Tag Archives: death

Our Death Plan

Ever since we lost Yog’s grandmother last year to Death, this D word has been omnipresent in our household. While we might want to avoid talking about Death over and over again, Yog is fascinated with it. It wasn’t long before he connected the dots and understood that Mom, Dad and Grandfather are also getting old and might die any day. It was therefore only proper that we have a solid plan for what does Yog need to do in case he loses his Mom, Dad and Grandfather all in one day. This is how our first conversation, in this regard, went.

Yog: Mama, what will happen if you, Papa and Thatha die? Who will take care of me?

Mama: By the time, all of us will die, Yog will be a big boy and he can take care of himself. Plus, you will have Akka with you.

Yog (thinking): But Mama, I will need new parents to take care of me. How will I find new parents?

Mama (laughing inside): In that case, Nani will come from Delhi and take you with her. You can stay with Nani. She will take care of you.

Yog: But how will Nani know that you have died and she needs to come to Hyderabad? Will you tell her before you die?

Mama (trying so hard not to laugh out loud): Someone will inform Nani to come to Hyderabad. Till Nani comes, you can go and stay with Sharada Aunty (our loving next door neighbor).

This conversation seemed to satisfy Yog for the time being.

A few days ago after talking about sun, stars, moon, plants and million other topics in this world, Yog came around to death once again.

Yog: Mama, when all of you die, I will go to Delhi to stay with Nani. I will take my password (he means his passport), go to the airport and take a flight to Delhi.

Mama: That’s a good idea.

Yog (all of a sudden choking on a thought that he can barely breathe): But Mama….. , But Mama…

Mama thinking that Yog has finally figured that life will be sad without his mother, father and grandfather. I should assure him that he will be fine.

Yog (continuing): But Mama, I don’t know where you have kept my password.

Mama (laughing under my breath): It’s ok Yog! I have kept it safely. I will show you where it is when we get home.

Yog, once again, is satisfied with the answer and happy to move on to the next topic for the day.

Me laughing internally at his innocence! I pray he always remains so carefree and forward looking in life. As for me, once I have shown Yog where his passport is kept, my job on this planet is done! I can then happily start planning for my next life! (LOL!!!)

Needless to say, I think both Toyna and Yog are blessed to be a part of  a large, loving and close knit family. It doesn’t worry me, even for a second, on what will happen to them if I am no longer there. Thank you dear family for so much love and support! We are all blessed!

Homeschooling Topic – Religion

A few days ago, we passed a graveyard on the road and Yog wanted to know what it is. So I explained that in some religions when a person dies, he/she is buried. As expected Yog’s next question was – What is a Religion? I explained that it a set of things that we believe in. For e.g, we are Hindus so we go to the temple and worship our God. We do not bury our dead but we burn their body.

Today, while we were eating dinner, Yog asked, “Are we Muslims?” I shook my head and said, “No, we are not Muslims. I told you what religion we belong to. Do you remember?” Yog’s eyes sparkled in recollection and he immediately said, “Yes! I remember. Our religion is to burn.” Usually, I try not to laugh at his comments in front of him, but I just couldn’t help bursting with laughter today. I tried to calm myself and explained again, “We are Hindus.” Yog’s fascination with death, immediately lead him to relate our religion to death, “So when we die, we will take our body and burn it?” I couldn’t help but laugh again. “Once we die, we cannot take our own body and burn it. But rest assured, someone else will do it for us.” Thanks to Yog, death has become such a common theme in our house that I am sure none of us need to think or plan for it.

Yog continued the conversation saying, “Hindus is the best religion.” Toyna, who was silent till now immediately piped in, “Yog, please understand that when Hindus die, they go to God. When Muslims die, they go to God. When Christians and Sikhs die, they also go to God. So how can any religion be better?” Yog seemed satisfied for the time being with this response. I was amazed at the ease with which Toyna used Yog’s favorite topic of death to explain such a complex topic like Religion to him!

Later tonight, while I read space exploration to Yog, Toyna drafted this small note.


