(When your parents are there (and if you share a happy relationship with them), you talk to them, write long letters in your curved hand-writing. You call them may be six times in a day and then laugh telling, “Just because I am calling you again doesn’t mean I am not busy’. In between phone calls, both of you recognize love. But it’s not all sugar syrup too. You get angry with them, shut doors, throw tantrums, use your secret weapon of refusing to eat. But the dust always settles in the end. And when you miss them so much that you can’t wait and you book a train or flight ticket to arrive home. To collapse in happiness. To recharge yourself. To fill your senses and soul with lip-smacking home cooked food.
What do you do when they are gone? If you can weave memories into words, you write. Writing is sacred. Like the way your parents love you or you love your parents)
It’s exactly two years since my mother left us on October 18, 2013. Today, I sit in front of my sleek beautiful black qwerty keyboard and let it all flow. The sound of the keyboard feels like music to me. )
I remember coming back to work in less than two weeks after I lost my mother. I walked into my office and they all huddled around me. Somebody told me with all sincerity, “It was good that she passed away (My mother fought a bitter battle against cancer).” The timing of that sentence was wrong. I wanted to cry. I love my work. I love my office. This vibrant work space in the dusty city of Ahmedabad has given me four really close friends and a soccer-loving, guitar playing cool Godson. But that day, I felt like a stranger in my familiar world.
Somebody asked me to check a page, we needed a better headline (my junior colleagues now call me as ‘headline queen’), I was so hurt. How could I check a page and give a peppy headline when all that I wanted to do was cry? I thought of the memory of cutting a delicious kiwi cake in my office to celebrate my mother’s birthday just three months back. I had asked the baker to carve ‘The cub wishes her Tiger Mom’ on the cake and everybody had a good laugh as I cut the cake. I was a happy cub then. The space is the same. My desk looks the same. But I was feeling so wounded remembering that cake cutting act.
Half way through the painful day, I made a call to my mother-in-law to tell her that I was feeling very tired and I wanted to sleep. I wanted to be with her in her bedroom. I was wanting to be with people who are far more older to me. That gave me a sense of comfort. Strangely it still does.
The world of strict deadlines doesn’t allow to you to grieve generously. Speed matters in my work world. We are all always in a hurry. But I wanted to linger, to go slow. I wanted to linger, pause and look back at the memories I weaved with my mother. I did not want to move then because moving meant leaving Ma behind. I didn’t want to leave her. I wanted her to be with me. The world around me was impatient. ‘Move on’ was the silent command from the world around me.
Looking back, I think 2014 was the darkest year of my life. Even though I bought a house for myself (Banks should call it House loans not Home loans, you don’t buy a home (Home is not a commodity), I had lost all sense of my own self and home. I had no sense of home.
We are living in aggressive times. We all want to give it back, hit back, score a point. Always in a rush to surge ahead. At the same time, when loss hits us hard, all we need is tenderness. There are very few who will allow you to grieve, to let you be in that ‘still’ mode of grieving.
After my mom’s death, I lost something which was sacred within me. I was desperate, I was not kind to myself. I became the person I have always hated. I had hit the rock bottom. I had moved away from being a generous person. I neglected my home, both real and virtual (this blog is my virtual home which lets me to express myself. I love being here.) I had stacks of books on my table yet I managed to read only Chetan Bhagat’s Half Girlfriend for most part of 2014. I was reduced to pulp. I was just fleeting in and out. Aimlessly. Too desperate, too eager, too mediocre to fit in everywhere and anywhere. Just opposite of what I am.
I have learnt my lessons. Loss/ Grief/pain is like a dish cooked over slow fire throughout the night. Grief is not a two minute instant noodle. Grief is not even your so called gourmet dish ‘Pasta in pesto sauce.’ Grief takes its time. Let grief sit on the fire, don’t be in a hurry. What it will offer you in the end will simple purify you and your soul. After days of intense darkness, you will arrive at light. May be you will be all alone to revel in the joy of light, but it will be soul-elevating.
I am arriving there. I am almost home. I have started falling in love with my home once again. I look forward to being at home in the evening. I am not waiting for somebody to rescue me and hand me over a slice of fleeting happiness that has all the potential to destroy my soul, my essence. I am just happy being home. Home doesn’t eat me up as it used to. Home loves me now. I love my home. I look at my home with tenderness now. I read, I write, I look for light and shadow inside my home, outside my home to capture it in my camera. I write innumerable notes on my laptop, on my phone. On India, identity, Hindus, Muslims, Gandhi, loneliness, isolation, dissent, love, longing. I write, I just write. I have found the words. The words have found me. We are happy to be together.
Just few days back , I opened my eyes to beautiful sun rays streaming through my curtains. I put on my music, made a cup of Earl Grey tea and then got into the act of cleaning my kitchen pantry. It almost felt like prayer. My mother was the queen of her kitchen. She loved that space. Being in the kitchen now brings her closer to me. I cook the food she once cooked for me. On many occasions, I used to call her up to check the recipe while cooking. It’s a luxury, I miss now terribly. But sometimes when I finish the dish, I just look at it and say to myself, “It exactly looks like Ma’s dish.” I put emphasis on the word ‘exactly’. I know it from the color, from the smell. From the texture. There comes a time in life when you don’t look forward to travel far. You just want to sit in the comforts of your home. You feel content. Everything you have loved/love is all within you. The world calls it memory.
All you who are grieving for someone you have loved intensely and lost (a parent, child, lover, companion, sibling, friend, pet), just hold on. Don’t be in a rush. There’s no end to grief, there’s no end to love. A day will come when your love will be merged with grief. And the other way too. And you will be home then. You will love more, better. This love will make you feel beautiful from within.
Today I am at work. I’ m wearing my mother’s beautiful black and white ikkat sari. This sari was bought by my father some 40 years ago. In this sari, both my parents’ lives are intertwined. I wrap myself in their journey of togetherness. The sari is actually three of us. I eat the same food which my mother cooked for me, I am essentially the same story teller they had encouraged me to be. My food comes from the way they brought me up with their values, the education they gave me and their willingness and kindness to let me fly.
I am almost home. I am a better lover now. I can be strong and fragile too. Without worrying much about whether I am fitting into the image the world has created for me. “I am my mother’s daughter”, I told my colleague with a hint of pride when she complimented me for looking so elegant in a sari.
Yes, I’ m my mother’s daughter. I AM. Almost home.