Valsala Chechi

The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs. I was reading this on my Blinkist app last night without realising how close to home the message was. A memoir written by an American writer poet before she died of breast cancer at the young age of 39 last year. 

Valsala Chechi was only 62. She died this morning. I don’t ring or keep in touch with my cousins unless there is a need. I am a bit lazy like that. I just visit them when I go home which is once or twice a year. There are some relationships where I should have tried a bit harder and Chechi was one such person. The last time I saw Chechi was at Sasi annan’s funeral early this year. 

On Friday evening, I suddenly felt the urge to contact her and find out how she was doing. I really don’t know what prompted me. An inner voice, maybe. I sent her a message through WhatsApp asking how she was. Today I get a reply from my niece saying that she died. Was it Chechi trying to reach out and say her final goodbyes? I will never know. 

She has been battling cancer bravely for the last few years. At Sasi annan’s funeral, she looked well but I knew Chechi’s days were numbered but the sister in me was in denial. I thought that she would still be there in February for my next visit. 

Sasi annan’s sister and somebody I looked up to as my sister rather than my cousin. I never told her this and now it is too late. But in our own way I think she knew that I cared and loved her dearly. With Chechi gone, it is like losing a friend and a sister all in one. 

How can I describe Chechi? Her official name is Syamala, but we called her Valsala. It was the name given to her elder sister who died as a toddler in Malaysia where they were based and before she was born and the name then got passed on to her. She was our fun cousin. The Chechi who oozed sophistication and elegance. We all wanted to copy her style but never quite captured the poise however hard we tried. The graceful Chechi who would come to visit us from Dubai and take us to the cinema and restaurants and brought colour and fun into our young lives. She leaves behind her two lovely daughters who were the pride and joy of her short life. 

I will miss you Chechi and hope to meet up with you someday and catch up with all the news. This time you won’t have to ply us with alcohol to get our secrets, we will do it willingly. Yes, she did that once and had a naughty streak in her, which made her all the more special. 

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