Cast Makes No Sense

If I was God I would have created  week or a month or even a year where everyone was equal.
None of us would be Hindu, Muslim or Christians.
None of us would be buried or burnt when we would die because all us would reach heaven or hell.
No one would be called good or bad or hero or terrorist.
No one would be defined according to how much money or wealth they had.
CAST MAKES NO SENSE !
We all have a heart, we all have a brain, we all were chosen to live.
We were chosen to make a change whether the change was good or bad.
No one would be called black or white but instead we would be called fair or tanned.
We all would stand together on the same land as we all live on earth.
Everyday would be a festival, a festival of togetherness, a festival of love.
We all would be dancing on different kinds of songs and no one would misuse their strength .
IF I WAS GOD I WOULD HAVE CREATED A WORLD WHERE EVERYONE WERE EQUAL AT ALL TIMES.


You can imagine my awe, when Toyna read it out to me. So powerfully deep coming from my own child. Wow!

So yes, you can say we had a pretty good homeschooling day today talking about religion. Next plan on the topic is to visit the all places of worship of different religions.

#homeschoolingLife #letsTalkAboutReligion #Religion

The Journey is Mine, cause the Destination is Mine to Achieve

When we lose a loved one to death, misunderstanding or simply time, we tend to question not only fate and God but also every relationship that we still hold. If we have lost once, what is the guarantee that we will not lose another loved one again? How do we continue to love knowing very well that all loved ones will part from us one day or the other?

I found a simple explanation to this in a short four hour road drive, last week. When I started the drive, I was focused on the road, navigation directions and the miles ticking by. No sooner had I settled in the driving seat, my thoughts started drifting. The miles faded, the sun paled and the road became and endless zig-zag, black and white line. Many cars, trucks, motor cycles chanced upon me. My companionship with each one of them lasted only a few short seconds before either they sped off or I did, never to look back again. I never paid any attention to anyone. Not one of them seemed important enough.

Somewhere in the second hour, a black Hyundai appeared behind me. I was not sure how long it had been there, but it had now caught my attention. It was almost at the same speed as I was. It was trying to overtake me but I was not in a mood to give way. I was also trying to reach my destination as fast as possible. It did manage to speed ahead of me few times, but I managed to overtake it again till…. till a red Volkswagen appeared ahead of me. It was again at almost the same speed as both of us and now we were three playing the game of staying ahead. Over the next hour or so, we managed to stay together even though we were trying to lose each other. We, together, dodged trucks, went over rumbling river bridges, green grasslands, dense fog and crooked roads. Having covered so much ground together, we developed a bond, an understanding in this brief period. We started watching out for each other and congratulating each other with subtle signs, no one else on the road would have noticed. We were now together in this journey. Even though we didn’t even see or know the driver behind the wheel, we three were already in a relationship of companionship.

In the fourth hour, I managed to take lead after circumventing heavy traffic in a city. I smiled. I had outdone both of them. My joy was short lived. Within minutes, I realized I was not exactly leading. Oblivious to me, my companions had taken different turns somewhere in the city. I didn’t even realize when. They hadn’t even signaled goodbye. They  had simply chosen the fastest path which would take them to their destination. They were no longer part of my journey.

Though there were hundred cars still around me, I felt alone.

I scanned the road for them for a few more minutes. But in my heart  I knew they were gone, pursuing their own individual journey, just like me.

It was then that I realized that life is pretty much like a long distance car drive. While we meet thousands of people in our life, we only form special relationships with a few. Few who have chosen to travel at the same speed as us. Others just zip pass or stay behind. The special few, also, stay connected with us only till our paths coincide. Sooner or later, they too, will take turns which are different than ours. Sooner or later, they too, will be gone. Of course, when one (or more) of these companions take a different turn than ours, we feel betrayed and shattered. Weren’t we meant to travel together for the rest of our lives? Why did we meet in the first place, if there was no eternal future for us? Maybe, I am the one responsible for this. Maybe, I don’t know how to manage my relationships or take care of my loved ones. If it was not for me, they would be still here.

