The study room was humid and warm. I might have once said unpleasantly so, but by the fifth week of living in Kerala, the warm blanket enveloping you at all times felt comforting and familiar – almost necessary. I would argue that this embodied my whole experience of India; an uncomfortable yet comforting paradox. I sat cross-legged on the ridiculously hard bed, something again that I had grown to appreciate.
I was reading ‘The Slap,’ an Australian drama novel. I was enjoying it – however far removed I was from a suburban setting. Maybe it reminded me a bit of home.
I would be leaving for my flight back later this evening.
My grandma was creating as much commotion as humanly possible, horribly distracting for somebody reading – but I knew that this was her way of dealing with today. She pottered around with remarkable speed for an eighty-four year old woman, wiping and re-wiping counters, dusting and re-dusting shelves, rearranging desk objects before putting them back – all the time murmuring angrily to herself in a language I only barely understood. I didn’t have to though, her pain was clear. Even if we did share language, what could I say? We were flying thousands of miles away, it would be years before she saw us again.
Her son, her granddaughter.
I snapped my book shut, stood quietly and walked towards her. She was rearranging papers on the study desk, that I knew she could not read. I put my hands on her arms and gently turned her to face me. She fell silent and seemed shocked. Demonstrativeness in this part of the world, is not normal.
Ignoring this, I wrapped my arms around her and gave her a hug, which I hoped could explain all the things where language failed. For a moment, she was too surprised to move.
Then her body moved in, to be cradled by mine.
I felt her shaking and my shirt become wet.
We stood silently, holding each other for a long time.
Eventually, she broke free, hurriedly wiped her tears and walked away – resuming her murmuring and cleaning.