Category Archives: grief

Home is where the trees are

I am in deep mourning. I am grieving for all the beautiful, strong, not so strong trees we have lost as Cyclone Fani ravaged Odisha few days back.

I have grown up with trees. I have hugged them in moments of happiness. I have leaned against them in times of sadness. Sometimes I have taken their presence for granted. My most beautiful growing up memory is all about waking up in the morning and sitting quietly on the verandah of our then house (I have lived in different parts of Odisha) and just soaking in the ethereal beauty of swaying coconut trees, watching tiny birds jumping from one branch of the mango tree to another.

There are no gentler souls in this world than the trees. They give shelter even to those who come to brutally hack them from the roots.

Even as I grieve deeply, I hope we will soon plant more trees in Odisha and love them more deeply and pray for their longer life.

In their existence lies our future. For trees are life.

(This banyan tree belongs to the soil of Bhubaneswar, Odisha’s capital. I was mesmerized by its richness of life. Being with this tree felt like being with my ancestors… the sense of its history warmed the cockles of my heart. How can we become this large in our hearts? )   

PHOTOS : YOURS TRULY

 

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Smiles & Tears: The Big ‘C’ Lessons

February 4 is World Cancer Day.

I have spent six years of my adult life in caring for two cancer patients (my mother and my husband’s sister). I have lost both of them to this dreaded C. Caring for them, loving them and watching them putting up a brave show have been life-changing. Far more substantial than what I learnt in  JNU, India’s premier university. What are the lessons actually?

  • Health is wealth.
  • Family is fundamental. If you are lucky, your family members are your angels. More so when the going gets tough.
  • Money is important. Money enables you to have choices.
  • Small is beautiful. So, there is immense beauty in taking a shower by yourself, standing in front of the mirror and putting on your lipstick, enjoying a cup of tea or  cooking a simple meal of dal, rice and egg curry.
  • Physical pain can make you feel naked. It can be really soul-destroying.
  • Ordinary can be extra-ordinary if you know how to be mindful.
  • Hospitals can be terribly lonely even when they are crowded.
  • Enjoy the present moment. You don’t know how one biopsy test can change your life’s narrative.
  • Be gentle. There’s no substitute to being gentle. When you are gentle within yourself, you are a better care-giver.
  • Looking after a cancer patient makes you erase irrelevant elements from life  (This will happen if you listen to the truth within yourself). Somehow you start appreciating a sense of minimalism. Over the years, I have developed an aversion for anything in excess.
  • It helps when you have solid friends standing by you. Having a conversation always makes things lighter. Never say ‘No’ to a good session of laughing. And to a large extent, friends are outsiders to the situation. So, they can give you a better perspective. Don’t hesitate to ask for help.
  • It’s very necessary to refill one’s inner self even as you are spending days and nights looking after a person. It could be a walk, conversations, a nice meal, good book, music, a new hair-cut, looking at the sky or just soaking in the Art of Being. You give better when you have something to give. For that you need to replenish your own self.
  • Be kind to yourself. Some days, you will feel as if you are losing the battle. Some days you will feel the warmth of sunshine. Don’t run away from feelings. If you want to cry, go ahead. Tears can make you feel lighter. Don’t feel ashamed. It’s fine to be vulnerable.
  • No matter how dark the night is, the morning will always break. And there are chances that you might feel a little better.
  • One day, you will be larger than your experiences. Till then, be open and compassionate.

 

 

Grief. Political

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In the times we are living in, grief is no longer personal. It is political. Last evening, I spent hours discussing about Chinese human rights activist and Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo. I woke up in the morning to find out he is no more. He died of liver cancer while being in custody.

Recently I had read a beautiful story on  Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia’s unique love story published in The Guardian.  “Even if I were crushed into powder,” Liu Xiabo wrote, addressing the love of his life, “I would still use my ashes to embrace you.” If you are interested, you can read the story on the below link.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/12/devotion-amid-despair-the-great-contemporary-love-story-of-liu-xia-and-liu-xiaobo

 

 

 

Three years after my mom died…

It has been exactly three years since I lost my mother. October 18, 2013 is still there in my mind/heart like a photograph. Sitting on my computer today, I am trying to tell you a story. My mother was a wonderful story-teller. I always coaxed her to tell me stories. Again and again. I never got bored of her stories. No one now tells me stories the way she used to.  In the absence of the story-teller, I become the story-teller. Here’s my story of our story.

Love makes you do strange things. Without any struggle. I have never used a handkerchief in my life. But for the last three years, I have always carried this beautiful handkerchief of my mother in my handbag. This soft, humble cotton handkerchief with a pashapali (it’s called so because it resembles a chess board) print reflecting Odisha’s magical textile heritage is my constant companion. My mother never stepped out of the house without her handkerchief. Now, I don’t step out of my house without this handkerchief. My mother travels with me wherever I go.

