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I Am Your Daughter

By Nabgha Shahid


In the many ways I could have picturized this year’s Valentine’s Day, none of them involved placing my hand on my maternal grandmother’s right foot as they took her away for burial. I knew then, that perhaps, the meaning of Valentine’s would forever be altered for me. Instead of a love that would sweep me off my feet, I had lost a love that could now never find its way back to me - Not an elaborate, grandiose kind of love, but the subtler, gentler love of my mother’s mother. That there could ever be a world where my nano’s scent would not exist was something I had never envisioned.  


People said the hardest part would be to immerse yourself in the pain that surrounded the loss. It wasn’t hard. They said it would be like an open, gaping wound that would never heal. It didn’t feel that way. What frightened me was the idea that I would forget her; that slowly but surely, my life would patch itself back up and I would traverse paths so far away from the memory of her that years later, I would have nothing to say about her and nothing about this notion felt like an open, gaping wound. It felt like a million tiny little blisters that burn and ache with every breath I take. The idea that I could somehow forget the woman who oiled and braided my hair every Sunday while we sat on a charpayi and ate oranges on a sunny winter afternoon kept me up nights after she left. Whenever I think about her now, I think of her as someone who went out for a stroll and never came back because I know if I convince myself that we buried her, that a phenomenon as huge and captivating as death separates us, I do not think I would be able to function normally. It’s easier to envision that she left and despite the improbability of her coming back, that there is still something that keeps me connected to her.


On the day that demarcated 40 days of her being gone, I opened the curtains of the room she stayed in. On the window pane, in the grills, knotted tightly was a lilac piece of string. The physician who used to come home during her last 6 months of ailment used to the string to secure the IV bag containing her medication. When my gaze stumbled on it, on the 24th of March, I realized how quickly we had attached normalcy to the idea of her having gone forever. All that was left behind was a piece of string on a window grill knotted tightly. In many ways, the string holding onto the window became my attempt to keep her alive in my heart. I began to fear if someone severed the string, I would lose the only substantial reminder that she existed near me. That whatever had taken place in the past 6 months was real.


I once feared that my memories of her as a substantial person would be overshadowed by memories of her in the past 5 years as someone who suffered from Alzheimer’s, that the disease would outweigh her life. I was afraid that all I would remember were snippets of me asking her, “Do you remember me still? Do you remember when you made me an omelet and I sat on the kitchen counter while you listed the ingredients?” and she would say, “Of course I remember you” but we both knew she didn’t. She could recognize that I was someone she loved but she wouldn’t be able to recall who I was. I don’t fear that anymore. I don’t that the memories of my childhood with her would eventually be hazy and blurry because the week before she left, I said, “Nano, I got the highest marks in my quiz because you prayed for me. You prayed for me, didn’t you?” and she replied, “Why wouldn’t I? You are my daughter”. I am. I am her daughter and for as long as I live, no memory, no disease, no sickness can outweigh that.  


 

About the Author

Nabgha Shahid is a student of English Literature at Kinnaird College for Women, Lahore. Most of her work focuses on personal experiences, polarization within societal structures and lack of female agency within social spheres.


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