We’d been making plans for a year, but when we finally met it was by accident, in a restaurant in Goa, where people had gathered after a book launch. Where was I staying, she asked, and when she discovered it was with a friend who was leaving town the next day, she invited me to stay with her.
She warned that she had just moved into a new home and she was still working on it. Nobody who knew her will be surprised to hear that the house was already beautiful, each room was serene and spotless.
I left Delhi because I hadn’t been feeling safe in my own home. I needed a break from my city and I thought Goa would be perfect. But I brought my paranoia with me. I couldn't leave it behind, and I was very surprised to find that Monika was as paranoid as I was, if not more so.
Not a day passed when she didn’t mention, casually, seriously, that she was worried about her safety and that she was happy to be living in an apartment where there was security around the clock. Still, she said, if an intruder wanted to crash the house he would most probably be able to do it.
When I comforted her it felt like I was comforting myself.
I was the first visitor to her new place, she said. To celebrate, I brought some wine, the first wine she would drink there, and we toasted to the future. The evening passed in talk of perfumery, Paris, Marilyn Monroe, and a butterfly conservatory I had visited that day.
I left Monika on Tuesday morning. I had an early flight to catch, but she insisted on feeding me before I left. She made a traditional Goan daal and gave me a keepsake of two of the scents she was working on. I got home on Tuesday evening. On Wednesday she was gone.
I was probably the last person she spent any time with and this makes me feel responsible in some way, as if we share a strange bond that time will only deepen.
Everything she said and did in the few days we spent together has acquired a new meaning for me. I go over our time together as if I am sitting on a beach, sifting through the sand for something I have lost.
Now, I ask myself the same questions over and over again. What if I had left a day later? What if he had crashed her apartment while I was there? Would I have been able to protect her?
It shrinks me to think that he was hiding on the roof and watching us. I am filled with so much dread that I am still unable to mourn for her.
These days, I step out of the house as if I am stepping into a world at war. I wonder if I will ever be able to live alone.
But for now I want to think about Monika in her beauty. I think of the last photo I took of her, a portrait of her hands taken a day before she died.
I remember her house, the exquisite scent of fresh jasmine, the many interpretations of the goddess Lakshmi, the cow figurines. I remember how, every morning, she decorated the house with fresh flowers.
The few days we shared have changed me. Each day, in her memory, I try to fill my own home with the scent of new jasmine.
I think of her often. And when I do, what I remember is her generosity, her brilliance, and her beautiful life.
This is one of several women-authored pieces published this weekend in tribute to Monika Ghurde.
Read the others:
In Vogue: Learning to be a little monster, by Amrita Narayanan
In Hindustan Times: When the earth laughs in flowers, by Arundhati Subramaniam
In The Hindu: A letter to Monika, by Tishani Doshi
In The Indian Express: This is how you fix what is broken, by Margaret Mascarenhas
In The Times Of India: Don't kill Monika Ghurde again, by Deepti Kapoor
In The Herald Goa: Tribute to a very special woman and friend, by Katharina Kakar
Contact Akanksha Sharma at rega.jha+AkankshaSharma@buzzfeed.com.
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