Written by Srushti Palkar
The room still smells of her. Not the same, when she tripped over something while plucking flowers for puja that morning. At first it seemed liked a tiny blow on her forehead, but it turned out that the man above had different plans that day – for he welcomed her to his heavenly abode.
Her grey-green painted room now smells of dried rose petals. Lit, incense sticks giving off jasmine-like essence.
She was Kumud – my grandmother and my best friend for all my twenty-three-year-old life. Though, I called her Kiko. She was eighty seven when she died. Outliving the first signs of old age; be it cataract, swollen feet, or brittle bones.
Her loss, however, overwhelmed me with grief. A sensation of being cut into half washed over me. But I had to live up, through and through.
Our rooms stood across from each other. And I had the whole house to myself now. I was afraid to be alone. Still, I kept late drowning myself in my anatomy textbook and preparing for the board exam. Sometimes in search of solace I’d spent most nights in her warm bed, surrounded by that mild, moldy sandalwood whiff.
She was fifth of the seven daughters. She was strong and cheerful. Quite old but never sick. While most people of her age mended their weak heart and tried to get through their joint pain, she laughed her way about all this.
I would lay on her lap. Where she’d run her fingers through my hair, easing a few knots. Telling me folklore of her village warrior. Sometimes of marigold and melons that grew in our backyard over a cup of tea, and her famous onion pakoras and mint chutney. She hated the ones they sold in the bazaar nearby. Stale, deep-fried in rancid oil and swarming with flies. The green chillies accompanied tingled the stomach enough to give you diarrhoea. I asked for the recipe, but she didn’t disclose it. Just pinched my nose and insisted the ingredients to be all home-grown.
She always wanted a garden of her own. So ever since hearing about the pesticide infused fruits and veggies, she decided to cradle the same at the back of the house. I remember watching her discard fruit peels and egg shells in the pit. More often, on occasions, she’d simply bury everything and anything that was useless, just to make the soil more fertile.
Weeks passed on. I sat in the veranda with her belongings; now preserved in a tiny trunk. It contained her butterfly brooch, letters from grandpa, a rag doll, and a note addressed to me along with a packet of pumpkin seeds.
The next day I planned on planting the same in her honour. I got the shovel and other things necessary to dug the earth, until I stumbled upon the same spot she died. It was no coincidence, maybe just a garden rock or hard clay lumped together on the ground.
I started digging, and side-by-side began to read out the note Kiko left me. Her perfectly scribbled words however started to send shivers down my spine.
My mind rushed and my body went numb as hours later several police vans and ambulance enclosed our house. I sat on the swing afar and watched officials dig the whole garden and one by one pull out a set of femur, skull and decayed ribs. The freshly flushed scene did take me back to my anatomy class.
Regardless the chaos, I pondered over the thought of Kiko. She understood the term organic very well in the end. Because the cadavers did improve the fertility of the soil after all.