He has no one..


This post will be one of the hardest to write, but write I must or else I will explode in pain.

A few men came in to our house to take baba’s body to the crematorium. Since he was still mildly covid positive, the Kolkata Municipality, which takes charge of such situations, took his body for last rites. I was on video as they prepared him and started taking him down. I heard one man say to the other, “So sad, he has nobody around.”

That hit me like a brick. He has so many people who love him. Not only his daughter but extended family, friends in social media. His friends constantly reached out to me, organized help, was ready to do anything for him. His nieces and nephews, which include my friends, were coordinating oxygen refills, organizing cash when needed. In his home, he was cared for by Gouri and Mashi who have cared for him for many years. Even at the hospital he called out for Gouri. Gouri was standing right by him when they took him. He has people. Nobody could be there with him at the end but he did not have much consciousness to acknowledge the absence according to his caregiver. He became drowsy and went away gently like ma.

Those words of the municipality workers hurt. They haunt me still when I think about it. This Covid has caused so much devastation. I think being alone at the time of one’s last breath and helpless daughter/s or son/s (many, many like me all over the world) looking on via video are some of the most heart-rending consequences of this disease.

Baba


Baba liked to get things done. He was an organizer. He liked to take care of banking, paying bills, buying the freshest fish, the best vegetable. Once he organized everything and made sure all under his care were comfortable, he looked around with a beaming, satisfied smile. He was a fixer of things. If something needed to get fixed, he would get it fixed. And he loved animals. He loved them with all his heart. He made sure the stray dogs in his neighborhood had food and vet care when they needed it. Going out with him was a challenge as he was the pied piper of Kolkata. His brood of four legged friends surrounded us trying to give hugs and kisses, while demanding biscuits of course. Baba would always go to the local pan shop, buy packets of biscuits, distribute them evenly before going on his way. The same protocol was followed when he came back home.

Baba died a few hours ago. He put up a valiant fight against Covid 19, but Covid won. After ma’s death 9 days ago, I dreaded breaking the news to baba. His own health was so fragile that I decided not to give him the news. I hoped he would recover from this disease and I will break the news gently when he could handle it.

Well I don’t have to any more. He went away to join her and continue the constant bickering that was left incomplete in this life. I heard that the day they were going to the hospital, ma was scared. He was sick himself, but he sat by her and stroked her arms saying not to be afraid, he will be there with her.

I wonder if she was afraid on her own, and he knew she needed him to be with her. I want to believe they are together, fighting, bickering but still comfortable in each other’s company.

And just like that, within a span of 9 days, I am an orphan who could not be there to hold their hands for the last time.

Guilt


The seven stages of grief elude me. Is guilt one of them? If it is then I have arrived there. I am at the phase where I am questioning myself if I could have saved ma if I had made different decisions? Am I even that powerful or that thought is pure hubris? A couple of friends had given different suggestions of hospitals, I chose one and both my parents were admitted there. There was and continues to be a huge shortage of hospital beds along with ICUs, so I opted for one where 2 beds were available and ICU option. The hospital was horrible and today the government closed it down as they were fleecing people without providing service.

Did ma die due to their negligence? Is that kind of thought useful? I don’t know. I keep telling myself I made a decision and I paid a steep price for it. It is on me. Ma always said “Do your best because that is the best you can do.” That was her mantra. That mantra is ingrained in my brain and I tell my children the exact same thing. Ma knows I did my best with the information and ability I had at the time, being thousands of miles away. And if she died because of my decision of choosing that hospital, I hope she knows how helpless I was and sees my love and desperation to save her and baba.

Torn


According to Covid19 healthdata.org, the projection of death and devastation in India is dire. It is heartbreaking, scary, nightmarish. A friend wrote on Facebook that the sirens of ambulance have become part of normal routine in life. The New Delhi bureau chief of New York times wrote south Delhi, where his residence is, has an eerie hush. The silence of the bustling capital of India is broken by sirens of ambulance. And birdsong. My father refuses to watch news anymore, focusing on cricket, movies and music instead to preserve his sanity. My mother is glued to television that is churning out grim projections of the mayhem to come. I can not focus on anything else in my life here in United States – not work, not books, not my family. Of course, life goes on and I have to continue to do my part to live through this but my heart is with the people of my country. Almost every day I get news of friends and acquaintances getting infected. Today a relative died of Covid. My parents have had their first vaccine and are waiting for the election to end so they can get their second shot. Fingers crossed. Temporary crematorium grounds are being created to burn the bodies that are piling up. The fires are constantly burning as bodies pile up.

We saw similar situation in United States just a few months ago. However, my adopted country is slowly recovering. Seeing friends and acquaintances getting their vaccines and gradually venturing out is heartening. For people who do not have family overseas, this is close to the end of a hellish nightmare. For us, Indian Americans, it is a conflicted emotion. We are relieved at our personal safety and that of our friends and family here, yet we are losing sleep over our birth country feeling utterly helpless.

