“Oh…a transistor,” Sangeeta exclaimed. Despite the dust and the discomfort, she was enjoying this task thoroughly. It allowed her to see some real quaint stuff up there and this little transistor was one such. “Does it work? Whose is this?”
It was the second week of nationwide lockdown and one of its benefits was bringing the house to order after years of neglect! One of the long-pending projects was clearing up the attic. It was one of those houses where you needed to climb up a ladder and remain crouching or squatting if you wanted to access all the long-forgotten objects stored there.
She had already handed down a brass boiler which was used to heating water, a hand grinder which was “used to grind masala”, she was told. Now, she was emptying a metal trunk.
“It belongs to your Dadi,” her mother responded alluding to her mother-in-law. “Hand it over. We can give it to some old age home provided it still is in working condition.”
An hour on, a freshly bathed Sangeeta turned on the knob of the transistor and it crackled to life. Excited, she carried it into her grandparent’s room little expecting to witness the excitement of remembered memories on the face of her grandmother.
“Oh. I thought it was lost.” The petite woman who had lived a lifetime of experiences reached out with both her hands to take it from her granddaughter and fondled it as if it were another child of hers. Her eyes sparkled as she regaled the tale of how the transistor came into her life.
“It was your grandfather’s first gift to me,” she said. “Every night after the household slept, we both sat on the terrace unwinding at the end of the day and listening to chaya geet. When he went to war in 1965 and again in 1971, I was hooked to this radio for news from the front but I made it a point to listen to chaya geet with tears of loneliness and fear. I felt it kept him alive. It became a ritual. I felt it would keep him alive.”
Both the women connected through the invisible thread of familial love smiled. Glancing at her grandfather who was lost to the world around him as dementia took over his memories, she squeezed her grandmother’s hand and the two women sat in silence…..one who had only the past to remember and another whose life stretched out ahead.
The following night found all six of them on the terrace listening to chaya geet. The grandparents were carried up the flight of stairs and were now seated in comfort, the effort simply slipped away when they saw the joy in the matriarch’s face. She was moist-eyed as she was lost in the old world charm of watching the stars, listening to the radio surrounded by her loved ones.
It took a while for them to realize the flutter of fingers tapping the knee in sync with the song. That combined with the eyes that seem to bore into his wife’s was one indelible memory all of them were left with.
They continued with the family tradition of listening to chaya-geet after the last rites were completed. They were ever grateful that they gave the old man a chance to recreate the magic once again on the terrace.