I have had this feeling of not doing enough for my parents. For the longest time after their death, I suffered from self doubts, from what-ifs. It is a terrible way to live. At long last I have realized how hard I tried with all that was within my power. The Covid outbreak in India in the months of May, June of 2021, the political leaders, the complete breakdown of infrastructure are all the reasons ma and baba died. Along with tens of thousands of families, we lost our dearest ones.
After they died, I felt I did not do anything to honor their memories. Guilt, self doubt, feeling of inadequacy kept me miserable for many, many months compounded by the grief of losing them.
I hoped to gather people together to hold a memorial service of some kind to remember the two people who were such huge part of my life who suddenly ceased to exist physically when I finally went back to Kolkata. Due to the shortness of my visit and the labyrinthine process of settling affairs, I ran out of time. There was no formal memorial service for them. Yet, as I look back on my short stay, I realize I had the best form of ‘remembrance’ with the people who knew them the best. Each morning as I sat on a dining room chair sipping my first cup of coffee, Gouri and Breshpati joined me with their steaming cups of tea. The first day they talked about the trauma of dealing with their deaths. I asked them to narrate happy memories instead since I have lived their last days many, many times in my head. And so they did. After the first day, we sat together each morning laughing hysterically as we talked about the happy memories of their everyday lives caring for my parents. We talked about how baba tricked ma, or how ma yelled at baba for being a glutton or their interaction with Khushi, or the fun memories they created with other members of our extended family. We talked about their work to help the vulnerable in their community.
I went to visit my uncle and cousins. In each visit we laughed till we had tears in our eyes at the life time of happy memories of ma and baba. It was not all joyful, of course. We veered dangerously close to sad memories of helplessness during the Covid days but we quickly detoured back to happier times.
I realized this kind of organic retelling of memories and laughing (and crying) was so much better than organizing a formal get together to force everyone to talk about them. In this way, in installments perhaps, I celebrated the lives of ma and baba instead of mourning their deaths. I mourned them for all this time. Back in their city and my city where they gave me life and opportunities, where they made and nurtured relationships, loved and cared for others, I celebrated their lives with people who celebrated them with me. I came back with a sense of fulfillment. Grief still orbits my heart, but it has given me space to live, laugh, dance, feel joy.