Apart from donating money to organizations that are on the ground helping the sick in India, I am trying to keep despair at bay and sending positive energy that this deadly virus abates, people recover, the exhausted medical professionals get rest and pace of vaccination increases.

Having said that, hearing my friends and family getting infected is difficult. Folks tell me to stay positive and focus on the good. I can not freaking find the good right now!!

If you can, please donate to an organization of your choice who is helping in Covid relief in our devastated country. Of course, do your research on the organization first. 🙏🏽

Jealousy strikes


The baser instict is bubbling up within me. The green eyed monster is raising its ugly head in the inner recesses of my heart. I can feel its presence every time a relatively young, healthy person posts a photo of himself/herself getting a Covid vaccination shot. The good in me is preaching patience, perseverence, waiting for my turn at getting vaccinated, the evil in me is whispering “jump the line, look s/he did, so why not you? Once you get your vaccination you can get on that plane and go see your parents. Do it.”

I am having a difficult time suppressing the jealousy. The lure of seeing my parents is so great yet I know I will not jump the line. The rule follower in me will continue to follow the rules. And I will continue to be jealous of all those who are getting the vaccine and planning to go see their loved ones or going back to work…..like educating our children. I know, I know they should be ahead in line but I will continue to be…..wistful. Now, that’s a better word than jealousy.

That is it. This blog is about vaccination envy. 🙄

There are 3 things that are good right now.


Everything seems sad at this time. If I read this blog in about 5 years, I will most likely (hopefully) be in a happier state of mind. I am writing this blog for that future ‘happy’ me. Here are some things to juggle your memory ‘future happy me’:

We are in the middle of a pandemic.

I am the only one going to work for limited hours right now, the others are going to school, working from home.

200,000 people in America died from Covid 19 thus far.

RBG died and it looks like Trump administration will fill the Supreme Court vacancy with a conservative judge.

I can not go home.

But 3 things are going well for me right now.

On the suggestion of a friend, I started watching Mandalorian on Disney plus and I love it. I go through all day with the hope of watching one episode at night with Ryan. I love seeing baby Yoda.

The second show that is now a bright spot in my life is The Call of Midwife. Each episode brings forth different characters in 1950’s England, dealing with a harsh life, childbirth, loneliness and yet the young midwives and nurses in Nonnatas house go out everyday caring for the vulnerable.

The third thing that I look forward to these days is Abir Mukherjee’s Death in the East. Sam Wyndham is in Devraha Swami’s ashram in Jatinga, Assam. He has voluntarily come here to treat his opium addiction. On his way to the Ashram he thinks he saw a man from his past, 1905 to be precise when he was a young constable involved in solving the murder of Bessie Drummond. Mukherjee has done it again.

Ps: I wrote this blog a while ago when there were 200,000 death is USA. Now we are about to cross 400,000 grim milestone. I have long finished the book I mention and also the 2 shows. Some worries remain – my anxiety for my parents, my family catching the virus, despondency for no one specific reason. However, the vaccine is being administered. Hopefully, we can get vaccinated in the coming months and all the procedures for going to Kolkata will either be lifted or at least relaxed so I can go home.

Pandemic discussions


At the beginning of pandemic, we spent more time together than we do now. When work and schools closed, when Sahana returned home from her junior year abroad, we naively thought the crisis was going to be over soon. We played board games, cooked, listened to music and even danced together once in a while. Then the pandemic and isolation dragged on and we slowly retreated into our rooms, our books/emails/trainings/school work…… ourselves. Whenever possible though, we still try to eat a meal together or even if we were not eating we come out of our respective rooms to gather around. And we have conversations on several topics. Without sharing our private conversations, I thought it might be fun to document the topics that feature regularly as we break bread during pandemic or just sit together in our living room. This post will also be a reminder of 15 year old Ryan’s and 21 year old Sahana’s topics of interest at their respective ages. This is what we converse about (or the two siblings discuss, Sean and I mainly listen).

Stability of Y chromosomes…

Matrilineal DNA and height…

World history. A lot of world history. Here is a debate that Ryan wants to have with the world – the great wall of China is a reason for Western imperialism. Have a go at it. It is an ongoing debate in our household, no resolution has been reached.

Paradise lost. And Milton…

Politics, Donald Trump, democrats, republicans…

Race, equity, inclusiveness. A lot, I mean a real lot of conversations on this topic…

“In one of my anthro classes, we learnt….” some esoteric theory from Sahana about anthropology (I admit I tuned out sometimes).

More chromosome talk, DNA, heredity…

Astronomy….lot of discussions about astronomy, which includes getting energy from black hole, anti matter and other topics which escape me..

Food, recipe – a whole lot of food and recipe discussion…

Tik tok – l am made to watch cat and dog videos by both siblings on this forum. They make me laugh.

Pop culture, artists new and old…

Humanitarian assistance work – Sean loves to talk about this topic. I wonder why?

