Goodbye Aai…

Six years ago I lost a soul-mate – my brother, gone too soon, leaving my heart forever fractured.  And yet here I am again, the fracture now deepened into a canyon of grief…the only relief coming from the river of memories flowing within.

I lost my Granny two weeks ago. My Mom lost her mother and the world lost a beautiful, courageous, gifted soul. She had been ill – she struggled with health issues all her life really but these last 2 years were particularly hard, fate particularly cruel. You would never have known though…she smiled through every hardship!

I was with her when it happened…holding her hand, watching her ragged breathing stop, one hand on her faint pulse until that too faded away. It was surreal. She was gone and I remember walking out of the room to tell Mom…calmly, matter-of-factly even, that she had passed. We had been preparing ourselves you see, as well as the living can prepare for impeding death. Even wishing for it, for her, because we couldn’t bear to watch her suffer and because the woman we knew and loved so very dearly had left much earlier, leaving only a hollow, fragile shell. Well, that’s what I tell myself anyway.

I feel like I haven’t yet begun to grieve. It’s feels weird. I keep waiting for the acute searing pangs of pain that assaulted me when my brother passed but they don’t come. Instead there’s a continuous, dull, aching pain that weighs me down, a persistent malaise that heightens the all-pervading, ever present emptiness. She’s gone and once again the World still turns. Diminished. Weird. Expected. Understood. I cried me a river six years ago but now my eyes are dry…but sadder. I wonder whether that’s what happens over time as we lose the people we love – they settle in the amplified sadness of our eyes.

She raised me. I was her first grandchild, her only granddaughter and the apple of her eye. I like to think so anyway. If I had to describe her in a word it would be ‘Amazon’. She was a warrior for as long as I can remember, even until the end. When she was young, circumstances necessitated a fighting spirit and I like to think that having found the warrior within, she embraced her wholeheartedly. She was like that Aai – All or Nothing. And for all the challenges she faced I never once heard her express disappointment or regret. She just faced every trial with an inherent grace and dignity that left us all in awe.

IMG_0460

I wish I had her strength. I wish I were half as brave as she was. I wish I could tell her one more time how much she means to me, how lucky I am to have been loved by her, how deeply I love her and how profoundly I miss her. I wish she were still here – unbroken, whole, wise. I wish, I wish, I wish…but mostly I wish her Happy wherever she is – and I strongly suspect that she’s with my brother and her siblings having a rocking party somewhere, enjoying herself while looking down on us in benevolence!

Another Angel in my Sky!

I Love You Aai ❤

Always & Forever…

NaPoWriMo – Day 8

As I mentioned in my previous post of the day, yesterday ended with a rather serious conversation with Mom and I guess that’s still playing on my mind coz this rather dark verse popped uncalled for into my head as I was browsing pictures for Haiku! Oh well – an occasional walk on the dark-side can be unexpectedly therapeutic sometimes! 

Diya Jale_haiku

Grief

I’m tired of grieving. Really I am. And it’s not even been a week since it all began. We lost a family member last week and now today on the 4th Anniversary of my brother’s passing; my Mom called in the morning to tell me of my uncle’s passing – my Dad’s older brother, whom we called Bhau (brother). He had been unwell recently, nothing serious, but a few chest pains and a couple of trips to the ICU later, he seemed to be doing okay. This morning he was fine and even opened the door to his younger brother, over for a visit, then went in and sat down, had a massive heart attack and was gone all in the space of a few seconds. C’est la vie.

When it comes to death and condolences what can one say or do really that makes a difference? Nothing. Perhaps being present is enough in that the bereaved family feels comforted by the presence of people who loved the one gone as much as they did. And for those of us who cannot be present, we call, we write, we mourn silently from afar. My uncle had a fulfilling life. He was 79 and leaves behind a loving family, both immediate and extended that loved and respected him when he lived, and will honor his memory and miss him terribly now that he’s gone. If that isn’t a sign of a life well lived, I don’t know what is. Mom says my aunt and he would have been married 50 years in 2014…a milestone missed. Still, he didn’t suffer and went peacefully, not a bad way to go, inasmuch as these things go I suppose. And so another family member lost within a matter of days.

All the events of the past few days fill me with a longing for my childhood, a time when life was so much simpler, carefree and joyous. When tragedy meant a scraped knee, a lost pencil, missing the school picnic, getting yelled at by the Principal, exams…you know, the little stuff that seemed so catastrophic then. Oh that life was as simple now! How I long for those days when the worst of my fears and most of my tears could be kissed away by Mom. I do it now for Ishaan and I dread the day, all too soon, when my Mommy Magic won’t be quite so magical any more.