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Ma loved wearing glass bangles. One of my most vivid and beautiful childhood memories of her is watching her put glass bangles. Every now and then. The sight made my little eyes glow in awe. It made life colorful, magical and sensual. I now wear glass bangles to feel closer to her. I love the clinking of glass bangles as I keep on furiously typing on my computer. The sound makes me happy and comfortable..

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I have inherited some of the textile gems (especially Odisha’s ikkat saris) from her wardrobe. The smell, sight of her saris in my wardrobe brings in a slice of her life to embrace me. I love wrapping her sari around me. I feel as if our lives are entwined. Saris like memories have no  S, M, L, XL size. You just need to  wrap it around you with love. It never fails to amaze me how a nine yard cloth can hold so many years within it. So much of love and warmth.

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Joy and sorrow are part of life. There’s a winter. There’s a spring too.

Grief breaks you. And grief also makes you. Grief makes you look deep within and discover something innately new and warm. To embrace newness, you need to be open in grief.  During the process of healing the broken pieces of my fractured soul, I have discovered the magic of Buddhism. On many evenings. I now sit quietly and listen to ‘Om Mani Padme hum’ even as light and shadow dance in a joyous mood in my home.  Last April, while travelling in Sikkim, a deep sense of peace and calmness embraced me as I just looked at the tiny prayer flags fluttering high in the air. Spinning prayer wheels at monasteries elevated my soul. The majestic  mountains with the cool, crisp air gave me an intimate feeling of being at my spiritual home. Somehow, it also made me feel that my mother must be happy wherever she is now. It felt as if I have made peace with my grief, loss. I could feel the rush of love in my blood. Even in the absence of a lover.

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My journey in the last 1096 days (2016 is a leap year)  has given me the gift of looking deep within. I now have little faith in this whole talk of rationality. Modern life is too obsessed with rationality/ rational mind. I believe, if you listen deeply to your voice within with a larger sense of love and compassion, you can actually feel the presence of those who have left you. The rational mind has not really explored the mettle of heart. When you listen deeply to your heart, you will find your own answers. There’s no need to be limited, fearful.

PS Needless to say, there’s a pleasure, joy in the physical world — the world of touch, smell, voice,  beauty, warmth,  sensuality. The physical world is deeply fascinating and it can be soul-elevating too. My mother’s absence in this physical world hurts me.  I terribly miss her physical presence in my life.  For years, my morning ritual was to make a phone call to her. Sometimes with my eyes half-closed. With traces of deep sleep defining my voice. I now miss making that phone call early in the morning.

I miss her food very much. In her absence, food just doesn’t taste the same now. I miss everything about her food – the texture, the color, the variety, the seasoning, the rich, delicious mutton curry with huge chunks of potatoes, finely sliced aubergines fried and then gently put in a bowl of thick curd (seasoned with mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaf),  piping hot pakoras that could give tempuras a real tough competition,  potatoes cooked in a mixture of puppy seeds and green chillies, her signature dish of scrambled eggs cooked in mutton gravy and lots more.  I try to recreate her magic by pressing the rewind button my memory.  But, as they say, it’s not just the same.

 I really find it amazing to see how people around you maintain a stoic silence when you talk about a loved one who’s no more. People try to play with their hair, ear-rings, mobile phones when you talk about your memories of a loved one.  They smile uncomfortably, most of them look like  unhappy stock brokers.  To all those nervous, fearful souls, I would like to say, look higher, look within. it’s not about death.  It’s about love and more love.

We ruminate and savor memories of those only whom we love deeply.  So, join me today in celebrating memories of  togetherness, joy and love between a daughter-mother.  There are always love stories in the world to warm the cockles of your heart. 

Aren’t these flowers beautiful?  So, smile. Just smile.

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Paris, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, Pop grief

Paris, the city of light grappled with death and darkness on November 13, 2015. We woke up on Saturday morning to this horrible blood bath. I logged into Facebook late morning to find  a number of notifications that showed friends crying out, expressing their ‘grief’.

Their profile pictures were all changed to ‘Pray for Paris.’ Some took great effort to go through their fading personal photo archives of late 70s/8os  to show to the world that they have actually visited Paris. Even if it happened decades ago. They were so eager to show their ‘Parisian’ attitude. There are some who changed their whatsapp profile picture too.

I called three of my ‘grieving for Paris’ friends later in the day to talk to in the hope that conversations will soothe aching hearts. But they were all enjoying Prem Ratan Dhan Payo in the darkness of swanky multiplexes in different cities of India. With pop-corn and cola in their hands. They all thankfully picked up calls and sounded all happy, cheerful. May be in the interval, they checked into Facebook to see how many ‘likes’ they received for their status updates and change in DP(s).

Urban India’s popular ‘national dish’ in the form of that little two minute instant noodle pack is back. How can pop grief meant for our timelines  not be there?  Only if some of us old souls could learn this art of switching off and on. Grief included.