Grief’s Calendar: A letter of love.
Dearest Chacha Jan
It must be 22 years, and despite having no memory of our acquaintance, my hands tremble, and I find myself sweaty as I write this letter. In addition to my mysterious condition, I am perplexed about the address I want this letter to reach; thus, I’ve kept it blank. Alas! The address where we all will eventually reach, some sooner, some later. However, at times, it feels that the earlier departures might have left some relationships dangling, making us wonder how things might have been different. Such is the case with our relationship.
I knew you through the eyes of my father, and ironically, even though my father is away from us, I still witness your presence through the eyes of your blind mother, my great grandmother. Since my childhood, I have seen her lost in your grief, and when I dared to ask her, she simply took a deep breath and fell silent. It must have been incredibly challenging for her to witness the loss of her youngest child. Receiving a letter from an unknown person, especially one informing you about your family, must be strange. I am Fayal, your Tariq’s daughter. I often think about how happy you would have been to see me if you were alive.
I want to share something more; I call your name hundreds of times each day because, after we lost you, my younger brother was born, and dadu, your father Haji GhulamRasool Mir, named him Farooq. I came to know that when dadu took my younger brother in his lap, he named him Farooq and said, ‘look, my Farooq came back.’
After your death, only a few of your friends visited, in the same manner as when you were alive. Our bond with them strengthened even more. Gashaji, Ishtiyaq uncle, and yes, yourAmjadSahab, whose soul you received five months ago. His bubbly nature and smiling face are no longer with us. The way he spoke with elders and younger ones was always a lively conversation. Any serious discussions, his way of communicating things with a precious smile, were always like a cherry on top. Hopefully, after 22 years, you are once again with your friend, and you must be cherishing each other. On your 22nd anniversary, just a couple of days ago, we bid goodbye to your friend with a heavy heart. Things took a turn when your son Baber bhaiya attended his funeral on behalf of you. Your Tariq and AejazChachu cried as if they said, ‘we lost Chacha Jan once again.’
This 19th of Ramadan, your 22nd death anniversary, which was supposed to be attended by relatives, friends, and your AmjadSahab, was done for two soulmates in a single frame—yes, for FarooqShahab as well as AmjadSahab. This grief was different from the rest of the years because usually, AmjadSahab comforted us with his presence and assured us that Farooq is still here. However, there is no AmjadSahab to comfort us anymore. Your son Baber bhaiya and Asadbhaiya, Amjad uncle’s son, became friends on your 22nd anniversary. Your beloved daughter Aroosa di went to London for her further studies, and Baber bhaiya is pursuing architecture. Whenever I meet Didi, your wife, I still see your glance in her eyes. Also, all your siblings and their children are well settled and happy in their lives. But your presence added four moons everywhere. This year Ishtiyaq uncle got retired. He used to make his retirement humorous by proliferating the fact that his DOB was wrong and still had 2 more years in the service. Gashaji [Ashraf Sahab] is there in every up and down we had after your demise, and he is also about to get retired.
Chacha Jan! I must admit that every time I pass by your grave, I feel an eternal connection echoing inside my soul that wants me to be there from dusk till dawn. As life itself is the name of being with the flow, so everything has improved, but your grief still lingers in every faded and looming heart. It’s said that death keeps no calendar, but Chacha Jan, in your case, it does keep a calendar in our home—that is the 19th of Ramadan. Your elder brothers and sisters Bhailal, Bhaijan, Heemal, and Tahira manage your every anniversary. Every year, your grief catches them up, and it’s difficult to understand their sorrow. The sorrow of elder siblings, to whom you were an infant, and observing your anniversary must be difficult for them.
After a long letter, I have shared a lot with you. You might be wondering why I wrote this, even after 9 months of AmjadSahab’s death. It’s difficult to answer. Every time I open my laptop, I get stuck on where to start, what to say, and even why to write. While imagining writing a letter with no address, I become blank. I feel that I have gone astray, but today I gathered some courage finally. So, I am writing this to you.
Chacha Jan! Growing up, I saw mostly two occasions every year when we all gather, put our work aside, and join each other in grief. It’s your death anniversary and, since your father died, we also do the same for a couple of years. Even though I was mature enough at dadu’s time to know what happened and why we gather, I am witnessing your anniversary from the first year of my birth. Just a few years ago, I started understanding why we all join each other and what actually happened. Yet, it is not the reason why I am writing this to you.
During my learning process, you have always been in my subconscious mind because, as usual, I noticed everyone talking about you. Sometimes their eyes turn full of tears, and I got curious to know more about you. When I saw even many resilient personalities shedding tears for you, my curiosity turned so much that during every conversation, I deliberately bring up your topic to know more and even more about you. Hence, I decided to write this to you.
We are all happy and very proud of you and thankful to the Almighty who gave us a beautiful life. Although we know you are in a better place, sometimes emotions do not accept the reality. You are always with us, not physically, but you prevail in our lives and in our hearts, and we cherish you there. We miss you every time, both in moments of joy and sadness. Indeed, we lost a gem; perhaps our destiny was not lucky enough to have you wander here and there in your favourite Dooru. This letter might not have appropriate words, but it has all my emotions and heart associated with it. Finally, before ending this letter, I want to ask you a question. If you know the answer, then ask your soul mate: Chacha Jan, you passed away for us, and we can’t get over it, but for you alone, we all died. So, how are you overcoming this suffering of being away physically from us? Here we share your grief with each other, but you are alone there, with no shoulder to cry on and no one to rely on. Sadly, I have to put a full stop to this letter now because like all things it must end. Thus paying my greetings to Dadu, Amjad Uncle and all.
Kashmir Images is an English language daily newspaper published from Srinagar (J&K), India. The newspaper is one of the largest circulated English dailies of Kashmir and its hard copies reach every nook and corner of Kashmir Valley besides Jammu and Ladakh region.