Breaking gender stereotypes

To those women,
The one who impatiently taught me how to drive with ease and sold to me, my first car.
The one who helped me see the regularity in being inclined to whiskey over wine.
The one who handily fixed my dresser after my movers, Two Men and a Truck, messed up its drawers.
The one who supportively held my hand as I mustered the courage to ask a guy out on a date.
The one who effortlessly trained me to get under the car hood for minor fixes.
The one who blatantly raved about Amazon’s bestselling vibrator.
The one who casually defied the institution of marriage and remained single.
The one who passionately made a grand career with unflinching persistence.
The one who methodically rolled my first joint.
The one who apologetically took a day off from work to go and watch her favorite IPL team play in the stadium.
The one who unemotionally reserved one night stands for sex only.
The one who simply refused to learn to cook or give up on the comfort of eating out.
The one who naturally sported loose, ill-fitting clothes and despised make up.
The one who excitedly walked into the medical shop to buy Rum and Raisin flavored condoms.
The one who plainly dissed the idea of washing down heart break with a bucket of ice cream.
The one who calmly excels at and enjoys working a lathe.

 

To those men,
The one who unabashedly ordered a raspberry pink cocktail at the bar.
The one who eagerly walked into the kitchen and made a meal for his family after a tiring day.
The one who comfortably sat in the passenger seat without the fidgeting itch to drive while I sat in the driver’s seat.
The one who extraordinarily chose to pursue a career in nursing and made women feel comfortable at the Ob-gyn clinic.
The one who sentimentally sports a baby pink breast cancer ribbon tattoo on his wrist along with a magenta t-shirt.
The one who audaciously fell in love with a woman who was older than him.
The one who consciously chose to be a home maker while his woman pursed her career.
The one who tenderly shed tears when in pain and needed a hug for consolation.
The one who trustingly sought my advice on stock investing.
The one who brilliantly put forth his opinions on Jane Austen’s work and dissected the multiple layers of Mr. Darcy’s character.
The one who fairly took no offense when his date suggested they split the check.
The one who bravely spoke about the trauma of child abuse after years of silent suffering.

 

Wordplay

This wasn’t new to her. But every time she did it, she was as nervous as she was the first time. She mustered courage and confidence, paired with more certainty of acceptance than rejection, and walked up to Rajan.

“I waited to see if you’d say something. I do not want to live under the fake label of friendship anymore. I am attracted to you and would like to ask you to go out on a date with me.”

“What? You must have misunderstood. I’ve never looked at you that way,” Rajan replied.

“But… but.. yesterday, you said you admired me deeply and you felt like kissing me,” she stuttered.

“Yes?!” his tone turned into defensive arrogance. “I do feel like kissing you. Kiss as an adjective, not as a verb.”

“Excuse me?” she shrieked in an intentionally loud voice, confused.

“Kiss as a verb is the ‘act of kissing’, you know, like the ones you see in an Emraan Hashmi movie. Kiss as an adjective is the ‘better description of a feeling’, like the description of my admiration or endearment for you. I would say the same thing to any of my friends, honestly. I cannot believe you would confuse one with the other and question the sanctity of our friendship. I’m so disappointed in you.” Rajan concluded.

That was the most repulsive bucketload of shit she had heard. Fuming, she walked away that day and swore to herself two things: one, she would never let a guy lead her on under the pretext of false friendship, two, she would never ask a guy out.

***

Ram and her, they definitely started out as friends. She was trying to get rid of her old dining table, so she could buy a new one. He found that out through a common friend and offered to take it, for money, while she had strictly refused.

“The dining table is almost five years old. It’s not in its best condition. I got it for $100. I couldn’t really accept money for it. If you didn’t offer to take it, I would have simply trashed it anyway,” she explained.

“How about we make even deal, something that both of us are comfortable? Maybe I buy you dinner, or bottle of wine, perhaps?” Ram suggested.

an even deal, comfortable with, a bottle of wine” she mentally corrected him and said, “I’m a whiskey girl. How about a bottle of Woodford Reserve instead?”

“Done.”

They had been friends for a few weeks before he invited her home for dinner. After a sumptuous meal, a movie and couple of drinks later, she was ready to call it a night.