I’m generally a happy person, or at least I try my best to be. So these past days, grieving as I’ve been, have drained my spirit more than I care to admit, more so because the onslaught seems unrelenting. With all that’s happening, I haven’t had time to think about my brother and the fact that I’ve survived 4 years with him being gone…all of us have. It feels strange that this day will now be in memorium for two members of my family. I remember entering the house on that fateful day 4 years ago, my brother laid out in our living room, people everywhere, blurry faces and anonymous hands, leading me gently, guiding me to his side, holding me as I wept…and I remember Bhau, sitting next to me, holding my hand and weeping with me. I had never seen him cry before and somehow his tears strengthened me. Thank you for that Bhau. You will be missed.

As for B, what can I say that I haven’t already said before? I lost a part of me forever when you left, and although I miss you every second of every day, I feel your presence by my side always, sometimes invisible, but most often in Ishaan. Love you forever – always have, always will.

And now, I’m asking, no, I’m telling whoever is in charge…my family needs a break. Send us some Joy.

Rumi

Tragedy

I never thought I would be writing a post like this ever.  But just when you think you’ve seen all there is to see, Life throws you a curve ball that might as well have come on from another planet for all its suddenness. But I will be honest, this post is more for my own sanity than in memoriam…I just don’t know how else to deal with all these crazy emotions right now. So I’m doing the only thing I am half decent at – writing – and hoping that somehow it will prove therapeutic.

We lost a family member this week – unexpectedly, tragically & horrendously at the hands of another. I’m not getting into details about how and what and when, coz this isn’t about that. Nor the why, coz frankly all we have are theories none of which I want to discuss here. Suffice it to say that we have now lost two family members through a senseless, heinous act of violence. We, none of us, saw this coming, although in retrospect, we feel we should have done something, could have done something. Retrospect, I’m beginning to hate the word. Why does everything have to be so much clearer in retrospect when what we really need is clarity in the present? Why?

I heard about what had happened yesterday morning, and last night, after an endless day of phone calls and discussions, I found myself all keyed up, a nervous wreck, wide awake until at 3.30 am, when I forced myself to try and get some shut eye. We were never close, the two of us, but we were family and that means something. I close my eyes and I can see her face and feel her pain. Everything seems so unreal and bizarre; it’s hard to believe it ever really happened at all. How did things come to this? How did we let this happen? Did we let this happen? Was this our fault somehow? Why couldn’t we save her? And the other? Both. Why? Why? Why? Surely, surely there must have been some way we could have prevented this double tragedy? The questions just run in an endless loop in my head, and there are no answers. None that make any sense anyhow.

The first thing I did when I came to know is call my Mom of course. Who else would I call? I had to break the news to her, and she was stunned and shocked and we said the inane things people say to each other on such occasions – empty platitudes to comfort ourselves, to trick our minds into believing the world is still a sane place. But try as you might there are some things that defy rational thought. They are inexplicable and secretly I think we would prefer them to stay that way – coz if we can actually rationalize them, isn’t that the scariest thing? What does that say about who we are? Am I rambling? Of course I am. Forgive me…it’s just…it is what it is and I’m just exhausted from all this thinking.

I’m not sure what I’m feeling at the moment…there’s a toxic cocktail of emotions – grief, rage, frustration, despair, an immense sadness and exhaustion that I feel deep within my bones – and all of it weighing down on me, crushing my spirit. There’s a restlessness that makes me want to pick up the phone and talk to Mom mingled with the need to forget the whole thing ever happened. There’s so much confusion in my head – I don’t know what I believe any more. I understand that this too will pass. I have my own little family to look after and eventually the acuteness will give way to a dull, ever-present ache. But this will never go away. Ever. And the fact that it happened at all has changed something within me that I can’t quite define. Perhaps I will trust less – in people and in my judjment of them, be more watchful, if I’m lucky I’ll stop before the paranoia sets in…but things will never again be quite the same. I never imagined in my most horrific nightmares that my family would have to go through such trying times. The media circus, the brutal nature of the crime, and ultimately the utter waste of two lives ruined for no good reason – this is not a good time for my family.

We need prayers. We need calm. We need some semblance of normal. We need for all of this to go away so we can get a good night’s sleep. All I can think of to say to the one who is gone – Rest in Peace. May you find happiness now wherever you are and know that you will be remembered always in our hearts.

