Tears roll down his weathered cheeks, reminiscent of the Mumbai monsoon season she loved. The parrots on the balcony were once bright blue and green, and are now the colour of hospital curtains. There is no one to feed them peanuts, no one to entertain their whims, and no one who will describe them in such close detail on a long distance call.
She is kung pao potato, she is sugar maani and churi after prayers on Mondays.
She is the purple drawstring bag, embroidered with my name on in red, a smiley face stitched inside the letter “o”.
She is the salwars and churidahs she used to wear, the gold bangles she always tried to make me keep, but I could never take them from her. She is the rings on her finger, that they had to take off as if she was about to bake a cake.
She is the Polo mints in her bag, the chutki paan and Hindi nighttime soaps
She is fresh coconut water and shouting at the dining table to get her son to eat more, even when she had permanently lost her appetite
She is the masala chai she used to make, the walks by the waterfront and the windy mornings on the balcony, doing yoga and breathing exercises
She is a sun chaser. No matter how much pain she was in, she would wrap up in layers upon layers and have us walk her to the balcony, just to stare at the sunrise, the sunset, the sun in general. She knew she would become part of that radiant light one day, that would shine on all of us.
But while the sun still shines, and while I try to make more chai, we all try to look like we have overcome this. A supposedly strong yet brittle son. A grieving daughter with a cheerful facade. A daughter-in-law who tied the family together. Grandchildren who cried at her funeral, who will never feel her warm embrace again.
But no one can forget the very sad man reading the newspaper in the corner of the living room. The man who sips his tea slowly, without adding sugar like she used to do. The man who does not drink anymore. The man who joined the yoga classes she used to go to. The man who never had anyone else.
For fifty-two years, she was his life. She was his wife, his motherly love, the pleasant full feeling in his heart and stomach, his confidante, his very best friend.
And after fifty-two years, they had a precious six months together. He kept chasing the sun with her, pushed her to take her medicines, kept her spirit going. And she sensed that he was the once who needed the most mental support. In all her woes, she gave him that until the very end.
Try as you might, you cannot reach his core without crying yourself to sleep. He is used to being the rock, but even rocks are eroded by tears.
There is a hole in our hearts that will never be filled,
and the pickle jars, once full of love, are now full of faint, lingering sweetness.