Deep breath.

If you understood the car analogy, you will relate that when relationships part, there is no fault of any one individual. Relationships part, simply because they were meant to part. Simply because, each individual has their own destination to achieve. While you can ignore your own individual destination for some time, and chose to travel with your companion to his/her destination; sooner or later your own dream will call you again. If you do not follow your own dream, you will never be happy, inside, even while being with your companion. Wouldn’t it have been extremely silly and painful, for me, to pursue those cars ignoring the destination that I was headed for? Where would that have left me in my journey?

We have to realize that the journey we have chosen for ourselves, is ours and ours alone. We will get companions along the way, but we have to understand and respect that companions have their own journey to take as well. They will part in 10 minutes, 10 months, 10 years or 100 years. Who knows!?! But the fact is that no one, even your twin, husband, child or best friend will go the last mile, to your grave, with you. The only companion who will stay with you throughout your journey is you, yourself.

Does this mean that we should stay detached to companions? Does this mean that we should not invest in relationships?

Even though, I know that none of my family and friends are here forever, I believe in continuing to invest in my relationships and build deeper attachments with all of them. In fact, after the realization that no relationship is permanent, I invest more time in each relationship. Simply because, I never know if I will ever get a chance to show my love, again.

Like the two cars who joined me for an hour, each relationship, no matter how short or how deep, is important for the journey itself. Each companion has the ability to color our journey and make the journey worth travelling. Imagine a journey where you are only looking at a map and the miles on your odometer. Imagine a journey where you don’t collect a single story to tell. Imagine a journey, where you did not pick a single friend to share. Such a journey might sound exciting for some but it definitely doesn’t sound exciting to me!

Here’s wishing happy journey to all of you! If you agree with the car analogy, please share it with someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one. I hope they find the peace I have found.

Why some Questions don’t have Answers

These days, the most common word ringing in our small household is “Why?” Why is it summer? Why is it cold? Why is it dinner time? Why do we need sleep? Why did Akka pinch me? Why do we have to wear uniform to school? Why don’t you wear uniform to office? Why am I growing big? Why am I not growing big faster? Why does the Sun have to go to California? Why did you cook Lauki for dinner? Why did Papa got to Egypt? Why didn’t we go to Paris? Why, Why, Why…

Honestly, even though I love questions from four year old Yog, it is time taking and nerve racking to answer all his questions with patience. And then, there are some questions that I don’t even have answers to:

  • Why Bamma (Grandmother) died?
  • Why did my hand come in the door? (resulting in 2 smashed fingers, 6 stitches and 6 weeks of bandage)

This is how I attempt to answer, but my answers have a tendency to run in the grey leaving my words choked up in my throat.

Why Bamma died? Because she was not keeping well

Why was she not keeping well? Because she got an infection

Why did she get an infection? Because she had an operation

Why did she get an operation? Because she was not keeping well

Why was she not keeping well? Because sometimes we fall sick

Why do we fall sick? (I wish I could say that we fall sick because we don’t take care of our body. But God knows how much care Bamma took of not only herself but all of us. So why did she fall sick? This is where I run out of answers.)

So I say, “Sometimes things happen that Mama cannot explain”

Why Mama, why can’t you explain?

 

Why did my hand come in the door? Because you kept your hand in the door and someone closed it

Why did someone close it? Because they did not know that your hand was there

Why did they not know? I was crying and calling to open the door. Why they did not hear me? Because the door was very thick. They couldn’t hear you

Why was the door so thick? Some doors are thick and some doors are thin. I am not sure I can explain any better

Why Mama, why can’t you explain any better?