“I’ll walk you home. Wait,” Ram hurriedly stood up.

“No! My apartment is about 500 feet away and I’m an adult. I don’t need you to walk me home. I’m fine.”

“You don’t need me, but I want to.”

need me to…. “her mental voice edited.

“I’d  walk home with my girl-friends, so I guess it’s alright for Ram to walk me home. We are friends now,” she justified.

They walked the 500 ft lost in conversation.

***

“Are you busy this weekend? How about movie tomorrow?” Ram asked.

a movie,” she subconsciously corrected, “How hard is it to use articles while speaking in English?”

“My friend is visiting from out of town and I promised to entertain her all weekend,” she answered.

“Oh! So you’re busy? Would you mind if I tagged along?” he asked cautiously.

“Well, I’m not sure. I’ve known this friend for 25 years now, and we have a whole history going. Our conversations may not even make sense to you. Frankly, you might be bored. Do you really want to hang out with us?”

“Absolutely. Especially if she is such an important friend for you. I would love to get to know her, make good first impression, and learn more about you from her, get to know you even better.”

friend to you, make a good first impression.”

She was a little skeptical. His words, their conversations had started to slightly get more perplexing. The point of perplexity wasn’t the grammar anymore. But she hesitantly said yes anyway.

Her friend, Ram and her, they spent the next two days exploring the city. There was axe throwing, bar hopping, dinner on the cruise, an aquarium tour and golfing involved. He made every effort to ensure that the friend from out of town was engaged. He asked a lot of questions about her, wanting to learn about little bits of her past; what she was like in school, what her nickname was, what sport she enjoyed playing, which teacher vehemently hated and punished her, who her first crush was, all the minute details that nobody else had shown genuine interest in. When she listened to their conversation, she almost found it cute. His eyes got big in wonder as he learned about her adventures, he laughed whole heartedly at the silly stories, and he teased her playfully about the notorious incidents.

“This one, your friend. I tell you, she is irresistible. She has two things that are infectious; her enthusiasm and her laugh. Ease with which she always breaks into smile and her uncontained, zealous spirit are my favorite things of her,” Ram said at the end of the day, to her friend.

The ease… a smile… about her….” Her mind chirped.

***

“Do you see what I see?” her friend asked.

“What do you mean?” she said, feigning foolishness.

“You idiot, Ram likes you. He’s into you. Do you not see it? He spent the entire day asking, seeking, learning about you, gathering anecdotes about your life. I saw the way he looks at you, smiles at you, makes sure you are comfortable, inquired if you were cold on the cruise, argues with you, playfully mocks yet stops teasing you when he realizes he’s going too far, all of it, it mandates his interest in you. Ask him out, will you?”

“I’m not sure anymore. Guys. They are complicated. I can’t ignore the ‘hints’ but I’ve been scarred in the past. Remember Rajan? His speech on English language when I asked him out on a date. Also, have you noticed how Ram refuses to acknowledge the existence of articles and constantly uses prepositions incorrectly. I don’t think I can be attracted to someone who does that. Okay, forget the grammar, you know I’ve…..”

“Yes, yes,” her friend interjected with an eye roll, “you’ll never ask a guy out. I’m simply saying that Ram wouldn’t say ‘no’ to you, all the signs are there. You’re being an idiot if you choose to ignore them.”

***

After dinner at his place, she stood up, put on her shoes and waited for him. It was now a tradition, their tradition. He walked her home every night after dinner.

That night, as they walked next to each other, he simply outstretched his left hand, took her right hand into his and continued walking. Neither did he say a word, nor did she pull away, and so they continued to walk the remaining 485 feet in silence and comfort.

Had she grown to like him a lot more? Was she attracted to him? She tried to find answers to these questions as they stood outside the door of the apartment. She faced him to say, ‘good night’ and began to slide her hand away from his grip, only to realize that he pulled it back.

“I have a little something for you,” he said and paused.

She looked into his eyes, with a mixture of anticipation and hesitation. He slid his right hand into his pocket and took out a small bottle. It was a less-easily available Willet Pot Still Woodford Reserve Mini bottle. The excitement in her eyes particularly evident.

