Summer of 1992,
I held my newborn cousin for the first time. The whole family was elated. But that creature peed on me the moment I held her. She’s eight years younger than me but my bond with her was much more than just being cousins. She was like my baby and I’d miss no chance to play with her. She had big shiny eyes and an impossibly angelic smile. Whenever aunt was busy with her household chores, by default I was in charge to look after the baby. She didn’t cry much except for the time when someone pulled and pinched her cheeks; can’t help it, she was so cute. She used to sleep wrapping her fingers around my finger and it was the best feeling I ever had.
Fortunately aunt was staying here for the next few months until the baby was steady enough to travel and I was gonna have my best summer vacation ever. Since I was so close to her, her name was chosen by me. I’d spent days finding the most unique and the best name and finally came up with ‘RAVYA’.
I didn’t realise how soon she turned ten months old. Days passed by and it was the time for her and aunt to leave. I cried when I came to know. Imagining a single moment without her was terrible enough to make me shed tears.
I carried her all the way to the station and kissed her hard while bidding a goodbye.
Next few days were difficult. I missed how I used to lullaby her, play peek-a-boo and how she cracked up laughing. I was promised to visit her place soon after my exams and I was excited.
I couldn’t control my contentment when I saw that familiar cute smile of hers. The very next moment she was in my arms. We celebrated her first birthday together. During my stay there, she was learning to take her baby steps and speak and I was on the ninth cloud when she spoke her first word –‘ DADA’ because I’d been trying to teach her ‘DIDI’ but DADA and DIDI similar. What mattered is that her first was addressed to me.
Those memories were too precious for me. I was back home. Days turned into years and she was growing up right in front of my eyes. I had witnessed her journey from being in diapers to turning into a beautiful sweet teenager.
As we both grew older, our bond deepened. While everyone hated summers, we used to wait for it so that we could spend those times together. She started calling me – DADA.
Gossiping about guys in our school, watching movies all night, planning how we both would stay at the same house and never get married and doing all sort of monkey business, that is how our vacations went. But I couldn’t spend all my time with her due to my academics and she used to throw tantrums. My overdramatic baby wasn’t easy to handle.
While staying apart, she’d call me everyday describing her school life and how much she missed me. She was so fond of me that she didn’t attend the family gatherings if I wasn’t around. Everyone in the family knew, if she was out of sight then she’d be with me. She wished me on every occasion be it mother’s day or father’s day or valentine’s day. She said “Dada you’re everything to me. My mom, my dad, my sister, my brother…”. She used to tie a sacred thread around my wrist saying that I was her saviour and protector.
Sadly, it was time for me to get married. She hated the idea from the beginning but ultimately she’d to accept. She didn’t talk to me for a few days until she realised that I’d be soon going to another house and this was the only time that we could spend together. She sobbed over the calls asking me to take her with me to my in law’s house. My fiancé Omkar was a really sweet person and he understood our bond well. She was cold to him initially but gradually they bonded well, much to my surprise. Ravya was thrilled for my wedding trying to suppress her sadness. But I could clearly see that. She was inconsolable and cried so much that Omkar pleaded everyone to allow her to stay with me for a few days after my marriage. That day we both realised that he was truly the right one.
Within the course of time, soon I was expecting and Ravya’s favourite person- I was replaced by my own child Yuvaan. Ravya too got married and settled in Germany. I could say she wouldn’t have found any better match than Harsh. I’d seen them madly in love since her school.
We were still virtually together despite being four thousand miles away. Not a single day passed without video calling. Everything seemed like a fairytale. All four of us were so happy when she broke the news of arrival of the new member. I was ecstatic on hearing the news and she also revealed that she was returning to India permanently, in the summer of 2020.
Things were going great until..
It was beginning of 2020 when we all came across the CORONA virus. We assumed it won’t affect us. But cases were increasing at an alarming rate in Germany. Soon India reported its first case and the number went on increasing. It was declared a global pandemic. Ravya had a worse condition as it was her third trimester. Flight services were restricted and they had no other option apart from waiting. We were in touch everyday and she used to cry and tell me how desperately she wanted to return.
Despite taking all the precautions and following all the guidelines, Harsh was affected. It became more difficult for Ravya to manage everything alone. She was gloomy. I so wished to be with her. Handling all these things were surely a challenge for her. But she was destined to face even more obstacles. After a few days, she started showing symptoms. No matter how much I prayed, she tested positive. My world seemed to have turn upside down and all our hearts sank in.
I saw her on my screen after four days and for a moment I couldn’t recognise her. She looked pale and lean. She just kept saying “Dada, take me home. Please.”
I couldn’t control but cried helplessly hearing her sobs. The medicines didn’t seem to have much effect and the last time I heard from her was before she was hospitalised. I deliberately ignored her calls because it was just too much for me to see her in that condition.
After three days, I got a call and what Harsh said next swept the floor underneath my feet. I heard him crying and all he could say was “She left us…the baby couldn’t even see her neither could I, for the last time. They buried her and I wasn’t even there… .”
My mind couldn’t process what I’d just heard. I was in a state of utter shock and numbness. She passed away on her birthday and it was the same day Amyra was born.
Summer of 2021,
I was waiting at the airport for Harsh to arrive with Amyra. He waited for things to be normal so that he could return. I was lost in my thoughts while I heard the chuckles of a baby behind me and I had butterflies in my stomach, because I knew. As soon as I turned I saw those familiar shiny eyes and the same angelic smile, the one I saw years ago. She undeniably had her mother’s attributes. It felt as if I’d time travelled and held Ravya for the first time. Of course this little creature too peed on me, just the way her mother did but thanks to the diapers. Yuvaan was elated seeing the little bundle of joy and that reminded me of my happiness when I saw Ravya for the first time.
“She must be confused what to call you, granny or mum.” said Harsh and we giggled.
No matter how hard I try, there’s always a void in my life. We remember Ravya always on a happy note as instructed by her in her last letter. The one in which she expressed her desire that she wanted me to be the mother of her baby.
Summer had a great role in our lives. It was summer when Ravya entered my life, it was summer when we spend our childhood together, it was summer when we got married and it’s the summer again, when Amyra was born. I miss her way too much and I know she is always here with me to guide me when I’m lost, just the way I use to do years ago. Ravya, my baby your Dada loves you the most.
Written by Anwesha Panda