Full Circles..

Dear Aunty M,

There were only two times that you didn’t uphold your promise to me. The first was one when you were supposed to visit us before my Year 10 exams to wish me luck in person – these exams were something of a milestone moment back then and you wanted to be there for the momentous occasion . It was a family tradition started by Grandpa when he was alive – all his grandchildren were seen off to the exam hall by him. When they passed in flying colours, he gifted them with their first ever grown-up wristwatch. A rite of passage, a legacy of sorts. One generation walking with the other for a while till the roads diverged and the paths swallowed you whole. When my time came, Grandpa had long passed away and everything I knew about him was through you or through Mum. But the traditions didn’t have to end because he had left us, you had assured me. New people take up old roles, this is how families survive and thrive.

There was a communal riot in town, buses were torched and a curfew was declared. There was no way you could have travelled – my mother would not hear of it. So you called up instead and wished me luck. And told me that even if the curfew lifted late at night, you would still take the night bus to be there in the morning. The curfew didn’t lift, in fact the town burnt for a few more days. You called up everyday and everyday you promised me the same thing. And the promise saw all of us through days of deserted streets, burnt rubber, inky exams and tiring late nights.

The next few years saw phone calls being exchanged from all over the globe – short calls, long calls, funny calls and calls where I realized that distance has very little to do with closeness. I called you as often as I called my mother. And she called you as often as she called me. Three sides of a triangle, each defined by the two others. Something so stable and so comforting that I didn’t ever stop to think that it could ever be any other way. I nearly called you from an amazing concert one night, I was kind of hoping you would be able to hear the songs and feel the pulsating sky like I did. So when Mum called up in tears the next day to say you had passed away during the night, I went into a state of disbelief. This is not how it was supposed to end. You had said you would be there to see Miss A grow up. And unlike the last time where a phone call saw me through, this time I was left with nothing but a heart full of memories and a sepia photo to let my daughter know about you. This was a promise you were supposed to uphold.

Three years later a part of me still aches for you incredibly. Memories do not hurt because of the days we shared but because of the days that were never meant to be.

I made pancakes for breakfast a few weeks ago – the kind of pancakes you always made for me during those endless summer holidays I spent at your place. Somewhere between the second helping and the sizzle of oil on a hot griddle, I told Miss A this was your recipe. And with that one declaration, I unwound a spool of warm summer days, long rickshaw rides, midnight icecream binges, museum trips, movie afternoons and memories of thick slumber on May mornings even as you tiptoed around trying not to wake me up though you had to leave for work.

Seasons change, people more so. But the memory of your weather beaten hand holding my little hands has remained untarnished through it all.

Today when I was ruminating over breakfast choices, a small voice asked me for pancakes. Not any pancakes, mind you – she wanted Aunt M’s pancakes.  There was a patch of sunshine on the windowsill, a bird singing in a nearby hedge. Traditions don’t leave us because people do – you taught me that, remember? Like the wrist watch you gifted me all those years ago, I now have a slice of time for eternity – the legacy of one generation passed on to another. Like always your love, your tales, your recipes slipped effortlessly from the past to the present, as strong and as tangible as ever.  Someday perhaps Ms A will tell her children about great Aunt M’s summer pancakes.  New people taking on old roles so that families survive and thrive.

The seasons came full circle today. I should have known it – you were always good at keeping your word. And your gifts always came without an expiry date.



PS: Was there any secret ingredient in the pancakes? I swear yours tasted way better.


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rajavel
    Aug 01, 2010 @ 03:18:00

    That was touching Scarlett. What would the world be without pampering, loving, caring aunts and uncles.

    The thought of family traditions and culture is some what disconcerting in the current scenario. I can recount innumerable of them – the rules of engagement between cousins. Brothers. Sisters. The done thing. The “way we do it”. With no cousins to share with, I am not sure how these will be valued, remembered and passed on.


  2. Altoid
    Aug 01, 2010 @ 17:31:24

    Warm memories brilliantly mixed with hot pancakes…what could be more delicious? Its this kind of thing that makes for legacy, doesn’t it?

    Hugs to you Scarlett!



  3. bilbo
    Aug 01, 2010 @ 18:52:13

    and scary is back with a bang. Looking forward to this whole month.
    As usual, loved reading the latest post and was kinda teary eyed towards the end.
    Second Rajavel on his thoughts about family traditions and cultures. With the change in family structures, there is quite a lot we are losing out on .


  4. scarlettletters
    Aug 02, 2010 @ 03:29:31

    Chets – thank you 🙂 I worry about that too – that sense of family, of little rituals, of old traditions is fast disappearing. I guess this is where we need to step in and take up the reins?? I know I would still like to be the kid surrounded by loving uncles and aunts – I am not comfortable with growing up. 😛

    Legacies indeed. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of my aunt. Love does stay around. People don’t.

    Thanks. Glad to know you liked it. As for family structures, we are losing out for sure…


  5. Priyamvada
    Aug 02, 2010 @ 20:46:55

    There is a certain generosity of spirit that’s SO admirable about the older generations. “Traditions don’t leave us because people do” – how wonderful, and what a way to preserve our roots, and bonds of love!

    Your Aunt M must have been such a wonderful person. Now I too want Aunt M’s pancakes!


  6. scarlettletters
    Aug 03, 2010 @ 00:33:28

    She was a very wonderful and loving person. My childhood was made even better because of her role.



  7. Ardra
    Aug 06, 2010 @ 13:28:11

    Oh Scarlett, this post resonated with me on several levels…I lost a very dear aunt ( not my mom’s sis but my uncle’s wife) recently and I miss her awfully. To accept that I’ll never see her again, hear her voice is so painful. You know she made semiya payasam for ME when I was visiting her on HER Birthday last year because it was my favourite.


  8. Aria
    Oct 01, 2010 @ 01:05:53

    as usual, the way you write warmed my heart and it felt as if I’d almost tasted that pancake.. but I do wish I could have a bite for real..


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