Sunlight shone through the tiny gaps between the branches of the trees – tall, formidable as if they were protecting whosoever took shelter beneath them from the giant ball of gases above. The little girl scrunched up her face, trying to move away from the light which was creating beautiful patterns on her. She decided to lend an ear to what her grandfather was saying.
“And that is what a tree does, besides giving us humans air to breathe.”
She held onto him as the oonjal picked up momentum, feeling the slight breeze on her face and relishing it. Thatha had moved on to reciting their daily slokams and she could hear the faint voice of her brother, sitting on the other side, murmuring the words. This is how the little girl felt every single time she sat on this alluring oonjal – serene and tranquil, with nothing but her thoughts, changing and moving a million miles a minute.
“Ten more minutes please!” the little girl pulls out all stops, including the patented puppy dog eyes, pleading with her grandparents for more precious time at the bouncy castle overlooking the beach, the air filled with excitement. She jumps up and down amongst the ocean of kids and soon hears her little brother let out a wail. The next thing she knows, she’s sitting in the car, her Thatha clutching the steering wheel as if, anytime soon, everything would take a turn for the worse. How did all of this happen within a matter of minutes? Her Paati was beside her, comforting her brother, his arm in a makeshift handkerchief sling, courtesy of none other than her grandfather. Later, looking back at this fateful incident would she realise what an extremely quick-minded, clever and calm man he was.
She swung her racquet forward, making sure to follow through, keeping her eye intently on the ball at the same time. As she turned, she spotted her Thatha all the way across the tennis court and waved at him. His love for the sport was passed on to her and he couldn’t be happier. They trotted on home, talking about the ordeals of the past hour, with soreness in her arms and happiness in her heart.
Mornings were always chaos. The little girl shoved ghee urundais into her mouth and rushed to the puja room for the most-awaited and cherished part of her morning. She closed her eyes tight, felt the vibudhi on her forehead and a blow of air as her grandfather whooshed away the extra powder, leaving her with the widest smile known to mankind. Car rides with her grandparents in the cute and compact Zen were absolute bliss, them dropping and picking her up from school, all prepared with Frootis and the like.
Also read: My Last Letter to Thatha
Saturday afternoons called for binging extremely dramatic Tamil serials with her grandparents, eagerly discussing what was going to happen next, keeping in mind not to mix up characters from the various shows (which happened way too often nonetheless). Not to mention all the frequent trips to Chennai Chips to stock up for days like these, with her grandfather sneaking in one or two for himself while trying to act nonchalant about it.
The girl, not so little anymore, held her breath and went under, keeping her body afloat, trying to rid her mind of any and all thoughts. A wave of water hitting her sides followed by fits of laughter echoing from what seemed like her brother, woke her from her slumber. She spotted her grandfather doing a few laps on the other side of the pool, amazed at how he still managed to swim. Post swim time consisted of gobbling up cheese omelette after cheese omelette till they were too full to even move.
As she grew older and busier and found the existence of filter coffee, sharing one with her grandparents, talking about anything and everything under the sun, was the part of the day she most anticipated.
“And that’s why you have income tax returns,” said Thatha. That was when she was brought back to reality. She had gotten lost with all these bank-related terms being thrown around, so much so that her thoughts had taken her to one of her many alternate realities. This time, she decided to listen properly, feeling bad that he had to explain too many times for her to understand.
There she was, sitting on the oonjal, head held down as if in defeat, thinking about all the snippets which are nothing but memories of a man who was no longer with her. All she could hope was that, with time, these precious moments don’t fade and turn into dust, leaving her with nothing.
Adithi is a second-year medical student based in Chennai who adores travelling and the endless journey of learning.