“I was flying by Memphis, saw this in one of duty-free shops. I got two bottles. One for you, and one for me,” he smiled shyly and handed her his bottle.

through Memphis… one of the duty-free shops… I didn’t know you like bourbon too,” she exclaimed in surprise.

“Well, I’ll blame it on you. Your choice, your taste in bourbon is infectious.”

She was unsure what to say. He had said many words, they just weren’t the ones she wanted to hear.

***

He had been sick for two days. She went over to his apartment, made a cup of tea for his sore throat, handed it to him and sat herself on one end of the couch. He sat at the other end.

“I can’t believe you are going vacation for two weeks. How did you even accumulate that much vacation time? I don’t want you to go. My viral fever, it is infectious. Come over here,” he said signaling her towards himself, “I could pass along my germs for you. You and I, we could be sick together and you wouldn’t have to go away for two weeks.”

on vacation…” the grammar Nazi began proof reading while her heart terminated the exercise. It didn’t matter, the poor English, the Articles, the prepositions, his awful taste in music, his childishness, his jealousy, his mediocre sense of dressing, nothing mattered anymore, except him.

“I’ve been planning this vacation for four months now. As much as I want to stay back, I really must go,” was all she could say.

He was too sick to walk her home that night, but before she left, they stood by his door, he reached out and hugged her, and continued to hug her for two minutes.

“I’ll miss you,” she said, unsure what else to add.

“And I adore you, you have no idea how much I do.”

He had said many words, they just weren’t the right ones.

***

While on vacation, she realized how much she wanted to be with him, and was convinced that he wanted the same, and decided to ask him out upon her return.

Yet again, with confidence and the certainty of acceptance, she sat at her, his, five-year-old dining table, the one that had started it all and gathered the strength to say,

“Ram, I’m attracted to you. The way you show respect to me, understand me, comfort me, adore me, walk me home, give me really long hugs, hold my hands, look at me, don’t judge me for my choices, have that little twitch in your smile when you are losing an argument to me, express that harmless jealousy when I talk about my ex, everything, I like all of it. I could play dumb and flirt with you for another six months while you do the same, but it is not worth my time. I feel that we are way past being just friends. So, I need to know if I can take you for dinner. Consider it a date?”

“What? Why would you think that I’m interested in you? You have clearly misunderstood my intentions. You’re nothing but a good friend,” Ram hissed sharply.

“But.. but… you said, you’d miss me while I was gone for two weeks, that you wanted to pass your infection to me…. ” she stammered.

“Yes?!” his tone turned into defensive arrogance. “I did say that I wanted to give you my virus. I spoke about infectious, not contagious transfer. I would say that to any of my friends honestly.”

“Excuse me?” she said, clearly shocked, trying to make sense of what he said.

“Infectious diseases spread through environment. Not all infections are transmitted contagiously, through physical contact, you know. Some infectious bacteria or viruses can be transferred via nonphysical avenues. My viral fever is infection, but I didn’t meant that I want to contagiously transfer you. I cannot believe you would confuse one for the other and put our friendship in jeopardy. I’m so disappointed in you.” Ram concluded.

the environment… an infection…” the grammatist in her no longer cared. She stormed out, refusing to validate his theory with a response.

***

Children Listen.

She summoned the 14 year old me to the school staff room. I knew this wasn’t good news as I nervously stood at the staff room’s entrance.

“You don’t deserve the opportunity to be in the school band. You know why? It is your smile. It is very snake-like, very sly. And what is there to constantly smile about? Only mad people do that, smile without a reason. Are you trying to impress the boys?

Do you know the repercussions of that smile? Draupadi once laughed when she shouldn’t have, at Duryodhana, in the Palace of Illusions and eventually a war ensued. That’s the implication of a woman’s unwanted and dangerous smile,” she said.

“I will never smile unnecessarily,” my confused self pleaded shedding copious tears as I continued to stand helplessly, my head hung in shame in a room surrounded by teachers, “All I want is to be a part of the band team.”

***

I worked hard.

I learned to suppress my laughter.

I became very conscious about her smile.

Initially, I stopped smiling often.

Eventually, I ceased to smile.

