He calls me from one of the rooms in their little apartment in Kochi.
He wants to hand over his “parting gift” before my grandmother calls us for lunch and asks me to hurry up. After flinging my phone onto the bed and scolding him for this unnecessary gesture, I sit down to see what’s in store.
My grandfather hands me a dark blue pouch with a faded gold zipper, zig-zagging its way across its middle.
He carefully unzips it with an innocent inability to contain his glee. There lies a transparent zip-lock that’s been tightly packed with all sorts of things, almost leaving them gasping for air. “It’s for when you go to Delhi”, he said grinning as all these miniature bits and bobs spilled out onto the paisley bed sheet, sick of suffocation.
It was such a winsome sight. There were all sorts of things, like a little brush and comb that stood against each other, interlocking intimately, a mini razor, a compact mirror perfect for a gremlin to admire itself from head to toe, toothpicks standing upright like proud soldiers in their plastic case and a miniature sewing kit. After much ooh-ing and aw-ing, I tried to cram all the tidbits back into their place in the “survival kit”, as he termed it.
However, something glacé had caught our eye when we picked up the pouch to put the zip lock back in. He was surprised to find it there too and fiddled with the leather brown trinket. The slim, tan brown Squire wallet, with its shiny black button and gold embellishment, glistened in the afternoon sunlight. He looked at it intently but I could tell he was drifting to a small memory of the past, a pleasant one that just needed a little reminding.
The past year was a big shove into the deep end of the pool. As I attempted to keep my head above the water, a few other bobbing heads and flailing arms caught my attention, much to my reassurance. The rest, of course, is hilarious history.
We learnt to deal with atrocities like crashing bathroom ceilings, Thursday- dinner- baingan and combating rats with cockroach spray. We also collectively shared a horribly obnoxious habit: attempting to defeat the all-powerful; Time.
This included attending morning assemblies in our pajamas, scrambling to the metro station with only half a face of makeup on to meet our extremely punctual friends, or dashing across the lawns in a frantic frenzy to make it in time for curfew, sober-ish. The chuckles over hot chai, cookies and sugary cereal, general body meetings over first date outfits, in-depth takeaway menu analyses, and counseling broken hearts in musty, Smurf-blue rooms, are remembrances that keep one company during this mundane quarantine.
The kind of sisterhood we shared is surely one for the history books. Just a group of six, meandering, wandering, sometimes wandering a little too much but nevertheless, one you can count on for picking up your Swiggy order from the distant college gates and doing your pile of laundry when you injure a tailbone, trying to climb a wall. Coming to terms with the reality of the present, our routine being abruptly snatched away and our tokens of idiosyncrasies now packed up in cardboard boxes and bubble wrap, is a stubborn pill to swallow.
I didn’t pack my grandfather’s mini “survival kit” when I left home. It effortlessly found its way back to me, in the form of a loud and eccentric bunch that helped me stay afloat, when the chlorinated currents of change made its way. I now see what my grandfather did, when he came across this old gift from his brother in England. It’s the promise of friendship, love and space for loose change.