July 2010. My Appacha had just passed away. I could still smell his smell which was still lingering on in his bedroom. As we dressed his body in his Sunday best (figure of speech as he always wore a spotless white jubba and mundu when he went to Church), I still remember the smile on his face. My mom with tears in her eyes said…”It’s as though he’s just sleeping and he’ll wake up in a minute…” I couldn’t agree more. I wanted him to wake up so that I could have that final Goodbye… So did everyone else. We changed the sheets to something white , changed the orientation of the bed to make it face North , put a cross at the head of the bed and waited patiently for the priest to arrive so that we could have him bless the body before we moved him to the mortuary.
After the body had been blessed and we mourned his death by singing Hymns and reading passages from the Bible , when it was just the close family , we just sat there in silence. My Choti Maasi walked into their bedroom and started cleaning out his closet. I remember this vividly as it shocked me. I had never had anybody in my family die before and I couldn’t understand the need to hurry the so called , ‘Cleaning out the closet’. I went to help her and I could sense she was upset and this was her way of venting out and I watched as she patiently took out all his clothes , one by one. I could smell his smell in there too… I was taken back 18 years when I’d sneak into my Appacha’s cupboard and hide there , cushioned by his clothes. His blazers always had the smell of moth balls and I’d always rummage through the pockets , in hope of finding some ‘Hidden Treasure’. I was never disappointed. That could also be because my expectations were so limited. A coin would do the trick. A bill perhaps. Right next to the blazers would be the tin chocolate box which would have scores and scores of coins. Hehe… How many chocolates and toffies had those coins bought me… countless… Just below the blazers would be a drawer which had some knick-knacks like an old watch whose battery had probably died out… wallets which were beyond repair… spectacle frames which were outdated… All of those little things , might not have meant much to my Appacha but it meant the world to me.
As my Choti Maasi cleared it all out… his socks which would always have holes in them… his endless number of handkerchiefs… his shirts… his lungis… his trousers… his underclothes… a lone tear dropped on my cheek. I sniffed like one of those police dogs , trying to catch his scent… It was still there… soaked into the wooden planks which stored my Appacha’s treasure… My Choti Maasi closed the closet door and walked away… It was like they buried him right then and there… I smiled through the storm of tears gushing out… I could still smell his smell… He might not have realized the treasure house he left behind… some old bills and coins… I said Goodbye to him then… I had what I needed… Memories… His smell… I said Goodbye to him then… as I was cleaning out the closet…
This is an entry I made in my other blog http://egomaniac-egomaniac.blogspot.in/ on the 30th of April, 2012.
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