It was just another day in the life of Mrinmayi—tall, fair, pretty, intelligent, and 28 years old. If you think that she is the protagonist of this story, you would soon learn the truth. The workload was pretty lean those days, due to the recent increase in staffing at her workplace. After many days, she got a chance to return home in that hour of the day. She decided to walk the few kilometers from the station that is situated nearest to her house.
The roads were pretty dusty due to the early evening breeze. The flowers on the floor stood as a proof of the breeze that blew and axed the flowers from its root, or rather, from wherever the breeze could spot a weak link between the flower and the tree. The fact that it was not breeze, but gushy winds that did what she saw in front of her, was slowly dawning on her, because, there were also a few fresh leaves that the wind managed to execute. The flowers from the trees decorated the road with pink, lavender and mild-orange and with strange patterns. A few yards away, there were huge, dead, ugly leaves on the road. There was constant rustle as the road was quite busy. And as she went past it, she enjoyed every moment of the rustle she heard.
Apart from all these scenic observations, she noticed that a few men, even at this time of day, were indulging in revelry after heavy intoxication. That brought a scowl on her face and transported her back to reality. But, within a few minutes, she reached home. She removed her shoes and as she was about to enter her house, she realised that her dad who was sitting in the veranda of their house was attempting to tell her something. She turned back and saw him just complete a few words.
"What did you say, dad? I didn’t quite follow you.” asked Mrin as a response.
"Satthi amm... Satthi Amma has..." he tried to say something, but she could just witness the tearful expression and hear her dad, as if he suffered from an infected larynx.
"What happened to her?" questioned Mrin with her eyebrows coming closer and thereby creating a crest on her forehead.
"Satthi Amma has passed away." broke down her dad.
OOPS!! What happened?
"She was well until today afternoon. She had her lunch and complained of being a bit uneasy. The tenants then asked her to take some rest and put her on to the bed and a few minutes later she breathed her last breath." replied Mrin's dad. She could sense that the composure claiming its way back into his system.
What was her age?
85. Almost the age of your grandma. But when compared to your grandma, Satthi Amma was pretty healthy during her last few days.
Did you go and visit her house?
Yeah, I was there the whole day, trying to set right a few things for the funeral.
Memories of the old lady flashed her mind with her overall face appearing first, then the diamond nose stud that constantly shimmered, and then the mole on her face. She was the only person who remained with the same intensity of white shade on her hair and seemed like she never grew older than that. Mrin had identified symptoms of Satthi Amma ageing, probably, only when she complained of difficulty in climbing their two-storeyed building to meet her dad. In retrospect, she was reminded of the gap in between the front teeth, her slanted walk, the summer holidays, her grand son kaarthi, his mom—the english teacher, the long and broad wooden bench by the side of which she use to sit in the earlier part of Mrinmayi's life. Her memories then darted across to the days when she used to just wave and smile to Satthi Amma who sat at the doorstep of her house, perhaps her way of catching up with the world, whenever Mrin went past her house on the bike.
Mrin was carrying out her routine and then when her mom came back from office, she broke the news to her. Her mom was pretty much composed and took the news pretty calm as compared to her dad. Her mom asked as much the same set of questions that Mrin had asked her dad, when she first heard the news.
Her dad being the proactive narrator in their family, started telling tales about Satthi Amma. Mrin learnt, both from her mom and dad, that she was the one who first held her when she was born and that she had taken extra pain in helping him admit her mom during the day of her birth. This and a lot more stories rolled by after that.
A few minutes later, Mrin and her mom left to Satthi Amma's home, to pay homage to her. "She had borne eleven children, of which a few died and made sure she saw that every one of her children buy their own house and settle comfortably well." Mrin heard her dad's voice resound inside her ears. "She had borne eleven children and brought up the ones that survived, with utmost responsibility." Just imagine the patience and experience she would have developed in all these years!, she told herself when she heard her dad say 'eleven children...'. She knew that Satthi Amma was called so because of her last son's name Sakthi. Of all her children, she knew only a few of them, Narayanan, Giri, Vijaya, Palani and Sakthi.
Satthi Amma was staying in Kumar Street, whereas Mrin's family was staying in Ganesh Street. Theirs was supposed to have been a single street, if not for the slight bend in the place where the two streets met. Somehow, the other streets lying parallel to theirs were all just one street.
In two or three minutes, they reached Satthi Amma's house. Satthi Amma was kept in a freezer box. She saw Vijaya and Palani standing beside the transparent box, and chanting aloud some sacred verse along with some others who Mrin was not able to identify. Like how, sometimes we identify a complete song on hearing just one or two words of the song, Mrin though she was a North Indian, she soon identified that they were chanting Thiruvasagam. She felt happy that she could at least identify what was being sung, even though she wasn't able to quite empathise with those who were mourning on the loss of their aged mother.
Mrin again fell into the retrospect mode and was reminded of Vijaya Coffee, Narayanan's own coffee shop, where Mrin's mom often bought coffee powder. She remembered that ever since she has known, Mrin's mom had been grateful to Satthi Amma for having introduced coffee and teaching the art of making absolutely amazing coffee to her. She would often instruct Mrin, “Ask Narayanan uncle to grind the coffee with two and a half portions of chicory.”
She stood there, retrospected for a few minutes, heard one or two people discuss Sathhi Amma’s life and their experiences with her, and prayed to God for her sons and daughters. After a couple of minutes, Mrin and her mom left the place, each one lost in their own thoughts.