I asked my friend to drop me at the gate. She agreed and got her bike. All of a sudden, my dad called me from inside the house. I went inside the house to find out what he was telling. Just as I was about to cross the threshold, I saw my grandmother standing behind my dad. I just kept staring at her, standing there like a stature. I couldn’t properly hear what he was saying. She was twice as tall as my dad. I could see the upper half of her body. She wore her faded yellow Enafi that she used to wear whenever she went to Govindaji temple. She seemed to be wearing a garland on her neck.
There she stood, staring and smiling at me-My thin old grandmother, glowing like an angel.
I shouted, ‘Ba, Nang maningda akhoibok leire.’
He was beaming with joy when he turned back and saw her.
I ran towards her to hug her but she was already lying on her bed. My dad sat on the floor just beside the bed and held her left hand. I bent down, kept my knees on the floor and touched her fingers. It felt real. I told him, ‘Ba, Si asengkisu akhoibokne. Mai makhutse eingonda faowe.’
All this time, she kept smiling and looking at us.
Amo came in from nowhere. He also sat down and said, ‘Ba, si oithoktabane, moi nungdangda hougatpa ngamdabane!’
My dad answered calmly, ‘I know, son.’
I wondered if she can really come back. I suspected if what they burned down was not really her but only logs of wood.’
* * * *
My eyes are wet. I rubbed them off and stare on the ceiling. The fan continues to whirl. The room is silent except for the noisy fan.
My grandmother died last year. Her body had been burnt down to ashes on the bank of Imphal River. She was 96.
She was sick when I returned home after completing BA. We nursed her day and night. We took her twice to RIMS Hospital. Curse the doctors there! She died the second time we took her there.
She held my hands tightly, wriggling on the bed. She tried to take off the tubes on her nose a couple of times. That time, I had to hold her hands tight. I kept telling her not to take it off, that nothing is gonna happen, that she’s gonna get well and go back home. She couldn’t speak. Her feeble voice broke into silence. She only tried to look at me under her wrinkled heavy eyelids.
I felt her hands turning cold, then her body turned blue. Finally, she stopped wriggling and I could sense her heart beat slowing down. It stopped altogether, she lay on the hospital bed motionless, her eyes still looking at me.
Who is this person sleeping beside me? I know him. I stopped crying. I try to sleep again.