 

Yesterday, after a long day of work, I did not have the mental energy to fend Yogs’ stream of questions. So I delegated the task to Siri for the first time. Yog was super happy to talk to Siri. I was relieved to sit in silence for some time and listen to their immensely funny conversation. To start with, they discussed time, weather, and Egypt. Soon Yog came to the million dollar question, “Why did my hand come in the door?” Siri politely said, “I don’t think I have the abilities to answer this question.” Yog promptly replied, “Why don’t you have the atities to answer this question?” Siri said, “I am sorry Yog!”. With that Siri shut itself down and hid in the deep dark blackness of my phone.

For a split second, I was happy to know that I was not the only one not able to answer Yogs questions. But the happiness was soon taken over by melancholy. Honestly, I, myself am struggling to accept the answer to these questions and therefore, don’t have the courage to explain the answers to Yog, at least not yet. The silver lining is that while I am almost to the point of tears each time I think of these questions, Yog is not emotionally attached to these questions. For him, these are just questions that need to be answered. As soon as,  someone can answer them for him, he will be freed from these questions and will happily move on to his next set of questions.

One box, One Cupboard, One Step, One Day at a Time

When Amma passed away, a few months ago, there was a sense of overwhelm in the whole family. The feeling was justified because we had not only lost a loved one, but we had also lost someone who had managed the entire house and a lot of aspects of our individual lives. Deep within, we all wondered how we would move on in life without her.

For the first few weeks, each cupboard in the kitchen spooked me. There were so many boxes and bags that contained stuff I couldn’t recognize. I tried to decrypt the contents through touch, smell, taste and even neighbors advice but I wasn’t 100% successful.  I admit that I ended up trashing somethings which days later, I realized were very important. I washed somethings that water should never have touched. For now, I have given up and and left a few things for the next round of decryption. I figured it would be nice for Toyna and Yog to inherit some mysteries as well.

After months, we have the house more or less functional at half its previous efficiency. Sadly, it is not only the stock of goods, the processes and the humans that are performing at half productivity; the machines of our house also seem to be missing Amma dearly. All of them seem to be breaking down one after another, in a vain attempt to indicate that they need better handling. In spite of multiple followups with service technicians, the smoke chimney, inverter and  a washing machine still don’t work, today.

What does all of it mean? Where is the silver lining to these dark clouds?

I see the silver lining in the fact that we have been through 3 months already. We are able to eat decent food, sleep for a couple of hours at night and manage school, work and household chores without a nervous breakdown. We are not doing as well as we were before, but with practice and commitment we will get there one day.

What I have learnt through this experience is that when life seems too scary like my kitchen cupboards, we should not panic. As long as we pick up one box in one cupboard at a time, we will, one day, have the kitchen (aka our life) organized and functional.

In normal circumstances, we always work with goals and deadlines in mind. I have learnt that under extreme circumstances when we don’t even know where to start, we should never think about the end result and a deadline to achieve the same. When the end result seems so far, thinking about it doesn’t help at all. As long as we pick one box in one cupboard, each day, we will have our life sorted out some day. Till then, whenever we miss the right oil or the right pickle in our food, we try and replace it with the love of the family who is still sitting down together on the table.

That’s my silver lining and I hope it helps those who are or have been through a similar loss like ours. Feel free to share your silver lining.

We love knowing we will leave

Its been more than a month since we lost a loved one. They say time is the best healer. I think more than time itself, it was the family that came together to stand by us, who saved us from getting lost in this time. The last few of this family, closest of all, left a few days back to get back to their own lives, leaving us officially on our own.

Few days back, I took the long airport ride to see them off on their journey to the other side of the planet. The fact that it would be months before we meet again, kept rubbing in, throughout the journey. It was a rainy night. Rain had drenched the streets, the cars, the entire night. It was pretty similar to how I felt too, drenched in emotions. My childish mind constantly asked, “Why do they have to go? Why can’t they stay?” The wipers of the car, went back and forth like a finger pointing at me constantly telling me, “No! They cannot stay! No! My wish could not be granted!” I wished the wipers would stop. I wished it would stop raining. I wished they hadn’t had to go.