I tried to turn into the girl she wanted me to become.

But.

I never played in the school band.

She had emerged victorious, taking away from me what mattered the most at that time.

I lay in shambles, defeated.

I pledged to myself. That one day I would have my revenge. I would win and she would lose.

***

Nineteen years later,

“Are you even aware of how gorgeous you look when you throw a simple smile on your face? It almost lights up the room,” my cousin cheerfully said.

“That smile of yours, it is contagious, and makes it impossible for me to be angry with you,” my boyfriend grudgingly said.

“A custom-word ring for yourself? Peace? You can get the word ‘peace’, but how about ‘smile’ instead, it defines you more aptly,” my coworker casually said.

“Are we at risk? You aren’t yourself today, you’re not smiling. That worries me,” my Project Lead speculatively said.

“You have a beautiful smile, never lose that,” my friend lovingly said.

Just like that, after all these years, I let go, unconsciously.

Winning or losing didn’t matter anymore.

– Children listen. With their ears and etch on their minds.

Five Elements – Fire

He asked me to log into Yahoo Messenger.

He ordered me to turn on my webcam.

My heart fluttered with ecstasy. I hadn’t seen him for two days.

 

His face was pale, as always.

He picked them up one after another and showed them to me.

The dark blue denim jeans.

The grey and white shirt.

The wine red tie.

The dusky brown wallet.

The woven black bracelet.

They had been carefully collected over the past two years, the tangible evidence of my undying love for him.

 

Oh yes, and the journal too.

My journal. To him. That told the story of us from the day it had all begun.

 

And then, silently, he set them on fire.

With the really sleek, rose gold cigarette lighter.

The lighter that demanded from me, my dinner for two months before I could afford to lay my hands on it.

 

How was it possible that all the salt water brimming in my eyes was incapable of dousing the fire?

As I continued to watch the evidence slowly melt away, I couldn’t necessarily tell the exact color of that brightness.

 

Strangely enough, he hadn’t laid a single finger on me.

Simply yet.

On his balcony floor lay my heart.

And my soul.

In a pile of ashes.

Without a point of resurrection.

Five Elements – Wind

She stood by the parapet wall.

Dark clouds descended and cold air ascended.

Chill breeze brushed her hair away from her face.

She gracefully placed the Gold Flake Kings in her mouth and tried to light up a match.

The wind around her blew out the little fire.

Neither had she been a customary inhaler of this morbid smoke.

Nor was this her initial choice.

 

**

Her mind floated weightlessly into the past.

Propelled by a flurry of memories.

Willing to reach stagnation only when the outline of his image intensified.

The picture of him inhaling and exhaling toxic grey air.

Her dearest memory of him was the deep sense of melting perfection she experienced when her lips met his for the first time.

Soft and intense, so infused with nicotine.

Choicelessly she swayed from aversion to appreciating its flawlessness.

She no longer wanted to taint her lips with any other type of kiss.

 

**

Now all she had was his brand.

She had turned from passive to active.

The taste of nicotine in her mouth.

The smell of smoke in the air around her was her only streak of connection with him.

It lead her to believe they still belonged like a song in the wind.

Even if it was for one fleeting, unrealistic moment.

Dodging the misty air, she struck the match again and cupped her palms to light her obsession rolled in brown and white paper.

As her lungs got a shot of the polluted air, a whimpered cough escaped from them.

Hopelessly they looked at their neighbor, her heart and inquired,

“Why do you do this to us? Isn’t it easier to simply let go?”

 

Her heart whispered,

“Oh, how could you two possibly fathom. To love fairly and incessantly is all you know. Left lung and right lung, you were born together.

Raised together.

Fell in love.

And became soulmates.

What do you know about loss?

My loss.

The permanent loss of the only heart I effortlessly connected with.”

Her lungs drowned in another gust loaded with tobacco.

Inching towards their doom.

Her heart reached elation and looked at them.

“Lucky bastards, even in their death, they go hand.”

Then. Now. Beyond.

THEN-
With every beginning I wished for the end,
How could eight hours seem like eternal.
Across me, you sat, just shy of a brawl,
I could tell we made each other’s skin crawl.

