Your love wasn’t given in lunch box notes,
wasn’t nailed to the bed in a stocking.
It was in a firmly buttoned raincoat
a calm hand offered crossing the Ring road.
It didn’t really set much store by talking.
Your love wasn’t given in countable stuff,
in branded clothes and trainers, themed décor.
It was there in the knock when I had stayed up
late into the night, in the abrupt ‘enough’
at the thin line of light under my door.
It was given in ways so unobtrusive –
in the kneading of dough, in workaday hands
on the wheels - showing how to love and live
without words making it threadbare explicit –
unnoticed, but quite easy to understand.
Yesterday was my parents' wedding anniversary, so...My February and celebration of love starts end January and continues till 29th Feb which is my father's birthday (marked on 1st March on non-leap years).
Though I have to confess that I am not much for Valentines and such myself, I am more into the idea that love is to be celebrated at every opportunity, 24/7. It's just that I don't like the Indian right wing going around brandishing their weird morality meter and thrusting it down everybody's throat. Valentine's Day is a western import like many other things and it's up to each individual how s/he will express their love, whether through western imports or eastern traditions or whatever. Get thee behind us pronto, the Indian Taliban! The erosion of women's rights in the last few years is truly unbelievable and being carried out in insidious ways.
Anyways, I digress. One of the things that floated into my mind yesterday as I was thinking of my parents is that how memories of death tend to overshadow those of the life lived. I struggle to dissociate the isolated last few years and terribly painful, lonely deaths my parents went through, from the long years of happier, more pleasant times they had with each other, with me and with their wider families.
Their deaths were marked by my physical absence but I was, due to technology, able to witness nearly all of their struggle right up to the very last, for which I am thankful and no mistake. Because from my pov, the alternative would have been even more unbearable. But from theirs, I was not present at the deathbed and not able to offer any comfort. That has skewed my grief with a whole heap of complex emotions and it is not an easy process to untangle this. But the untangling is necessary if I'm to stop defining their life only in terms of their deaths. My father grieved my mother alone in complete isolation for 11 months. He lived for 89 years, fully active for 85 till a stroke made him housebound. That's a good measure of happiness to offset against a year of difficult dying, terrible as it is. Each must be given its due weightage. I'm learning to do that and be thankful for this too.
As a family, we didn't talk much about emotions, though we talked a lot about other things, my mother especially wasn't a silent person. My father, once he retired, talked and wrote about his childhood in his ancestral village, his life in towns and cities in India growing up and working. Overall, they weren't a touchy feely generation, they had seen too much hardship when young - the partition, the wars, the famine, the communal violence, their own uprooting and relocations forced by circumstances, the untimely, shocking losses in the family. It had squeezed the sentimentality out of them I think, but made them into quietly, deeply loving people. I celebrate them and their ways of loving and I'm determined that somewhere, someday, I'll be able to to do that without their deaths clouding my memories of their life.