That was the first time I ever saw her.
The waiting hall had a somber feel to it. It served a single purpose...to house the folks waiting outside. Some awaited their loved ones emerge out of the treatments - the chemo drips and the radiation chambers. Some simply looked like they didn't bother waiting. Tell tale scars on their skins, painful shadows in their eyes narrating stories of battles, survivals and apprehensions. I saw her again..nothing seemed to have changed outwardly, or perhaps very little. Her chiseled features stood out in a pretty face. Her thick hair was cropped to compliment her grace. In a fleeting moment, I recognised her. There were tears, her frail hand held mine..the warmth it carried tingles fresh in my palm as We speak...We hugged, cried, smiled and strolled down three decades of memories. Lying on the hospital table, she tried to tuck away a lush black wig under the pillow she was resting on. I pretended not to notice it. I feigned normalcy while my mind grappled to make sense of how a perfect looking lady as her was harboring a terminal illness within. She didn't look like she could catch a cold..so vibrant and beautiful her outside was, while something evil wrecked havoc inside..brutally, silently!
That was the last time I saw her.
Her association punctuates my childhood. Memories big and small sprinkle along my growing path. she was in the background as my first decade moulded. She taught me..some lessons in the school campus and some out of it. The fun ones, the tender ones. The ones that form a part of my life's simple chronicles. Those stories that my mom, my aunt and her whispered to each other..the 'grown up woes', the ubiquitous battles of womankind that somehow made way to my innocent, curious ears. Her baby arrived somewhat late on the timeline. 'Mid thirties, poor woman' random people showered unwanted pity. Even at my age back then, it was quiet obvious to me that she commanded envy from her peers, probably because of her beauty, or her affluence or the looks and career of her Captian husband. When the tiny bundle arrived, her man was sailing on the seas. She took it all with a resilient smile. Sometimes I used to catch her sobbing, specially after she would wait in our living room for painful hours, awaiting the analog phone to screech through the suspense. "Will he or won't he?" when the call finally arrived, the air around us used to ease a bit. I used to catch collective sighs of family members around me that waited with her, for her! Her voice used to break a little , shake a little and once the brief call was over..she used to sit down with her face burried into her palms, sobbing softly, sounding like a new born kitten. " He is safe, he is safe" she used to repeat, wiping her tears, inabsolute relief.
She was perhaps my sneak preview into womanhood. She cared for me tenderly.
Fashion advice, choosing nail polish, talking about crushes, giggles...it was all teeny tiny memories after memories. As I grew up and got married and left my place, I used to see her once in a while, but the connect always happened instantly.
I heard of her passing shortly after having my second child last year. Her only kid barely hit twenties. Her loving spouse was left back to grieve. It rings fresh in my ears, her story about their wedding..her marriage picture placed on her fridge with that flashing joy of a handsome man and an ecstatic bride on his arm, smiling away through the layer of her transperant veil, that bouquet in her arms, held like a baby!
Beth Esda, their home that was lovingly built. Princy, their bundle of joy! Suddenly, memories of her flood my everyday!
Her name had a prestine tenderness to it. I can get a whiff of its fragrance even today. Sometimes, the name defines the person. Aunty Jasmine, we didn't believe in the same God nor we were tied by blood, but you will live on with me, within me - summing up a sweet part of my childhood.