New, lost, and defeated I felt, as if I were stuck in an abyss,
How strangely my loneliness had meticulously creeped from red to swings.
And yet, I reminded myself that I left the old and chose the new to serve a specific purpose,
So I tugged along grudgingly with no remorse.

Anger, jealousy, and greed are a few innate emotions,
Hatred strangely surpassed and triumphed them all.
I realized, what was worse than your abhorrence,
Was the way you looked right through me like I was transparent glass, with pure nonchalance.

One unexplained, bitter-sweet gloomy winter morning, for me your eyes searched,
In tolerance they waited and watched. Until upon you, my eyes, I laid,
Your unflinching gaze conveyed volumes, and yet, no words were said.
But confusingly enough, when your lips parted,
I didn’t hear much but spontaneous disdain.
It made me cross,
That your looks and lips reeked of contradiction, playing a game of such brutal polarity.

NOW-
You tap that corner in the deepest, darkest of places,
The one that I convinced myself I was too broken to embrace.
If perception could be a pure, simple language,
Would you converse with me thus forever, from your eyes to mine, through this secret passive passage.

To be impressed and go weak in my knees,
To sway me until I fall head over heels.
All you had to do was sprinkle some intelligence and some arrogance,
Some observance and some perseverance.

How have you jolted awake the teenager in me?
Was it this wonderfully sweet to be sixteen?
Every dawn I hope we chance upon one another,
For that to materialize, several cups of terrible espresso I choose to endure.

My heart has been shattered in the past and played plenty a musical chair,
But to slyly be seated next to you is about what I care.
As you sincerely slice that engineered piece in solid works,
I want to compel you to peel my intricate layers and delve into the farthest corners of my mind, or maybe simply and freely plunge in and fathom my spirit.

When you often travel into the blue skies and across oceans,
So far away from me, remotely above the clouds.
I question, I demand, I struggle,
How is this possible, for us to be divided by land and yet be so united in space?

BEYOND-
Hate is a strong word, you told me,
You have me pondering what hurts more though.
To hate or to love,
Somehow whichever one I pick lingers of an un-numbing ache.

If I am prejudice, will you be my pride?
If I am the half blood princess, will you be my muggle prince, and hopefully this time around, we will be staring at the same tide?

If you dipped a finger into your ivory white skin and then touched my desert brown, will that mixture feel like the color of love?
If your belief in the cross and mine in the primordial tone engulfed one another just as one wave embraces the other, will that comfort sound like love?
If the east and the west turn into momentary mirror reflections of each other, as they birth and devour the sun incessantly, will that serenity look like love?
If your intense and dark bourbon like bitterness dampens my spicy chai like zesty temperament, will that saccharine fragrance smell like love?
If your perfect red lips met and kissed my dusky, bruised soul once, just once, will that fieriness taste like love?

Will this kind of love that completely engulfs my five senses be called perfectly, wholesome, pure love?

Is it possible then,
That with every end I wish for this beginning,
And eternal can seem like eight hours.

Learning to live with a broken, grieving heart

Earlier this year, my father was diagnosed with a very rare type of cancer; cancer in the duodenum. Having been a student of the sciences for the entirety of my life thus far, the first thing I did when I got this news is, look up what part of the body duodenum is. I didn’t even know if I was pronouncing it right.

But that is the ruthlessness of the C. It teaches you everything in a very short period of time. It teaches you anatomy, it teaches you that there is no prevention for this dreadful monster, it teaches you that you can only treat it but perhaps never cure it, it teaches you about surgical options, it teaches you all about chemo and radiation, it teaches you about their side effects, it teaches you to fight a battle with all your might and resources, it teaches you to have hope for remission, it teaches you to live with the fear of recurrence, it teaches you the value of life, it teaches you about winning the battle.

What the C doesn’t teach you though, is how to continue to survive when you have lost a loved one to it.

Yes, my father, my Nanna, succumbed to the C.

There. That is the first time I have actually said the words out, even in my head.

