree that telling your parent i love you is way more easier when they are dead than when they are alive. We live in this weird peculiar accounting world where we believe that if we let our guard down totally, if we tell someone we love them, its somehow embarrassing to them and a sort of inadequacy in us. So there’s an invisible accounting always going on, balancing love out with indifference or waiting. We conflate love with need, and start becoming shifty about some catch, some reciprocation expected out of us that we are unable to provide with the same openness. That’s why people write these cheesy things on social media about their loved ones. Writing about a person is way easier than writing to them or talking to them especially when you bring love up as a catalyst in the chemical reaction between the two of you.
But you. You are now just an idea. A possibility. An alternate reality. However let it be recorded in the minutes of the meeting that strangers walk up to us and tell us that we look like you. That they tell my daughter leaving her perplexed that she looks like her grandmother.
Let it be recorded in the minutes of the meeting that people who know us sometimes tell us that we have inherited the kindness that is the hallmark of your genes. That we couldn’t have turned out any other way because of what you were.
Let it be recorded in the minutes of the meeting that you are still loved. It’s a strange travesty of my life that my love always has to be furtive and private. That we will cut a cake in our house on the birthdays of amitabh bachchan and Mohammed rafi but not on your birthday. That a picture of you will float unknown on a private blog where no one sees and knows instead of being a badge of pride in public.
The best of me has always to be private. Almost shameful. All my loves have always been like that, the most important people in my life have always been secret, I can’t help it, it’s started since I was 3 years old. There’s some drama and heroism in that which makes me feel larger than life, as if I have a story worth telling.
However, though it never is enough, though we always keep searching, let it be on record that thirty five years after you died, your kids are and have always been loved to their heart’s content.
And that counts for something, doesn’t it?