Here is something I wrote last night when I couldn’t sleep…

griefDarkness falls,

The sun eclipsed,

The moon in shadow,

Dreams lie doomed,

On the stone cold floor.

How quiet she lies,

Unheard, unsung,

Voice forever silenced,

On the stone cold floor.

Lifeless she lies,

No  breath, just death,

Still and icy,

Heart  lies bleeding

On the stone cold floor.

Crushed to the bone,

Deathly still,

Spirit rising immortal,

From the stone cold floor.

Rest in peace now Gentle one,

Freedom awaits…

Beyond the stone cold floor.

NO. MORE. TEARS.

If you’ve lived long enough (and Lord knows I have), Death becomes as commonplace as, well just about everything else. I never thought about it until my aunt said something to the effect on Sunday, when we both lost a Man we loved dearly 😦 We were on the phone and I was mouthing the usual empty platitudes one does at such times, when she said in a voice shaky with tears, “Don’t worry Darling. I’m alright. Really. It’s a shock of course and so terribly sad but it’s become kind of a habit now.” That just knocked my socks off. We’ve lost most of our older generation in the last decade and so just like she said…we’ve become habituated. We have learned to grieve and carry on. Perhaps it has helped to know that they led long and fulfilled lives, for the most part. Sometimes, like in Anna’s case, it helps to know that he didn’t suffer when the end came. Either way, what it amounts to is ‘No more tears’. I’m all cried out and for now I choose to remember the good times and celebrate the happy memories.

‘Anna’ (meaning Big Brother), is what I used to call him. He was my Grand-uncle. Isn’t it strange how in the space of a second, everything is in ‘past tense’? Well…c’est la vie. Anna was the youngest of five siblings, my Mom’s youngest paternal uncle. He was adored as a child and if sources are to be believed, quite the ‘Brat’ 😛 He was intelligent, charming, a music-lover, a dog-lover, generous to a fault, stubborn, a chain smoker, an eccentric, a confirmed bachelor, part curmudgeon part wise-old-man, devoted family man, a chemist par excellence, temperamental, honest, funny, in-your face…the list is endless. Because he was so smart, he was sent to the US where he completed his Doctorate in Chemistry from Berkeley, much to the pride and delight of the entire clan 🙂 No mean feat that! His Mom had had to pawn her gold to raise the money to make it happen! He never forgot the sacrifices his family had made to give him a great education and perhaps that’s why he didn’t bat an eyelid, when he left a promising career behind in the US to come and set-up a highly successful chemical manufacturing business with his brother, one that they ran with passion and integrity for several decades. Because of their example, I still believe that it is possible to be successful in business in India, without resorting to corruption, despite all the evidence to the contrary these days!

I knew him all my life. He and Aboda (his older brother), were my childhood Santa Clauses 🙂 They spoilt me with love & gifts! Boxes of fireworks for Diwali, sweets, books, music, movies, joy-rides in the stately Ambassador (remember those!), anything I wanted I got! And later when we moved to Goa, cartons of foodstuff – tins of condensed milk, bags of Cadbury éclairs, packets of Jello and other goodies! The walkie-talkie doll he brought me back from the US still stands in her wooden case in my aunt’s house to this day! As I write, I realize how difficult it is for me to separate the two even in my memories! It’s always been that way. Aboda & Anna. Anna & Aboda. They were inseparable. I must say though that as a child there were times when Anna got on my juvenile nerves! He would buy mangoes or some other delicacy and then insist I sit down in front of him and eat one right there and then! There was no refusing him when he got into one of his stubborn fits! I didn’t always want to and it bugged me no end. I remember Mom saying how it was such a little thing that brought him so much happiness, ‘Surely you won’t deny him that darling? He loves you so much!’ I didn’t always understand then, but I do now. Of course he did. I did too, just my youth acting up!

When I joined Medicine, I remember how proud he was 🙂 He presented me with my first ever copy of ‘Goodman & Gilman’, that humungous treatise on Pharmacology, his biggest love after family! He adored both the subject and that book and for me any tribute to him would be incomplete without mention of it! He read that book from cover to cover, every new edition, until the end of his days, and relished the long discussions that followed with me. I can’t honestly say I enjoyed them quite as much 😉 For one, he always knew more than I did and for another I never quite convinced him that real life rarely follows textbooks! No illness in the family was spared and we are not a family stingy with our ill health 😛 Diabetes, Hypertension, Parkinson’s, Muscular Dystrophy, and now Dementia…we’ve given him enough reading to last him his lifetime! We had endless discussions on new drugs, side effects, doses and much else…I’m afraid I didn’t realize quite how much I’m going to miss them, now he’s gone.