With time, nothing changed except my own emotions. Slowly anger gave way to introspection. I wondered why I was feeling so angry inside. I have had family travel miles away, for years together, many time before. I have never felt so emotionally drained before. Why today? The answer was simple. I was feeling this way because I did not want loved ones to leave me either through death or through our life choices. While we cannot control death, we definitely have a control on our choices. Even though we control choices of life, we still choose to stay away from family. We keep calling each other, saying we miss each other, but then we still continue to live far. Why do we do that? Why? What  are we waiting for to change our choices? Wasn’t one meeting with death enough to change our mind?

I gasped, trying to breathe. Thankfully my six year old niece, sitting on my lap was talking about dinosaurs and earthquakes. My gasp went unnoticed amidst her chatter. The sound of the rain slamming the car also did its part. I wanted to curl up, hug my knees and cry loudly. I had not cried like this even when death visited us. But now, my anger was leading to frustration and frustration to a need for letting go. I let go and silent tears dripped down my cheeks. My niece did not notice. She was now talking about her Grandmother and God. It was one of the rare days that I felt that life is unfair. I kept asking, “Why do we love people knowing they will leave us one day?”

Days later, as I write this blog, I don’t feel like crying anymore. I guess Time did help me in this case. With the support of time, I have learnt to love and miss loved ones without being sad. I have accepted that loving someone does not necessarily mean that we will live together forever. Sometimes we will drift across continents and sometimes across lives. I believe, if we have loved someone truly, we are sure to meet again in some form at some time. Till such time, I continue to spend time in prayer because it is prayer that helps me experience the love of those who have been distanced from me.

Is Dying Good for Health?

Last night, bedtime story for Yog went in a strange direction. I was telling Yog about his Grandmother, “Bamma” and how much she loved him.

Yog (for the nth time): Why Bamma died?

Mama: Because she was not feeling well.

Yog: Is Dying good for health?

Mama silent for a long time. I had no answer.

Yog: Where did Bamma go?

Mama: Bamma went to stay with God.

Yog: God did not died Bamma?

Mama again silent for a long time. We die and go to God. When we die with God, where do we go?

Till date, Yogs questions have been black and white. Is Apple good for health? Are chocolates bad for health? Is water good for health? Is hitting bad manners? Till now, I have been able to answer most questions without thinking much. But as Yog and me deal with our first encounter of death, Yogs questions are bordering on grey. I honestly don’t have answers to these questions. So, for now, Yog is happy accepting my silent tears as answers.

P.S. – I have received multiple questions on how the children are handling the physical loss. Yog has not cried so far thinking about Bamma. I think, he is more logical and far sighted than I am. He is more capable of handling the dimensions of time and space (or rather lack of them). His questions are not never directed towards life. He is only trying to understand death or more appropriately, what we adults, perceive as death.

Essence of Life is Life Itself

The most important thing about life is “life” itself. When life goes out of the system, there is nothing left. Unfortunately, most people, including me, forget this basic principle and tend to give importance to a lot of ancillary things like food, clothes, and relationships. In the process of gathering these ancillary distractions we forget this basic essence of life.

Over the years, I have heard these words from a number of Gurus and spiritual books . Till some days ago, I believed that I understood these words. However, the true meaning of these words hit me a few days back when I lost my second mother, “Amma” to an organ transplant gone horribly wrong. I vividly remember the hospital room with numerous machines ticking around her, keeping her body alive. The difference between body and soul has never been more stark to me, as it was in that moment. Her body was still warm. It was still breathing. It was still pumping blood, but the soul had already departed. Throughout the coming days, I felt her soul near me, smiling at me and sometimes even hugging me. Even today, I catch myself looking forward to talking to her, watching her play with children or cooking food in the kitchen. I feel her warm presence like a halo around me, still keeping all of us safe. Still saying, “Don’t worry Shilpa! I am here! Everything will be all right!”

