Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Condolence Messages -Support and Solace in those words

 Amma was admitted on Tuesday, and her condition deteriorated very quickly. It was a working Wednesday, and I didn’t have any time to do much. I decided to book my tickets, dumped stuff in a bag, and then coordinated my days off with my manager, made a couple of phone calls to let few friends know . Writing about Amma helped me through that long flight.

I landed in Doha and found out. I feel so bad for my sister, Seema, as she didn’t want to tell anyone until I heard firsthand from her. But the flight was too long. She called Mr. husband, and he advised them not to wait any longer to inform relatives. He called/texted a few of my closest friends here.

Once I landed, I had no time for anything. But people who loved me and cared for me were right there in all possible ways. Most of them had no idea I was in India. They called, left me voice messages, sent me texts, and left comments and messages on WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram.

As I am still going through those hundreds of messages to respond, I can feel the warmth and love, the support and concern. Please know that every text, call, voicemail, card, flower, and plant means so much to me. I cannot express my gratitude in words for how your words help me get through the day.

Today, it’s been two months, and this afternoon someone texted just to check on me. We don’t talk/text often, but these random check-in texts help me get through the tough days. Please keep them coming.

A friend hosted a Tea - the Theme was Mom’s saree. The theme was tempting enough to take this very old saree out. Amma didn't enjoy wearing black or white. I dont even know how come she had this saree, may be one of my sisters  but it made its way to my bag  during one of those trips. I couldnt stay long for the tea but long enough to feel the love and comfort of friendship.

A simple cotton for a beautiful summer evening . 

One of those trips with Amma Papa
 Good byes at Raipur Airport 

Saturday, May 25, 2024

The Healing Power of a meal (Dukhiya Bhoj) and friendship

 Amma’s younger sister didn’t go to see Amma in the hospital nor did she come for any rituals. She came home to meet Papa while Amma was in the hospital, but she chose not to attend the big prayer meeting either. When we went to see her the next day, she explained that she wanted to remember Amma as she was: happy and smiling, not connected to machines or on ice.

I hadn’t experienced many deaths, so this time I learned many things firsthand, including how to handle grief and family. She asked us to come for dinner, which really surprised me, but apparently, it is a tradition called “Dukhiya Bhoj.” Close family members invite the grieving family for a meal, suggesting the end of the mourning period and the start of life without the loved one. We couldn’t do that, but the concept stayed with me.

It took me more than three weeks to go for a casual Friday meal at a dear friend’s home. It was warm and comforting, and I felt cared for. Yesterday, an Italian friend brought a meal: Cuban bread, Indian Chana Masala, Greek salad, and Italian eggplant salad. She said the food from different parts of the world was to remind me that I am loved by people from all over the world.

As I wrap up my day, I feel the importance of Dukhiya Bhoj. It was not just a meal but a way to show that they care for me, love me, and celebrate Amma with me while understanding my loss.

A mother from Desi Moms Network also hosted a meet. Mothers in that area flocked to meet me. An Orissa Ikat, a gift from another mom from the Desi Moms Network came out as the host was also from Orissa. 

A simple Sambalpuri cotton for a meet for my soul. 

the gorgeous host
My Mausi/Aunt - Amma's younger sister 
The food heals your body and soul 
sometime the drinks heals too -  first dinner out at a friends home was tough but comforting at the same time.
Some of Amma's favorite food - served on her Ganga Pooja ( The last prayer meet) 

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Finding Hope Amid Silent Struggles, Don’t carry your mountain alone

 Mental health struggle is real. I have heard so many stories and seen so much, and every time it is daunting to see people feeling helpless and lonely.

I am usually optimistic, finding silver linings and moving on, but Amma’s passing took a toll on me. I am really surprised by how unfamiliar those emotions were. Amma lived her life fully, left royally, and did so with grace and dignity. Despite all that, some days I feel just empty. I guess I am still holding on to my tears; maybe someday I will be able to let them flow.

I am really fortunate that friends kept an eye on me and checked on me periodically. But my heart aches for those who carry the pain within themselves. Pain of not fitting in, pain of being lonely in a crowd, or just living someone else’s dreams and wishes. Are they tired of the silent battles they fight each day? They smile, but no one can see the turmoil they are dealing with. Do we understand their need for belonging or their longing for freedom from usual social expectations?

A last-minute invite forced me to get out of my gloomy mood and go to a gala. An organization, Disability Law Center, was celebrating 45 years of disability rights advocacy! That day, I needed to see sunshine and hope. The Charles River and Cambridge do so beautifully. A Linen Cotton for the evening. 

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Tumhi ho mata pita tumhi ho - You are the mother you are the father.


It’s been over seven weeks since Amma's passing. All of us are able to move forward with our lives, and a big credit goes to Papa. He has become our strength. Surprisingly, he has taken over many of the things Amma used to do for us, checking on us every day, calling, and supporting us in ways he never had to before.

I cannot even fathom what he is going through. Losing a partner of 56 years is not easy. I feel he is hurting more inside, but he leads us to believe he is better than yesterday or the day before.

Our Amma used to make phone calls, video calls, and leave us voice messages. Papa was always a guest appearance in those calls; Amma would continue the talk. She left a void in our lives in many ways, and this was one of them.

The day before I left, I sat with Papa to teach him how to make video calls and leave voice notes. Papa turned out to be a quick learner and mastered it in one day. Now, Papa does video calls and leaves beautiful messages. Amma used to send standard couple of lines, but Papa’s messages are interesting and longer than a few seconds, unlike Amma’s.