For the last two years of his life, after his sister-in-law passed away, he led a very solitary existence. We were all of us caught up with our lives and I know I for one didn’t call him as often as I should have. The times I did, I found he didn’t have much to say anymore, his life being restricted by arthritis. He still read Goodman & Gilman though, watched a bit of TV and still worried about all of us, like the Anna of old. Some things never change 🙂 When we heard he had had a fall, we spoke on the telephone. I am so very grateful for that phone call now – it was the last time I heard his voice. He was fine he said, and not to worry! The doctor had been informed and my aunt was with him for the day. So the next morning when we received the call, we couldn’t wrap our heads around it at first. How could he be gone? We just spoke yesterday! You know, the usual shocked disbelief. It’s been four days now and I’ve had time to cogitate. I’m grateful now for the fact that he didn’t suffer at the end. No lingering on some unfriendly hospital bed, no losing his mind, no pain…just a quick release from what must have been a lonely existence. When you’ve lived long enough and seen what I’ve seen, believe you me, a quick release is something to be thankful for!

The last time I saw him was in 2009, when we visited with Ishaan 🙂 He was so thrilled to meet yet another generation of the family! I remember him telling Mom later how the pitter-patter of a child’s feet can fill even the emptiest soul with music 🙂 I wish Ishaan had had a chance to get to know him. I wish…oh so many things! My enduring memory will always be one of him sitting in his favorite armchair in the living room of the house he lived in all my life, with his spectacle case on the table next to him, reading G & G.

I miss him. Always will. That’s a given. Sometimes I wonder whether my heart doesn’t resemble a very holey piece of cheese…I’ve lost so many people I’ve loved and admired. They’ve left spaces that can never be entirely filled again. And yet here I am people. A survivor. And that’s what Anna was. That’s his legacy to me. And I mean to honor it and him for what time I have left, here on Earth.

No. More. Tears.

Love you Anna.

Peace & Happiness wherever you are 🙂

Monday Musings…

You knew this was coming didn’t you?

How could you not…after Sunday Stories, Monday Musings was never far away 😉

Oh well, I never said I was particularly original 😛

If you’ve read this you know yesterday was special to me.

Today is special too. The birthday of another awesome guy, whom I loved and who loved me dearly.

My Grandfather. One of the gentlest, wisest, most selfless men I have ever known. An authentic ‘Gentleman‘. My Aboda (my name for him is the result of a childish mis-pronunciation of the word for grandfather in Marathi‘ajoba’), was a true patriarch and an exemplary role model. His soft-spoken ways, his penchant for neatness and order (which my Mom has inherited), his unending store of anecdotes and stories and his wisdom in sticky situations are the stuff of legend in our family and in his tightly knit circle of friends. He played the flute (when I think of it now, his instrument of choice seems so in keeping with the man he was – mellow, soft and yet affirmative), loved animals, books and music (interests that we have all inherited), had a gentle sense of humor and sharp wit. To me he embodied the inherent potential in his name ‘Atmanand’ (bringer of joy to the soul), and then some. A principled man. Honest to a fault, and always sensitive to the needs of family and friends.

A 10-yr-old me dressed in my first sari with Aboda & Ma.
A 10-yr-old me, dressed in my first sari, with Aboda & Ma.

My own memories of him are all happy! I was very much the pampered first grandchild in a family that loved daughters 🙂 He had a special name for me and the way that made me feel is something I sorely miss, especially when times are rough. He took a keen interest in my education and was terribly proud when I expressed my intentions of studying medicine. He had wanted to be one himself, but circumstances (as so often happened in his generation), didn’t allow it. He bought me all my medical textbooks and when we began Pharmacology (his subject of special interest), he would gift me a copy of that venerable bible of Pharmacology, Goodman & Gilman, every time the latest edition released in print! Not that I ever read it as much as I should have!

When I fell in love with Hubby, my parents were rather difficult. In the manner of most conservative Indian families of the day, they were not fond of love-marriages! It affronted their sense of decency! They were uncertain of his specialization in Preventive & Social Medicine (I know! Splitting hairs! They didn’t really have anything else to object to you see. We belonged to the same caste and he was a doctor from a ‘good’ family, which loosely meant our families were of equal standing in the community). What did it mean they wondered and was it good enough to put food on the table? Aboda spoke to my Mom and set her mind at ease as no one else could have. He was a father figure to my Mom, whose own father (his older brother), had exited her life when she was just a child. His word was as law to her, not that he would have ever coerced her in any way.

