Wednesday, March 07, 2007
A little while ago I got the news that my aunt Revathy (my mother's youngest sister) passed away. I was in Bombay yesterday to see her and my uncle Gopal and cousins Kartik and Skanda.
Revathy had been battling cancer since April last year. She and her family fought a very brave battle, keeping up hope and untiring efforts even in the face of grim reports. In the last week, her condition took a severe downturn, and she began sinking. And in the end, even when she was completely enfeebled and bed-ridden, her mind, her voice, her vision, her will - holding on to life - and her faculty of infinite selfless love remained undiminished. She would have been 60 this year.
Revathy was a connoisseur of the arts, a person of refined sensibility, taste and feeling, and an accomplished writer and poet. Yesterday afternoon she spoke to me about her recently published collection of poems Last Possibilities of Light (Writers Workshop, Calcutta).
I have known her from my infancy. As my youngest aunt, she was more than a mother can be. Books, literature, poetry, songs, music, cinema - she was a channel to so many things for us. Most of all, she cared for others, even at personal cost.
From her I learnt the phrase "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways" (from Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poem), and so much else besides.
A couple of years ago I wrote her:
"Many years ago, you gave my mother the book The Barretts of Wimpole Street, with an inscription, "How do I love thee, let me count the ways". Thus did I learn about Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and later in college we studied Robert Browning's poems in the compulsory English courses. But that phrase has remained with me ever since. Several years ago I read the full poem. Now, thanks to the wonders of the internet, I have this in my computer. So I send it to you, with thanks."
"This is the sweetest thing that has happened for a long time. Thank you. I love the circular nature of things that happen in one's life. And poetry gives us a much needed dose of dimly-glimpsed Reality."
And some months later, after I wrote her to put up performances of her singing, she wrote:
"... Perhaps with your prodding I can do more to remove bushels covering the light! Isn't 'light' a beautiful word?"
In September 2005, after the birth of Naina, my sister Shyama's daughter, Revathy wrote:
Is she a key
to a time of dreams,
a future without fear
and the heat of futile wars?
will we walk through
the door into a future
where people bathed in light
turn smiling at one another
with their hands joyfully
at one another.
When she opens her eyes
to the light,
we will know.
Revathy lived to give love, joy and caring to those around her. Her passing away is a devastating loss to us. She leaves behind a terrible void.
Read Revathy's son Kartik's tribute here.
Read a friend's tribute to Revathy here.
Read the obituary in Chowk here.