x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Desi girl: If you still have grandparents, call and tell them you love them

It's easier to manage the hurt of loss with the safety of geography. I flew back to Dubai, hoping that the distance would make my feelings easier to manage.

He always had a sweet for me in his breast pocket. That’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Nana – my mum’s father and my granddad.

Nine years ago, Nana came to Dubai for my wedding. We picked him up from the airport and drove home. As I carried his suitcase to his room, he looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and pulled out a sweet from his breast pocket.

“They gave it to me on the plane, “ he whispered with a conspiratorial smile. “I saved it for you.”

A sweet for a 23-year-old bride. To him, I was always his baby, his first granddaughter.

A few years before that, he was admitted to hospital. I had gone to Karachi to see him. It broke my heart to see him bedridden, covered with tubes and bandages. His hospital gown didn’t have a breast pocket but in his frail hands, he clutched a sweet.

It’s easier to manage the hurt of loss with the safety of geography. I flew back to Dubai, hoping that the distance would make my feelings easier to manage. I can still recall the conversation I had with him a few weeks after I returned to Dubai: he said that he missed me and that I didn’t call often enough.

“When are you coming to see me again?” he asked. “God knows how much longer I have to live ... I just want to see you again.”

I chided him for talking like that, and hadn’t we met just a few weeks ago? Inwardly, I was a little irritated. Didn’t he know I couldn’t go anytime I wanted?

Little did I know that this conversation was to be our last. He was later sent home from hospital but was admitted again because his health worsened. He stayed there for a week, not getting any better, not able to talk on the phone. I desperately wanted to go to Karachi and see him.

At the same time, I was afraid to go. I was scared and was selfish: I knew I wouldn’t be able to stand the sight of him bedridden again, and so I didn’t go. Every year, right about this time, I wish I had been braver. I wish I had gone.

It was about this time a few years ago that Nana died. I will never get a chance to hold his hand again and tell him how much he means to me. There will be no more sweets in breast pockets waiting for me in -Karachi.

I wish I had called him more frequently. I wish I had told him the last time I spoke with him that I loved him.

If you’re lucky enough to still have a grandparent, call them to say how much you love them. Just talk to them for a few minutes. Tell them about your day. Let them tell you about theirs. I wish I had.

Ujala Ali Khan lives in Dubai and loves all things desi

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