Thank You

I was getting ready for college when my uncle called from the hospital. She was no more. I didn’t know whether to feel sad that she has died or to feel happy that she has died at last. The news of her death wasn’t shocking to us but her loss was unacceptable. She was only 70. She was a cancer patient. She was a cancer survivor for the most part of her life. She, my grandmother, my mother’s mother was a woman of substance, and she was a woman I hadn’t spoken to nicely in a long time.

I had visited the hospital just two days ago. She was put on life support system. I didn’t agree with the idea of putting her on a life support system. She wasn’t conscious. The doctors too had told us already to take her home and wait till she breathes her last. She was a fighter, and so were her children. They chose not to give up yet, they chose to fight against the disease that was enjoying the destruction of organs. Her children decided to make it easier for her to leave. They didn’t want her to wither away in pain. One by one, her tissues started to fail. Liver stopped responding, kidneys stopped performing, lungs gave way, but she, somehow, thrived on.

I visited her on Monday evening. She breathed her last on Wednesday morning. We put her at rest on Thursday. A part of me was happy that her suffering has ended. Yet another part of me was sad on losing the first friend I had in life. We organised a prayer meeting on Sunday in her memory. On Saturday, I began writing a eulogy for her. I haven’t done public speaking in my life ever. Shouting slogans at Raisina Road was one such instance, but that doesn’t count. At that time, I felt the pain of a stranger, this time, it seemed as if I have lost a part of myself.

Grandparents know us before our parents begin to understand us. While our parents are busy making something out of their lives, those are our grandparents who care for us. I am way too small yet to take anyone’s care but I have been lucky enough to have loving and caring company in some way or the other throughout my life so far. Someone has always been there for me. I just wish I could have been strong enough, big enough to be there for her when she felt alone. As I grew older, she grew old. As I attained youth and became aggressive in life, she attained maturity and became submissive to her condition.

What do you write about a person in just two pages whom you have known for two decades? That does not do any justice to her character. But still I tried my best. It wasn’t about remembering what she did, it was about telling everyone what I felt about whatever she did. I hadn’t spoken to her as much as I would have liked to during her last days, but the days that I spent with her are the most treasured and some of the happiest in my life so far.

On Sunday morning, I dressed up in one of her saree. Feeling numb and nervous, I walked up to the stage, my eulogy folded in my hands. I looked at the people sitting in the audience and I wondered what was it that my grandmother did to be able to gather such huge number of people? I took a deep breath and started reading:

“Good afternoon, everybody.

I thank all of you for joining us here today. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to say a few words in honour of her life.

I am Swati, Mrs. Lilly Bhaskaran’s eldest grand-daughter.

The feeling in calling myself her eldest grand-daughter gives a sense of royal entitlement to me. I use the word “royal” because she once told me during our conversations that no matter what the circumstances are, she lives like a queen. Her favourite colour was royal blue. Everything about her was that of a queen. She lived like a queen.

70 years, 3 months and 13 days ago, a little girl was born in the district of Kolar Gold Field, Karnataka, who grew up to be an indescribable wife, mother, sister, aunt, cousin, grandmother, great-grandmother and a friend that she was. For all of us, who were blessed enough to know and love my grandmother, the only things that will truly capture who she was, are the warm memories that we each hold within our hearts.

Lilly Bhaskaran is my hero. My grandmother is my hero.

One of her daily routines included watching Jaya News in the evening and her favourite slot was the history programme which highlighted historical events that took place that particular day. Keeping this in mind, I’d like to highlight the historical events that took place on 9th October. Out of all the events, the best one is that John Lennon, the world-famous Beatle, shares his birthday with her. My Rock Star grandmother would have shook hands with me or would have Hi5ed if I had told her this.

The first thing about my grandmother was that she was Love. Her love for her family, love for even the numerous stranger autowallahs who dropped her to hospital or my place, love for the maid who greeted her with a Namaste, love for the friends I invited to meet her was unique and equal. Universal love. It is that very love that has brought all you here, and that very love has brought me at this podium with a eulogy.

From my earliest memories I have known my grandmother by the way she laughs. Tears trickled down her cheeks when she remembered her husband, my grandfather. “I will marry Lily only because she has the most beautiful smile”, Appa had said to her. From her invitation to join the politics, taking care of the famous family restaurant, being “The Lily Akka” every man feared and respected, to  taking care of educational needs of children, bringing my mother to Delhi, fighting all forms of medical illnesses with such strength and perseverance, she was a woman of super strong faith and confidence.

Her love for Jesus gave all the strength to her. She encouraged me to read Bible regularly and pray daily before sleeping. “Just one line, read just one line and understand it. Reading the whole bible and understanding nothing is equal to not reading it at all”, she used to say.

I remember her fascination for drums, her dancing to English music. Her favourite movie was The James Bond Series and all this makes me wonder, “Am I as youthful as my grandmother?” Her favourite quote, the one she always wanted me to remember in life is “Yade Vedetamo, Adi Arikano.” (As you sow, so shall you reap) which was followed by her signature handshake.

My grandmother was a truly happy woman. Full of love, light and laughter.

The best thing that she has left behind for us is her example. I don’t think any illness was left for her to experience. She went through it all and still maintained that beautiful smile on her face.

Thank you for your care, your concern, your heartfelt blessings and your prayers.

Thank you Amma for your strength, your smile and your humour.

To me, this is my grandma’s legacy. Her ability to smile gracefully and confidently in tough circumstances and to share that smile equally with everyone around.

As we gather today, although we miss her physical presence in our lives, let’s not just grieve but also celebrate her life as it was fully lived.

The Lily Still Blossoms.

Thank You.”

I did not know what happened once I said “Thank You”. I think I heard a “Thank You”. I looked at the people sitting in the audience. They were clapping but the sound that reached my ears was “Thank You”.

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