Tigress- A Tribute
When my great-grandmother (or my Kollu Paati, as I called her) was diagnosed with mouth cancer in 2010, I was far too young to truly understand the implications of it. All I knew was that “chemotherapy” was a big word I couldn’t pronounce yet, “cancer” was a word that I would only know the meaning of when I became bigger, and “death” was a new word that apparently happened to everyone but was happening to my Kollu Paati in a way that was not nice.
Now, of course…I know far too much about all of those words, and many more.
You see, my Kollu Paati’s battle with cancer lasted 4 years. My family and I were in Bangalore while she and the rest of our relatives were in Chennai, so we had to travel a lot. So much, in fact, that I was very confused when I found out that spending every Friday night and Sunday evening on a train was not normal for most, if not all, children my age.
Perhaps that is when I began to realize the gravity of it all, whenever I stepped into the walls of that hospital room.
My kollu paati died in 2014, on a weird, gloomy day that truly felt like it matched up with the atmosphere of the funeral.
Everybody would cry, and then stop crying, and then cry again. I wondered then and I wonder now, if they were weeping because they were grief-stricken at her passing, or if they were relieved that she was finally gone and neither she nor the rest of them would have to suffer any longer.
As cruel as the latter seems…it is the reality for so many families of cancer patients. You know they’re suffering, and you’re suffering because they’re suffering, and you’re running around desperately trying to stop that suffering and keep them alive, all the while knowing that both of you know you want this whole thing to just end for the better or for worse, and neither of you can do anything about it except sit there and watch each other suffer silently.
It's even worse when you’re as old as my Kollu Paati. She was 75 years old when she was diagnosed. At that age, everyone thinks you’re going to go to the afterlife peacefully. Nobody expects you to weather through years of pain, when everybody knows you’re going to die no matter what happens but nobody wants to see it happening.
However, there was a plus side to all of this, if you can call it that. My Kollu Paati decided to donate her body to science, so that her condition could be studied further and better treatment plans could be made for other “old bags with cancer like her”, as she used to say in Tamil.
Maybe this entire thing wasn’t in vain after all. Maybe my Kollu Paati's suffering has helped other people and given them a new shot at life. We’ll never know for certain, of course…but it sure is nice to think about, isn’t it?
While writing this, I remember fondly how she would probably call me a crybaby for reminiscing on all this. “Move on”, she would chide. ”You’ll fail your exams at this rate.”
Rest in peace, Kollu Paati. You lived a long, eventful life and battled every obstacle, right up until the very end. Even if I didn’t act like it when you were around, even if I didn’t have much time with you…what few moments I did spend with you is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Rest in peace, dear tigress. Your legacy will never be forgotten.