He wasn’t one for travel and yet he showed his wife most of India. When Dad moved to Singapore for work, Mom worked hard to convince him to visit. Although reluctant at first, he did and when then truly enjoyed himself. The simple things were what brought him most pleasure…the mellow sweetness of a papaya, early mornings spent in the garden listening to birdsong, the fragrance of jasmine flowers, restful evenings spent in the company of my brother. He was never one to do the touristy things. He loved being with and surrounded by nature. All through his life he lived by his principles, never compromising his integrity and along with his younger brother, ran a successful business that manufactured chemicals used in the making of perfumes. His clients always spoke highly of him and admired his sense of fair-play.

The Best Grandpa!

That is the man that I miss today; miss and remember. A tiny snapshot as it were of what he meant to me and to our family. In typical fashion, as Life went on, I became busy with my own and didn’t see him as much as I should have, as much as I wanted to. Tragedy struck unexpectedly. The first we knew of it was when his left femur snapped like a twig. I knew then in my heart that this was the beginning of the end and I could see in his eyes, that he knew it too. We didn’t ever say the C-word out loud. There seemed no point – we knew it had spread and he was very clear about not wanting any treatment. He made it through the surgery to fix the femur and seemed to be doing Ok. My aunts nursed him and I visited him as often as I could. He was in typical ‘Aboda’ fashion, deeply apologetic ‘for all this fuss’, as he called it. Only he would still worry about us, when his own body was crumbling away ad in pain. Two months later, he was gone. I remember watching him, in a coma, on life-support in the hospital. The doctor had said, we needed to tell them if we wanted them to revive him, ‘aggressive resuscitation’ they called it, to keep him in the world of the ‘living’, if not truly alive. I knew what I wanted. I wanted him to leave with dignity. The way he had lived his life. We told them our decision. When he passed away, it was akin to the end of an era for our family and for me it was not only a Grandfather lost but also a very dear friend. I remember sobbing like a baby on Hubby’s shoulder as they took him away, bereft, suddenly rudderless, suddenly alone, knowing that the world had irrevocably changed and nothing would ever be the same again.

As time is wont to do, it has enabled me to look back now and celebrate his Life and times on earth and amongst us, with joy. We have a word in Marathi, ‘yug-purush’, which I loosely translate to mean ‘a one of a kind man in a generation’ (Don’t quote me though. My half-knowledge of Marathi is legendary in the family!).  For me & mine, Aboda was such a man. He remained to the end, a simple man. A man of few needs. One of my enduring memories, is of him, sitting in his favorite, sagging armchair, eyes closed, soft classical music playing on the stereo, running the fingers of one hand through his dog’s fur (the dog was always found curled up under his master’s chair :)), while those of the other tapped the rhythm of the music on the arm-rest. A man completely at peace with himself and Life. A man who brought much happiness to all whose lives he touched. A dutiful son, a devoted husband, a loving father and uncle, a loyal brother, a friend par excellence and the best possible Grandpa a girl could wish for!

Happy Birthday Aboda 🙂

You Rock!

Dear Sir, A tribute…

This morning brought sad news. The ex-dean of my alma mater Goa Medical College, Dr. G.J.S Abraham had passed away 😦
He passed away, from complications following bypass surgery in Bangalore. It came as a shock to us, clueless as we were about his illness. Shiva, had visited on New Year’s Day and stayed for a drink and conversation. Conversations with Sir were always stimulating! We were so looking forward to interacting with him regularly, now that we were back in Goa.
He played an important role in Shiva’s life – professor yes, but also mentor, counselor and guide. He always had clear insight and valuable advice to offer his students along with an uncanny knack for recognizing their particular strengths and weaknesses. A dapper figure, always immaculately dressed, with his crisp speech and manner; an impressive personality with his military bearing, his confidence, his knowledge and his flair.
Yes! He had flair! And we respected him, not out of fear (well maybe initially), but because we could not help but, because in him we saw a wonderful example of success, confidence and humility. He and Madame Abraham in her crisp starched cottons and perfect chignon, made quite the couple!
There never was quite another Dean like him – an exemplary teacher, role model and human being! You will be sorely missed Sir, by all those whose lives you touched and transformed. May your family find the stregth to get through these tough times.
Rest in Peace…