She finds catharsis in the chaos.
She is 80 this year. Her grandson enters the room to invite her to lunch, and it’s jarring how quiet and empty it is outside. Va, ammuma, the boy says, beckoning her over. It’s time to eat.
And your family? The distinction is there. Your family and
not ours, the snarky cadence in her voice becomes known. It matters not what they say, or do, but in the omission. The silence when she asks to join them for meals, the quell of laughter when she steps into the room. She might be 80 and going senile from the loneliness, but she is aware of where she is not wanted. Where the obligation to prevent her death supersedes the obligation to keep her alive.
The boy shakes his head, they’ve eaten already.
She lived through the British, the Japanese, and even the communists. She’s lived so many years, and through the worst of humanity. And yet, the inhumanity in this slice of time continues to shock her.
Her mind flashes back to a celebration of Diwali, fifty years ago with food platters and fireworks. She thinks of the hidden packets of money in her back pocket for the children, the chocolate stuck between their teeth when they giggled, trying to reach around her waist. There is catharsis there, in the sounds of laughter and squeaks of mischief.
Now, in the quiet, it’s hard not to harken back to a time when she was the cause of celebration.
Ammuma, the boy repeats, sitting at the foot of her bed. You like it to eat when it’s quiet outside, and they’ve all gone.
The words like and quiet make her flinch. There’s a kind of perversity there. For a woman once full of life and joy to be characterised as solemn and quiet in her final years. To believe she enjoys it. Where is the woman slinging the chocolate and gifts. Where has she gone.
Just then, a baby cries in another room. The baby’s parents coo, rush to her side. The house is alive again, awake to the sounds of their youngest child. The boy takes his leave, rushing to his family.
And then, she relaxes. She is alone, always alone. But she takes great comfort in the noise, in the spectacle of chaos – even if she will never be part of it again.