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Mother, writer and daydreamer. Also chocoholic and chick-flick lover. But mainly mommy. To two boys, at that! When not escorting my Elder One (EO) to karate class, I'm trying to get in as many cuddles as possible from my Younger One (YO). And when not doing either, I'm hard-at-work trying to maintain a steady relationship with my laptop. And as for the Man I Married (MIM), well, let’s just put it this way – even though we share a bedroom, our most meaningful conversations are held over the cell-phone!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

One Year

One year. Today.

One year, today, since you've been gone.

So much has happened in this past one year, Baba, do you know?

Both your grandsons made their pada stage debut during Durga Puja. The children put up Kobiguru's 'Birpusrush'. We incorporated the poem into a script, added some Rabindrosangeet and voila -- a 40 minute skit was staged with your eldest grandson in the titular role and he rocked! The younger brat was in a dance, if you please, "Megher Kole Rod Heshechhey" and he was adorable, especially the bit where he pretended to play the flute as 'raakhaal chheley' -- "jusht rike Krishnaa!" No, he still can't say 'l' so it's herro (hello), raabdu (ladoo a la Chhota Bheem) and I raaabh you! (I loooove you!)

The EO has started guitar lessons and I know how thrilled you would have been, music being your biggest passion.

You know I got a by-line for M&B magazine; unfortunately you couldn't read my first article. Haven't written for them in a while now; my heart's just not in it.

And of course, I got the amazing contract to compile and edit two CS books for the Indian Soul series. I've finished the first one. I just can't believe that there's finally going to be a book with my name on the cover and you won't be here to see it.

Oh, and I got selected for a bit part in a Hindi movie, but they wanted to shoot in Jamshedpur on the 1st of January, so unfortunately had to turn them down.

And I finally, FINALLY got round to those dance lessons. Three months and counting and I'm loving it.

Of course you know all this Baba, because I kinda have a feeling that you engineered a lot of this stuff from where you are right now, you know, close proximity to The Pantheon and so on.

I've learnt some stuff about me too, this past one year.

Have suddenly realised that most of my memories with people are either food-related or music-related. And so, I've been cooking a lot more, experimenting in the kitchen a lot and hating the fact that you aren't around to try everything. Maa's no fun ever since she gave up meat. Thank goodness for fish!

I've begun to feel and experience song lyrics much more keenly now. I can't tell you the number of musical concerts I've bawled my eyes out at. I guess I've become more acute to pain, 'dard' and 'bekhudipan'! I've also come to the conclusion that Kobiguru was and continues to be THE BEST!! Nobody, absolutely nobody can touch him.

I've learnt that where you're concerned, my source of tears is bottomless.

And the single, most heartbreaking thing of all, is that I've learnt that I can live without you after all.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Here's the thing.

Here's the thing. Here's the thing.
And the thing is,
is that I am a volcano of rage right now.
I am a mass of rage,
of anger,
of pain
right now.

These were the last few days of my dad's life last year.
I am reliving those moments,
those words,
the looks,
the fears,
the utter
and complete
all over again.
The last cup of tea
I fed you with my hands.
Your desire to get out of there
and write about your hospital experience.
Do you remember daddy?
You had even thought of the title --
"From Doom to Room."
It turned out to be just the opposite.
How ironic.
How fucking,
I can't laugh about it.
I have no sense of humour about this.
He wanted to get out of there
and write about it.
He thought he was getting out of there.
He believed he was getting out of there.
He wanted to write about it all.
About being stuck in a hospital,
in ICU,
about being shifted around many ICUs,
about having all those painful MRIs
and surviving it all --
he didn't.

He never saw it coming.
And neither did we.

And I ended up doing his last rites.

How hard I tried to shake off
all the shittiness
of last year
with a nervous stray thought of hope
only to start off the first day of this year
with another death,
another farewell,
another funeral.

I walked around my grandmother's home
searching for the ghost of my little girl self
in the peeling paint of the walls,
in the faded black-and-white snaps,
the old hibiscus tree from where you got your flowers to adorn your Gods.
They're undressed now,
the Gods
without Their floral tributes.
The flowers hang loosely
and forlornly on the shrubs,
while in the kitchen,
there are memories
of your hustle and bustle
as a lonely cloud of forgotten aromas and fragrances
hovers about in the corner,
trying to keep alive
the love that you dished out to us,

That house
was where I felt safe,
and so happy.

The emptiness in that house
is so enormous
and never-ending
that there's no way to escape it
and even then
it can't swallow me whole
for I am bigger than that emptiness;
I am full of red-hot rage
and inky-blue pain.

