At the time of writing this letter to you, I had recently returned from the best 2 weeks holiday I had while visiting you in Cleveland. The plan was actually to surprise you for Christmas but instead, it felt like I just gave myself the best Christmas present ever! The 2 weeks spent watching you grow into this amazing little lady, were hands down, the best 2 weeks of my life! I learnt so much about you during that trip that I could sit on that flight back home confident that you are going to have the greatest life ahead of you - because there is absolutely no doubt that you are in fact, every bit like your mother!
One thing that you must know about your mother is that she was an expert crisis manager. She was also everyone’s number one Agony Aunt. I say expert crisis manager because all through her life she’s had her fair share of ups and downs, like most of us have. She would somehow manage to get herself thick into the midst of deep, dramatic issues but at the same time would get herself out of the line of fire with such ease that you could never believe there was something wrong. That was the thing with her. Nothing ever seemed to rile her up (except, I think, me!) and she always got herself out of the mess with a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eyes. She was just basically, always happy. Nothing made her happier though, than being there for her friends and family – the people that she would happily give an arm for. We all went to her with our problems and hers would be the best shoulder to cry on. She would patiently hear us out and in her politest way let us know how foolish we were to worry so much about things (like in the picture below, she's giving me her usual "would you please stop overreacting" look ;)) . She would calmly tell us that if we think something is right, then we must go ahead and do it. She would remind us that life is short and that we must do whatever it is that makes us happy. Even before mom and dad were married and mom was living in India, daddy had a job that required him to drive long hours to and from his work place. In the winter months when the Cleveland snow would be at its worst, Mommy would stay up all night talking to daddy, making sure that he doesn’t get sleepy on the wheel. When she got married and moved away, there were a couple of occasions when I would just call her on Skype in the middle of my night because I would be scared to sleep alone. She would stay online till I slept, often just doing her own thing and disconnect when she knew I was asleep. Even her virtual presence, 8000 miles away, somehow just made me feel safe.
There was a time when you and I were Skyping and I needed to send some of my videos across to you. Instead of sending them to you, the videos landed up being sent to a whatsapp group of which I am a part and consists of 250 members! The videos were private and the group was strictly a professional sports group. I was so embarrassed and completely stressed out about the goof up. I kept prancing around the room with sweaty palms and wondering how on earth I was going to do some damage control. My immediate response was to exit the group (I have no idea why I thought that would help!). When I told you about it, your response though, was different. And so much wiser. You simply said, “So what, maasi?” I explained the situation further to you and you said to me, “It’s really not a big deal! They can think whatever they want to. You made a mistake and its ok.” You were 6 and a half years old then. I sat down in the chair and felt my hand slowly move from my forehead to my chest, which was now bursting with pride. It was almost as if my older sister - your mother - was on the computer screen, telling me to calm down and that everything will be alright. In retrospect, it probably was her – calm, composed and practical as ever – speaking to us through you, the only medium that makes sense to our world!
From her absolute displeasure at having to pick up the table cloth once we were all done eating (she and I would race each other to clear up the plates so that the other person is responsible for dusting the table cloth – more work than clearing up the plates) to her incomparable love for reading (when we would go to the library to borrow books, she would invariably have more books than she could hold and has, on more than one occasion, been stopped by worried gentlemen asking if she’s really going to have the time to read all of it), the similarities between the 2 of you are absolutely glaring. If given a choice, you could spend all day cooped up in bed watching your favorite shows or reading story books. When I visited you for Christmas, we spent every single night reading some of your favorite stories – from Matilda to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. On my last night in Cleveland, you couldn’t sleep so you were making up these songs - that actually made a lot of sense! It reminded me of your mothers great ability to write – she had an uncanny way with words and I see a lot of that being passed on to you as well.
At your tiny age, you have built such a solid bond with your mother that it is beyond our understanding as to how it came about. Until Nana had a dream one night that I think explains it all. In his dream, Nani comes running to him and tells him that she has a surprise. She has brought someone very special along and asks him to guess who it is. She then shows him who she’s talking about – and yes, you guessed it right – it was mommy! Nana runs to her and wraps his arms around her, tears of joy rolling down his cheeks. We are all sitting on a beach in Goa – your mom’s favorite place in the world and also the place where she wished to spend her last few days (unfortunately, we couldn’t make that happen). Suddenly, in his dream, Nana looks up and sees you playing on rocks in the ocean. He shouts out to you to be careful and to get off the rocks. When you pay no heed and continue to jump around, he lets go of mommy and runs to you, picks you up in his arms and brings you back to the shore. That’s where the dream ended.
Now I’m no expert interpreter of dreams but when Nana told us about it the next morning, I was convinced about its significance. To me, that was moms way of telling Nana – her dad – that now the only other of his 2 daughters is you. That she has, in a manner, gone on to live in your heart and that from then on, you’re all we need to focus our attention on. That you are in fact, not only an extension of her but also the single most important piece of her life. I believe with all my heart, that that is true. When I arrived at your home, the first thing you did was to take me up to your room and silently say to me, “I have some of mommy’s hair!” You went to the drawer and removed a little box, opened it and showed me a few strands of your mom’s hair that you had been saving all along. I’m sure you still have them. Just like the way your mom always held dear all of the stuff given to her by those closest to her – from hairpins to clothes to handwritten cards from eons ago! It’s absolutely beautiful, the way you’re preserving her memories and I hope you continue to do that always. I cannot imagine for my sister to have hoped for a better way to have her legacy carried forward.