It was the peak of summer. The sun beat down almost relentlessly. There was no sign of any rain or breeze. Skies were often clear, unabashed blue. Roads shone in endless mirages.
His grandmother fell ill, just around that time. She was old. But there is no such age beyond which one can say that a person needn't be. Anymore. So she was that way. Old, ill, under the constant care of her children and grandchildren. He was terribly attached to his grandmother. Almost all his childhood memories would have glimpses of his grandmother pickling mangoes or grinding pulses or de-husking rice or simply sitting between all her grandchildren and telling stories to ease long afternoons of summer vacations. And no wonder he missed her and was miserable to see her because everyone thought that she was too old to be now.
He was delicate and sensitive. The phase that we were in then, I was yet to see his sentimental side. He never expressed emotion per se. He cracked jokes, I laughed a lot. And that was about it. A few times things had gotten out of hand where in emotions had come into the picture. Like I had messed up someplace and I needed someone just to talk to and not merely make jokes. Or the time he forgot to wish me on my birthday and was apologetic like a bunny. Like that. Apart from such occasions, never had he ever brought up feelings, sorrow, fears into our conversations. We had been very safe that way. Very insulated from each other.
So when he spoke about his grandmother the way he did, I felt very unprepared. Sometimes providing consolation is not one's forte. What can you do? But I genuinely felt for him and I told him everything was going to be okay. There are hospitals and doctors and everything. But deep down we both felt, this was it. I discarded that deep-down-feeling as my ingrained pessimism and told him that I truly-deeply felt his granny was going to be fine.
And I don't know how, but he got a rush from what I said. Instead of being sad, he planned to go and see her. The temperatures would make the journey impossibly hard. But I didn't have the heart to stop him. He was like a child to me and all I could do was quietly obey and execute whatever he wanted to be done.
I packed him some fruit and a few bottles of juice in his backpack. Literally squeezing his clothes and laptop for space. And saw him off at the bus stop. He didn't text me on reaching or to tell me how things were. I didn't bug him either. Space was an important thing. And suddenly I felt like an egotistic bitch. I am that way, nobody can help me.
The next day, he texted me that his 'aai' had passed away. 'Aai' is what one calls their maternal grandmother. I felt a tug in my heart. I cried and couldn't sleep at all that night. Still didn't know what to text him back.