I am a volcano of rage
right now.
I black hole of grief.
Of sorrow.
Of anguish.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Jan 2011...once again, a final farewell

It is said that what happens on the first day of the new year pretty much lays out what's in store for the rest of the days ahead. If this be the case, then 2011 looks like another 2010.

Yesterday, January 1st 2011, at 8 a.m., I lost my sweet, gentle, darling dida (nani). Yes, I am broken once more, lost yet again. Beloved wife of an upright police officer, adored mother of three girls and six boys, the much pampered baby sister of six elder brothers and of course wonderful, special, loving grandmother to eight granddaughters and two grandsons. Why yes, great-grandmother to two great-grandsons.

She was purity personified and I don't say this just because she was my grandmother. I say this because she had a heart big enough to fit in the whole world with space for another. She had an innocence that remained intact till the very end. She saw no evil, heard no evil, spoke no evil, knew no evil; believing in the innate goodness of all God's creatures and creations. Her smile was guileless and her home an open house.

We knew she was dying. It was long over-due; her pain and suffering were unbearable. Bed-ridden for six long years, the last two years were terrible with the last two months being torture. This death is a happy release for she is now eternally free from the pain that she suffered wordlessly, with only a prayer on her lips.

Her powers of memory and recognition had begun to fade a few years ago and in the end, it was just the one son whom she recognised, my mama who lived in The House that will always be to me my Maamaa'r Badi. It was heart-breaking to be addressed as 'Didi' by her and many a-time I brokenly asked asked her, "Dida, can't you recognise me? It's me, your Laali (her special name for me), your first grandchild." She would screw up her face in concentration, trying to drag back memories of that once much-loved name and face, and drawing a blank, she would look up at me with an intense pain in her eyes, almost a guilt at not being able to recognise me...and that would kill me even more.

This is not the grandmother that I would like to remember. The grandmother that I remember delighted in a cup of tea, sitting out in the winter sun. The grandmother that I remember was a jolly, plump woman always wrapped in a red-bordered, white sari with oiled hair pulled back in first a plait and then a bun; hair which was still richly jet black even while her three daughters and long since started colouring their hair to hide the greys. The grandmother I remember was an endless supply of nimki, naarkoler naadu, tiler naadu and chirer mowaa. The grandmother I remember personified Kali Puja for us and she lived for meant a huge, yearly family reunion; it meant working tirelessly yet joyfully, to appease the Great Goddess; it meant song, dance, laughter and adda. The grandmother that I remember meant a bosom full of warmth, a smile full of love and a treasure-box full of stories. The grandmother that I remember was full of blessings and good wishes for all who came her way.

However, I can't help but remark, that while her own world slowly faded away from the pages of her memory like delicate watercolours left out in the endless monsoon, she never once let go of the three names she held most precious to her heart and existence, her 'Takrur, Maa aar Swamiji'...known to the world as Sri Ramkrishna Paramahansa, Maa Saroda Devi and Swami Vivekanand. Every free moment would be dedicated to Them in prayer and song; she would go about her daily household duties with Their names on her lips; and finally, as she lay in bed, bereft of the power of memory, it was Their names that she chanted over and over and over again.

And that is why, I will pray that the loss of Jan 1st 2011 does not foreshadow the events and emotions of the year to be. Jan 1st for all the disciples, believers and followers of Sri Ramkrishna's Vedanta Mission is an extremely holy day known as Kalpataaru. So it is only fitting that my dida's soul took flight on a day when Takur granted His disciples bliss and benediction. My grandmother's soul received the same.

And not just that, but her shraddho, the ceremony conducted by the sons of the deceased, falls on the 11th of January...the day before the birth anniversary of one of India's most beloved sons and Sri Ramkrishna's most favourite disciple, Swami Vivekananda.

Yet again, I am so intensely awed by the soul's journey. My father passed away on Saraswati Puja, his soul received water from my hands on the birth anniversary of his idol, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and water from my brother's hands on Maghi Purnimaa. My dida passed away on Kalpataru and her soul will receive water from all my mamu's close on the heels of Swamiji's birth anniversary.

Two blessed, gentle and pure souls. Can it be any more clearer?

And I know that I am indeed fortunate to be able to call these two spotless souls my family, for have I not been touched by them? Blessed by them?

Goodbye my darling dida. Did you give baba my message? Are you part of the heavenly choir that breathes sweet, cool winds onto Earth's brow? Did you know that you were loved till the very end and beyond?