“Last Rites”

“Please! Stop it! All of you.” Laila screamed and the room went eerily quiet.

Granny looked calm wrapped in a too white eye-hurting bedsheet with small cotton pieces placed in the nose. Like it had to be done so everyone knows she isn’t breathing anymore. Her anger had yet again taken over her senses. It was hard to breathe with all these people standing around her and Granny. The entitled old brats deciding who gets to give fire to her pyre. And thanks to her outburst, every eye was aimed at her waiting for an apology. But she did not care about anyone else today. Her most favorite person was no longer with her. She let her tired legs finally give up to sit down next to Granny lifting her head gently to place it on her lap. Warm tears washed down her dry cold cheeks. The smell of the sandalwood incense filled the room but all she could smell was the aroma of ghee diyas burning, just like it did every morning when her Granny performed her prayers.

Laila always wondered why her granny prayed so much to the Gods who took her son and daughter-in-law away leaving her alone to raise a baby. Each time her Granny sat down for her daily prayers, Laila would sit next to her leaning her back on her shoulder. Trying her best, to distract her from reciting the mantras and lighting the diyas. Until, one day, Granny turned to her and said, “I am thanking Devi ma for giving me my little Laila. The one I get to raise and love. My precious little flower. And so, you will have to let me get to my prayers.” It was at that moment Laila stopped bothering Granny and accepted the positivity in such a horrific incident, at least she had Granny. And so Granny continued with her rituals and Laila with her disinterest.

Every morning before Laila left for school, she would accompany Granny to choose the flowers of her choice from the big garden. For those few minutes, Laila forgot about her anger surrounded by sweet fragrances and colors. Granny would say, “They both were too kind for this world, Laila. That is why God took them away from us.” To which Laila always snapped, “Well, then you better start being mean to me Granny, I need you here.” Granny would laughingly reply, “Oh, I have done enough bad things to live a long life, Laila. Moreover, I am not going anywhere until I see you in the white coat of a Doctor.”Granny had lived long enough to see Laila complete her MBBS and then pursue a Master’s in Surgery. She had kept every promise she ever made to Laila, yet today it all felt incomplete.

Laila gently stroked Granny’s soft withered strands of hair away from her forehead and kissed her one last time. She cleared her dried up throat and wiped the tears off her cheeks and said, “I Love you, Granny.” She continued to talk, in a calmer tone this time looking at the ungrateful humans around her and said, “I will perform Granny’s last rites. It is what Granny wanted. No more discussion.”

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