I used to talk to Papa about history, current events, and many other usual topics, but now I also add conversations about packing and shopping for a trip. I love him even more for making us feel doubly loved and cared for on Amma’s behalf too.

A cotton paithani for a day in NYC. 

Papa sitting on his usual spot reading his news papar. That goodness for election season, he has plenty to watch, read  and listen

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Loss - the journey of grief and void.

 When I found out that a friend had lost his wife of 48 years, I knew I had to be there, but at the same time, I knew it would be hard. In that memorial service, a daughter stood in front of the crowd and spoke about her mother. I was in the audience, thinking about how brave she was. There was a time when I was totally lost, but fortunately, I was with a few friends who kept me in check.

It was difficult, but listening to their daughter was even more challenging. She spoke so highly of her mother, and I couldn't help but think of my own mother. If given a chance, what would I have said about my mom?

The rituals and prayers serve the same purpose in every religion. In that mosque that day, everyone prayed for the departed soul, offered their support to the family and loved ones, and shared a meal with family and friends.

I remember how difficult that first night was. After saying goodbye to Amma, we came back home. My cousins, aunts, and uncles had stories about Amma. That night, we shared our grief over a meal. But when everyone else went back to their homes, every day was tough. The void in our life is just ours to understand. I am fortunate to have sisters to share the grief. I feel for those who are all alone in this world. 

A cotton chanderi for the memorial service. 

I was out for a walk and seeing all these flowers made me realized how much I miss Amma, she was a perfect company for the walk. Papa is becoming for my togo person for many things now. 

Monday, April 29, 2024

Amma and my village - celebration continues

 Yesterday, another set of friends came together to celebrate Amma. I did much better this time. It was a smaller group than last Sunday (around 30 people), and I knew what to do. I knew they were all here because they care for me. Simple tea, coffee, and some snacks, but a lot of talk summed up my afternoon.

I felt I was much better talking about Amma and her memories. I did have my moments when all of a sudden I felt the extreme loss, but somebody noticed and gave me a hug, and I got back in the moment pretty quickly. I know I've been talking about the power of the village forever, but I am experiencing it at a whole different level now. How comforting it was to see her on my screen (I have a slideshow of around 150 pics) and talk about her with people who care for me. Everyone asked me to do the same thing just like Amma would have done so - talk/call and take care of myself.

A couple of them have met Amma when she was here 18 years ago, but most of them got to see her in those pictures yesterday—a happy, vibrant Amma.

I know time heals, and even we will miss her always, but will learn to live with her physical absence. The last two Sunday meets assured me that she is around me in the form of my village, to support me when needed, to comfort me when I am down, to cheer me up with anything I do, to encourage me to move forward, and, above all, reminding me how fortunate I am to be her daughter.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Journey of Loss: Conversations About Death and Closure

It’s hard to believe that Four weeks has passed since we said good bye to Amma. I am not sure what is “closure” but a sense of loss is all around me. I miss her physical presence and ablity to call her any time I want.

I have been writing Amma stories but I guess I need to verbalize the depth of loss I feel. 

Amma and I had been talking about death, wish, what to do when she is gone over a decade. I remember starting this conversation during my India trip in 2012 after my accident. I was there with kids and on my third day during my early morning walk I was struck by an SUV. It was a close call and it shook both of us over. 

My parents have been very progressive  in their approach as talking about death and “after we are gone” is still a taboo in our society.

They expressed and updated their wishes over the years and we sisters have pretty good idea about their desires. Things changed and evolved  but not without open conversation.

In the past month, I've come to appreciate the importance of these conversations more than ever. They serve as a reminder that nothing is forever, it’s crucial to focus on what is important to us today, tomorrow and after we are gone.

I finally dragged myself out for an award ceremony for the employees of an organization I serve on the board of. It was heartwarming to meet people being recognized for their selfless work. Amma would have loved hearing all about my evening.

Amma @White Mountain - 2006 Visit 

Amma with her clan in Goa - celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary.

A blue linen saree for the evening

Monday, April 22, 2024

Wrapped in love - Amma and her saree

 On March 29th, my mom was resting in the hospital in an Ice box. After more than 24 hours and 3 flights, I was finally in Raipur. Right after me, my brother-in-law and two cousins were coming too from various cities. The plan was to go to see her directly from the airport - all of us. But at the Delhi Airport, I changed my mind that I cannot go to see my mom in this condition. She went to bed every night in a fresh nightgown. There was no way I was hugging her stinking. I decided to go home before I head out to the hospital.

So I told my sister to keep a set of clothes ready for me for a quick shower. When I reached home, I had one of her sarees ready on the bed for me. I went to say goodbye to Amma, told her I loved her, and then came home with my dad. We went back to say a final goodbye to her at the medical college. That saree felt like a warm hug from her that day. 

After a few days when we were getting ready to go to Allahabad, I realized my mother didn’t pack many sarees for this trip. There was only one saree in her bag, the one I wore. In a couple of days, the cards (Condolence messages or invitations for Ganga Pooja) were being printed. 

The saree came to Boston with me along with a few others from her Bangalore closet. Yesterday, I had my Boston village coming together to comfort me, support me. They all came home to celebrate my mother. I couldn’t find anything else but the same saree to drape. And one of the friends noticed the saree on the slideshow running in my living room. Till then, I hadn't noticed that she was wearing the same saree in that invitation pic. There was one pic of that invite. 

Yesterday again, my mother was around me, within me. I was wrapped in her love and warmth in the form of her saree. 

People got plants and flowers, despite me asking not to , She sure was happy somewhere. She loved flowers

GoodBye Amma - we love you - forever ours.