There are two reasons why I am actually writing this:

  1. I realized that death is such a taboo topic for most people. I’m not sure if it is cultural or if it is just human nature across borders. Some people are just too afraid to talk about it. Some people desperately want to offer some kind of moral support, but just do not know what to say. They wonder what the right thing to say is. Nobody actually teaches us how to console or offer support to a heart broken person. Some others speak with you, and just skip the topic and try to shove it under the carpet with small talk, while your grief sits in the corner of the room like an elephant. I was overcome with emotion most times, but was also appalled by some insensitive conversations, and rather shocked by some people’s lack of sympathy.
  2. My Nanna was a writer and a poet himself, a really good one at that. He was always very proud that I sought to pursue writing, in some way. And writing about this, is my way of dealing with my grief. Also, if it can help bring some sort of consolation to at least one grieving soul out there even for a few minutes, I am sure Nanna would be smiling down at me, wherever he is.

This part, the past few months, has been the hardest phase of my life. I remember thinking that my break up with my first boyfriend was the worst pain that could be inflicted upon me, but it makes me laugh at myself now. Losing a parent is far, far, far worse. This has to be the worst thing that can happen to anybody. But, nevertheless, I have found some coping methods that are helping me to learn to live with a broken, grieving heart. So I decided to write about them. All of these may not necessarily apply to a person dealing with the loss of a loved one, but that’s the magnanimity of grief and loss, nothing can wholly describe or completely encompass it.

  1. Try to Have no Regrets:

Regrets are nothing but injurious to you. It may be impossible to not have regrets, like, you could have said this, or done that, or just paid attention, etc. And that is why I said try. It is okay, remember you cannot change what has happened and remember, things could have been far worse. Do not regret the things you could have done for them, be it that you didn’t call them more often, or meet them more often, or they didn’t see you graduate, or that they didn’t see you get married, or they didn’t see you have kids and so on. Nobody goes away satisfied. They could still have one more unfulfilled wish.

I was continents away from my Nanna went he went away since he was coping so well and then suddenly, my whole world crashed to the ground, without any notification. I regret not being there, I regret not getting to say my goodbye, but I shudder at the thought of being there and having to see him on a ventilator struggling to survive.  It is more comforting to hold on to an image of him laughing with me, discussing his favorite books with me, or simply being the strong father he always was. So try to let go of the regrets and hold on to the happier memories. Do not let the Dementor of Regret feed upon your grieving soul. Think of the things you did that made them happy, have multiple Patronus’. They help.

  1. Avoid the What-Ifs and Buts:

The mind plays very dangerous games on you. It tries to draw you into a game of ‘What if we have done this instead of that’ or ‘But this didn’t happen to XYZ’s uncle’ or ‘Maybe we should have seen a different surgeon’ or ‘What if we had tried Ayurveda instead’ and so on. All this does is it sends you down a spiraling path of no return. Life is a bitch, and some things are just not in your control and sadly, you have to learn to live with this bitter truth for the rest of your life. Yes, things could have gone differently, and if they did go differently, maybe you could have had a few extra months and perhaps done everything they wanted to do and then what? Even if every sequence of the What-Ifs and Buts went right, nobody is ever going to be ready to let go of their loved one. Nothing can prepare us for this. So do no fall into this limbo.

Instead, maybe, now you couldperhaps check off something on their bucket list for them. My Nanna always dreamed of going to China and so I have decided to go there next year, and do the things he always wanted to do. Mostly for his sake, but also for the sake of my own grieving heart.

  1. Anger Vs Acceptance:

Sometimes I am extremely angry that this happened to me. That I have to suffer this way. On some days I feel suffocated and chocked and irritated and angry. I did not deserve this. There are times when I still hope that I will finally wake up and realize that this is just a bad, horrible dream and that everything is okay back home. Oftentimes, I feel like an atheist, other times I feel agnostic. Some times I am sitting in a team meeting and have tears in my eyes for no apparent reason, other times I listen to really sad songs because I want to make myself cry. I am angry that certain friends haven’t called me after learning about my loss and offered support, and I am angrier that some close friends haven’t said the right things to me. I want to scream when people ask me, ‘How are you?’ I want to snap back saying, ‘I’m not fine, I have never felt this shattered before and the pain never seems to end,’ but you are supposed to gulp everything down and simply say, ‘I’m doing alright.’ I am angry that people don’t ask something more sensitive like, ‘How are you doing today?’ or ‘How are you holding up?’ or simply, ‘Hang in there.’ It suffocates me that I still have my Nanna’s number saved on my phone but I simply cannot pick up the phone and call him anymore or receive any ‘missed calls’ from him.