I know close family worries about me, and the responsibilities I have on my shoulders, now. But honestly, I don’t worry as much about what food we will eat or whether I will be able to keep the house clean. I don’t worry about these ancillary things because Amma, even in her last breath left me this wonderful lesson that the most important thing about life is “life” itself. As long as I am alive, I will sort out the house one day. One day, I will learn to cook like her. One day, I will be able to manage relationships like her. One day, I will meet her again.

Till then, I will continue to thank God for sending Amma in my life and for keeping life breathing inside me. I also thank the many full of life, family members who have been around us since that fateful moment. They constantly remind me on how to live life, even when there is nothing but an empty road that I see ahead of me, for now.

 

P.S – There are innumerable emotions right now brimming inside me. I am sure there will many more thoughts that will pour forward in the coming days.

Toyna drew this drawing of Amma maybe two years ago.

Choices of Death

grave

Scene 1

Prithvi lay still on the floor. His body was stone cold and draped in white. His six year old daughter, Santoshi, stood at his feet, trying to make out the expression on his face. Was Dad happy or was he sad at leaving her? She stared hard for a while and then bent down to touch his feet. This was her last memory of her dad.

Santoshi spent the next 25 years of her life blaming her dad for leaving her when he did. Ever since that day when she touched her father the last time, life had lost all hope for Santoshi. School was full of ominous strangers and home was full of dark shadows. Men, who till few months back were considered family, were now constantly fleecing her family for money, sexual favors and property. Most nights Santoshi cried herself to sleep, cursing her father for not trying hard enough to live for her, for her family. In her childish memory, the only fact that was worth remembering was that her Dad did not love her enough. That is why he did not try hard enough to live for her. He did not try hard enough to beat a common disease like Diabetes. He felt it easier to indulge in the moment and leave her alone on this planet. Prithvi was 45 when he died out of the choices he had made in his life. He left behind 3 daughters, a wife and his 75 year old mother.

Scene 2

It was the 1st of January. But more importantly it was Yashs 24th birthday. The joy of New Year coupled with his Birthday always ensured that Yashs birthday was a night long party bash. As always, Yash spent his Birthday Eve partying with friends till late in the night. They drank, danced and laughed like there was no tomorrow. This year was extra special. He had got a job in his dream company – Infosys and he has also proposed to his lady love. It was now only a matter of few years before he could settle down with her. As the music blasted into the year and the countdown for the New Year began, he made a resolution in his heart to clear all the loans his father had taken for his education. In just one year, he was sure he could turn the fate of his family around. As the party ended, Yashs friend offered to drop him home on his bike. Yash readily agreed. It also gave him the opportunity to continue the party from his home. This was the good life.

It was 3 AM in the night when the phone rang at Allangudi village in the interiors of Tamil Nadu, at Yashs parents home. The tired voice on the line informed Yashs Father that their son had met with a road accident. His death had been painless and instantaneous owing to a head injury. They were requested to come to Chennai to collect the body. Yash was 24 years, 1 hour and 2 minutes old when he died out of the choices he had made in his life. He left behind his mother, father and a Girlfriend.

Scene 3

Guru had a following of close to 300 devotees. Most devotees came from the local villages of Punjab. Ranjit, one of the followers of the Guru, had even constructed a small temple in the name of the Guru in Patiala. Guru was thankful for the love and devotion of his followers but he knew, in his heart, that there was a bigger calling for him. One cold January morning, he called up his father and informed him that he had decided to shed his current physical form on 31st May of the same year. He thanked his father for all that he had done for him and as a final gesture, requested his father to return his body to his mother, after his death.

And so it was. On the 31st day of May, Guru discarded the body that he had been living in, thus far. Guru was ageless when he left this world out of his choice. He left behind 300 followers who grew to seven lakh followers over the course of the next 7 years. The followers still claim that Guru is among them and guides them for direction whenever they feel lost.

——————————————

We all have to die one day. We do not have a choice in that. What we can choose is the way we live our life. Choices on how we live, to a large extent, decide not only how we die but also who we leave behind after our death.

 

P.S. All three scenes are based on true stories. The names and facts have been changed as a token of respect for the departed souls.