Relieved to know that you’ve died, my dearest daughter, I ran out of the house to leave your body alone, the way you’d wanted. I ran outside the building and stopped when someone in a car honked at me. I was on the road where we have Almeida’s clinic and Jaipuri’s variety shop and no sweet-meat shop, but still I was inhaling the aroma of boiled sweet potatoes, which reminded me of your sweat. I ran back to our apartment when the aroma was slowly filling my mouth, for I could not be invested in the pleasures of the world when my dearest had gone to sleep. When I was back in the house, knowing now that life had come full circle, I pulled out the dress you liked best and the shoes you’d saved for your friend’s wedding. Shoes, yes—even though the dead does not wear them—because you always had yours on, always a slim rung above the ground.
Relieved I was so much to know of your passing away that my eyes wept, eyebrows arched high and nostrils flared with assurance and absurdity. Death, my daughter’s death, what a death, a full stop to all her miseries. I celebrated your liberation as I had planned to celebrate your wedding, the wedding nobody but I believed was possible, poor me. There might have been at least a guy wanting to marry you… But then there were honey bees in your mind that stung you before you knew anything about his love.
Now that the distraction that life was did not exist, are you fine? Like testing how the red of blood responded when mixed with milk, ink or chicken soup? How I could not assure you you were right that not all hurdles are worth overcoming?
Your grandmother wanted all your clothes disheveled for any money you could have stashed in your closet, but there could not have been any money left by now, I am sure, for you would have hunted it down for a smoke today. We gave away your clothes, a few to the scavenger, the rest to the families of men who are workmen to your dad, and one I burnt the way you wanted me to, after soaking it in rose water that is. I second that the soot was brilliant. Your dad, unlike you would have thought, is a kind man, I say, even though you looked upset when that day while posing for a photo near the river you’d wanted him to take you out to his workplace like he’d taken your sister and brothers, and he had refused even when you’d promised to behave. You persisted on your demands right in front of his friend who had accompanied us to the river. Angry, your father jumped into the river, splashing out the water onto you, and said to his friend, ‘wait she’s not yet wet with tears, it’s the river water.’ Then you cried, fully drenched. That is something you may forgive him for because his regret has been resurrected by your final departure.
We bathed you, your body that had not touch water for days. Your face was freckled and scaly, as if you’d washed it in kerosene. You had, in the past, worried me by tiring yourself by sleeping and writhing in bed, and then soon you’d been back in front of the TV, and I still hung onto that witch of a hope.
In the end, there was little pain. You died rubbing your forehead to the wall, the wall on which we marked your height year after year, the wall into which you dug your nails and then dragged them till you were disgusted and petrified. And my cousins and relatives were pitying me, oh poor lady, the mad mother of the loon, of the oaf, of the diseased. Sickened, they even slapped me for smiling when I braided your hair for the last time. ‘Nobody will shed a tear,’ I said, ‘for my daughter is finally at peace.’ My daughter with a beautiful, intricate mind. Her mind, a work of art.
‘Are you not convinced that it is not a sorrowful death?’ I asked them.
‘My daughter had waited a long time for it. Are you not convinced that death can be a pleasing climax?’