• Akhila Balasubramaniam

Ones who love us never really leave us

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My idea of an afterlife is muddled up. But a recent experience reinforced my belief towards the idea that the ones who love us never really leave us. Even after we've lost them, we can see them in others. It's as if even they are finding means to get in touch with us.

I spoke to my friend’s grandmother (fondly referred to as 'paati') a couple of days ago. That interaction felt like a cosy blanket of love that wrapped me up like a burrito. ❤

My friend has been mentioning her paati in conversations, ever since we met. We bonded over our shared love for our grandmothers.

My paati passed away a few years ago, and she is one of my favourite persons. Her thoughts and conversations are etched in my mind, and no one can take those away from me. As a kid, I used to prefer spending time with my paati's house over mine, probably because of all the pampering and undivided attention. 🤡

Until college, I used to spend significant amounts of time with her. Going to temples, movies, having long chats over the phone, endless conversations at night that went on till dawn, we did it all. We were best friends.

Once I went to college, I continued to spend time with her, but not as much as before. I feel burning shame to admit it, but I was distracted with newer friends. I made time for them that I didn't spend as much time with her.

It's been a few years since she passed away, but at times I feel like she's still around.

My value system, my faith, my principles, are all inspired by her. My parents certainly played a pivotal role in shaping it, but my paati did it effortlessly.

We all have those few people in our lives right? The whole world tells us to do something, and we aren’t convinced. This one person says the same thing with their knack, and there is no further debate. My paati was that to me.

Whatever she told, I believed. I learned to value what my parents said, because of her. Part of the reason I have a beautiful relationship with my mother is thanks to her. My obsession with neverending conversations started with her. My habit of making up stories and bantering with my friends, by assigning characters to them began with her.

She was my playmate as a kid, confidant as an adolescent, and my spiritual buddy as an adult.

The innocence and the child within her connected with that within me, in a way that I didn't connect with anyone else. She might have gone on, but a part of her still resides within me and lives through me.

Coming back to my friend, the way she described her paati had me spellbound. Her equation with her paati was exactly like mine. As she spoke about her paati, I vicariously lived through her. When I spoke to her paati, she instantly reminded of my Lakshmi paati.

Today, again my friend was on a video call with her paati, and I spoke to her. I had a rush of emotions towards her. I forgot all logic that she wasn’t my paati. I just wanted to embrace her that instant, like she was my own. I could see my Lakshmi paati communicating through her. I could sense it. To my surprise, she also felt the same way about me. She said: “pesinde irukanum pola iruku” which in essence means, "I don’t want this conversation to end". The feeling was mutual. I could’ve sworn it was my paati talking to me, wanting endless conversations like old times. It was the most magical experience. My love for her is like that for my Lakshmi paati. I can keep hearing the way both of them mispronounce my name and call me lovingly, all day long.

I have so much love inside me even today, which I long to express to my paati. I know wherever she is, she will find a way to communicate with me and experience my love. As for now, she has found a way to reach me.

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