ALL THIS IS OKAY. You can be angry and you don’t have to accept what has happened. You can keep that saved number on your phone forever and never delete it. I am not asking you to get all delusional but, if you just lost someone you knew ever since you were in the womb, it is alright to be angry and not reach the acceptance stage of your grief.

And let me tell you this, you probably will never reach the acceptance stage and that is okay too. To think that you have them watching over you, guarding you and wishing the best for you is completely normal.

Ever since this has happened, all I can tell people is: My Nanna had the C and he didn’t make it or everything happened so fast and is over. I haven’t been able to bring myself to utter the actual words used in the English language, even the flowery ones. I feel that if I uttered them, they might actually become true.

grief

  1. Keep Away the Negative Energy:

Do not let the negative energy become a priority. What nobody teaches you is that all rituals, irrespective, which religion you belong to make mourning very taxing. I do not question religion or rituals but families often prioritize ritualistic practices over people’s loss. Nobody, absolutely nobody, can feel what you are going through when you are dealing with your loss. While some practices are just blunt and brutal, some families make it harder than it already is.

There were relatives who told me that all my Nanna wanted was to see his 31 year old daughter married and that he left without his dream being fulfilled. I was arguing with them that, yes, he wanted me to be married, but he also wanted me to be happy, that was more important to him than my marriage. There were some people who talked about assets and gold, and there were still others who were gossiping about what treatment could have been better, and some others who were complaining that there was no sugar in the coffee being served to visitors.

What irked me the most, but was also a moment of realization, was when two members in my Nanna’s family had a difference of opinion on the ritual protocol and they began to argue about whether the ‘meal offering’ must be placed at the head or at the foot of my father. That was it. I walked away, away from the wretched deathly hallows toward home, home that will never be the same anymore. I needed none of this bullshit. What I was going through was already extremely heart wrenching and to these people, this was some kind of an ego display theatrics.

This is the kind of negative energy you want to keep away. I feel that facing these situations, or involving yourself in them, even arguing with them to prove a point takes away from your loss. It makes your loss sit on the back burner. It makes trivial things appear more important, which isn’t the case clearly. Your loved one loved you very dearly. Let nobody tell you otherwise.

  1. Find a Medium to Deal with your Grief:

This is very, very important. You need to let the pain out. The pain does not get any lesser if you do, this will stay with you and haunt you forever, but the letting out process eases the pain to a certain extent. You can choose whatever medium you want. Crying out loud in front of people, pouring out tons of silent tears while you are alone in bed or in the bathroom, confiding your pain in your friends, having long conversations with your family about the loss, going to grief support groups, reading books, reading books on dealing with grief, collecting pictures of your lost one, whatever works for you. But find that medium. One of my friends advised me that some people chose the wrong medium, like resort to alcoholism or doing drugs, only because that keeps the pain away, and that I shouldn’t take those up. Of course, so I don’t support mediums that cause self-destruction.

What helps me is talking about my loss. The pain it causes me, the unfair situation, the happy memories, and merrier times. I started to keep a journal and jot down all the little happy instances I can recollect. I want my future  kids, if I ever have them, to know my Nanna since they will not get to meet him in person. This post is a medium too.

My friends tell me I have become even more obsessed with cleaning. I am constantly cleaning the apartment and re-arranging furniture. I keep my appointments to the Ts and never cancel plans. It is my way toward some sort of satisfaction that I can still control some things, and that I will continue to control what I can since there clearly are things that are way beyond my controlling or fixing capability.

  1. Let Each Person in your Family Deal in Their Own Way:

If this isn’t easy on you, it isn’t easy on your family either, your siblings and your mother, I mean. They could be in a far worse situation than you are. Do not put yourself in their shoes because you probably will never understand their pain even though you are all dealing with the same loss. Do not judge them or force them to confide in you. Just remember, in Rachel Green’s words, if you feel that it’s like there is rock bottom, then 50 feet of crap, then you, your family could be feeling the same, or they probably have a 150 feet of crap between rock bottom and them. Grief is so weird, it comes like alternating current, only there is no resistance, none at all.

