On a sunny, breezy, and actually quite lovely spring afternoon, she passed away.
Hundreds of people came to see her body enclosed in a centrally cooling glass casket that would preserve it for 24 hours. She was so loved that people came in an endless stream till after the funeral’ from other cities, even other countries. They said she was the best human being there ever was, all good and angelic, always doing so much for others, never an ill thought in her mind. How can something so horrible happen to someone so good? But she wasn’t really. There were people she disliked and mean things she said and people she hurt. She was no saint, she loved, made love, broke hearts. She was 27, she was beautiful and a goddamn normal human being. And normal people don’t deserve to live any less than angels do.
We always do that though- when someone passes we talk about how wise and great and perfect they were. But that’s not how I want to remember her- as some sanitised version of herself. I want to remember her as who she really was- a a helpful friend, socially responsible, animal lover, with a shy laughter; who stopped being friends with me without really ever giving me a reason, and might have said some spiteful things about me to someone else; who was brave and beautiful, and normal, and special in the same way everyone else is. And deserved to live same way everyone else does, same as we all are.
We, as a race, don’t really understand death. The closest we get to understanding is a feeling that the person is ‘no longer there.’ When my grandmother passed away, and I returned from her funeral from Kolkata to Bangalore, I just always believed she was there in Kolkata, she was just ‘no longer there’ with me in Bangalore. It would take me a few seconds of forced consciousness to remember that she was nowhere, not here with me, not there, not anywhere. We don’t really understand what death is- where is that person really now, what is here, where is ‘there’, do they know hundreds of people came to see their body, the body can’t tell or care and so why do we go and say nice things about them, who is all this for? Maybe the Eskimos know, who leave the dead out to be eaten by vultures, because they know the dead can’t tell or care, and that person is now in nature, not here, or there. Maybe them, but I certainly don’t understand it.
And so I know I will go on thinking she’s no longer here, but that if I took a bus and went to meet her she would be there, she will be there at the next friend’s wedding and the next alumni meeting, and I will have to force myself and it’ll take me a few seconds to remember that Pataka Guddi will, in fact, not be standing under the light in a white dress, laughing hard but with her hands clasped over her mouth in silent mirth.