What I am trying to say is; every human being is different. When the likes and dislikes are so vastly different between two individuals, how will two people’s modes of grieving be identical. It took me a few weeks to understand this.

When this great tragedy hit my family, my brother did not cry. For as long as I was there with him, he did not shed a single tear. I was very worried for him, worried that we would have to face a volcanic outburst due to all the over piled containment inside of him. I nudged him to cry, and offered him my shoulder to cry on, lent my ears to hear him out, and he did neither. He also refused to shave his head that was required as a part of the ritual. And when I asked why, he calmly said to me, ‘I do not want remember what I was made to do to him after he was gone, in the burial ground. If I shave my head, every time I look into the mirror, this is what I will remember.’ Reality hit me; I hadn’t even considered what the boys in our country, particularly Hinduism practicing families go through in these kinds of situations. It is just outright brutal. Of course, my brother was forced to shave his head anyway.

I simply said to him, ‘You don’t have to confide in me, as long as you have some medium or someone you feel comfortable enough to speak with, as long as you are unburdening the pain in some manner, I’m okay.’

  1. The Ultimate Support System:

This could be your family, friends or simply acquaintances who are also grieving and know what it is to lose a parent. They are your backbone and you have to learn to recognize, and appreciate them.  Support comes in so many ways. Some people give you cards to console you and let you know they are there for you, some send you flowers, some friends come and meet you and stay with you, some of them, even if they aren’t physically there, say the right things you need to hear. Some simply ask the most mundane and banal questions that could mean the world to you. Every little effort matters and needs to be remembered. I always like to say, ‘Good friends clap their hands and cheer you through your ups but great friends hold your hand and pull you up through your downs.’

When I got the most devastating news of my life, a co-worker and friend hugged me real tight for I don’t know how long and asked if she could say a Christian prayer although she knew my Nanna was a Hindu, and I just hugged her back and shook my head in agreement.

An acquaintance who I barely know asked me, ‘Have you been getting any sleep and do you feel hungry at all these days?’ Such an inconspicuous question but it literally had me chocked. Because there are nights you cry yourself to sleep and yet can’t keep the pain away.

And to all these people who were my backbone, I made sure I told them how appreciated they were and how much their concern made some difference to my grieving processes.

  1. It is okay to be Happy:

This is the trickiest one. There are times when you forget all this pain for some time and go back to being your old self. When you treat yourself. When you go shopping and buy yourself a new dress. When you go out on Friday night with friends and get drunk. When you simply turn off your mind and decide to go watch a newly released movie. When you take a vacation because you need a break. And this is okay. Do not be guilty about it. Ignore the judgmental looks people throw at you. Nobody decides for you about how you learn to survive, you do. You have been through a lot. And you don’t have to sit in the corner and cry all the time. If anything, your life isn’t going to stop because you choose to throw your hands up in the air and decide you’re done.  Your loved one never wanted you to brood all the time and waste your life. That wasn’t expected of you. Grief will last forever; you just have to learn to continue to do everything in life while you carry that void in your heart.

This has been one of the most difficult things I have ever had to write, but I just needed to put it out there because sometimes, I have felt extremely lonely and all I wished for was to hear from someone who was dealing with what I am going through. And yes, growing up sucks. Sometimes I wish I could just go back to being in 7th Grade where my biggest problems in life were fear of Gowri Ma’am and passing the Maths test.

For those of you who are interested, I chanced upon this website called Remembering With Roses. This company takes roses from events such as funerals, weddings, graduations, etc. and they have a recipe that makes the roses into long lasting, permanent black beads. They accept both fresh and dried roses and you can ship directly to them. I wanted to have something tangible from my Nanna, apart from myself, so I got a pendant made. When I wear it, I feel connected to him and it gives me a sense of protection from him, like he is over seeing me.

Here is the link: http://www.rememberingwithroses.com

October 21st, 2016: Happy 64th Birthday, Nanna. I love you.

“The most painful goodbyes are the ones that are never said and never explained.”