“When I traveled in Europe………” Sahana often begins her story of adventure or her lecture about a certain sight she saw or experience she had in Europe during her solo trip there last year. Ryan rolls his eyes…

Library classes…..and yes, customer experiences..

Climate change…

How long is human race going to last…

How is Ryan still single despite being so good looking (according to him) and our collective eye rolls.

There are other topics which I don’t recall now….

The senior in college who will graduate with double major in English and Anthropology has a LOT of facts/thoughts/knowledge to share. And she shares them freely, primarily to educate her brother but also her parents.

The sophomore in high school is VERY interested in world history, heredity, time travel, animals, politics, slapstick comedy, tik tok and conspiracy theories. He also has the compulsive desire to share his thoughts on those subjects and more. It almost bothers him physically if he can not verbalize his thoughts. He can not seem to hold his thoughts for he fears they will be gone from his head and how awful will that be? If we interrupt his monologs on Ghengis Khan or time travel or….any other topic of interest he says (almost vehemently) “Please…let me talk!”

I realize now that in life before pandemic, I got my kids in installments after they left their toddlerhood. There were school, work, extra curricular activities, sports, dinner, homework, sleep. We came together on weekends for occasional chats however most weekends were taken up with sports, music, homework and then getting ready for the following week. Most of our meaningful conversations happened during car rides from point A to point B. Thinking back on how busy our life was exhausts me. During the pandemic and enforced isolation when we were locked together without sports, activities, regular school, I got to peek into my children’s thoughts and interests. And I realized that while I was not looking their interests, depth of perception and comprehension, their ability to think critically, their debating prowess and ability to cite sources have all changed. They are adults…well, almost, and capable of holding stimulating conversations. This realization is bitter sweet (mostly sweet because they are interesting to listen to when I pay attention).

There is nothing positive about this pandemic however if I have to see a silver lining in all this, I would say I got this opportunity to ‘see’ and ‘hear ‘ my children without distraction. I got the time. A lot of it.

Catching a sunrise.


I wanted to catch a sunrise from the balcony of our ocean front hotel room. I did not set any alarms to wake up at the time of sunrise, thinking my body will wake up in anticipation. It did, except it woke up just 10 minutes late. I saw Sahana sitting on the balcony, soft light of the morning sun gently illuminating her beautiful face. She turned her bright, happy smile towards me “I watched the sun rise!” This is what I got to see.

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Reflected

The sun had risen just above the horizon and the golden ball was reflected over the water. I missed sunrise by just 10 minutes. I consoled myself thinking it was the first morning of our last-minute beach vacation. We still had 5 more mornings to catch a sunrise.

The pandemic played havoc with our plans of going to India in May and Sahana’s move to college for her senior year. As each plan fell through, we shed a few tears and then hoped that that this year will pass, life will resume, perhaps in a reimagined way. We will see our loved ones in different parts of the world. Our children will go back to in person learning in a safe, virus free environment. Since Sean and I had both taken leave for a week to move Sahana in to her apartment in college (that plan fell through), we decided to take the time to replenish our reserves of patience, hope, resilience. We splurged and booked an ocean front room with a kitchenette. If I felt too anxious to go among people, I could simply sit on the balcony and count waves. Our previous beach vacation at the beginning of July was anxiety provoking for me. I wrote about it in “Kissing in the time of Corona”.

The day I missed my sunrise, we walked by the bay to catch the sun set. We were not disappointed. Nature, perhaps, knew that our soul needed some resuscitation and it suffused us with its glory.

The second day I missed the sunrise by 15 minutes. Why did I not set an alarm you ask? That is a good question. I guess I trusted my innate clock yet again.

My eyes opened on the third day when it was pitch dark in the room. I glanced at the clock to see the time. It was 6:05 am. The sun was supposed to rise at 6:10 am. I sat right up and rushed to the balcony. I open the door with care so as not to wake the rest of the family. Dense fog over the ocean dashed my hopes of seeing a radiant sunrise. Crestfallen, I went back to bed and slept till 8 am. I woke up to a sun kissed day and glistening sand. Fog robbed me of my sunrise but then the sun burnt away the fog to gift the ocean worshipers a gorgeous beach day.

Finally I viewed the glory on our penultimate day at the beach. Again, my biological clock woke me up. I looked at the time, whispered to Sahana if she wanted to view sunrise. She grunted something inaudible. The boys had no desire to chase sunrise, so I did not bother calling them. I tiptoed out to the balcony with my phone and witnessed the ball of fire making its journey to my part of the world. I found my religion in its splendor.

Sun rise

My phone camera, of course, does not do any justice to the ephemeral beauty of sun rising over the ocean but the memory of that resplendent dawn is captured in my heart. This is simply a fragment of what I saw.

Life was at bay while I looked at the expanse of the ocean for 6 days, while my family kayaked in the still waters of the bay and I pulled my chair in the water soaking in the stillness and serenity in my soul. Life was at bay when we delighted in the sightings of wild ponies and walked the marshy lands to see unknown (to me) birds and snowy egrets, while we stopped at unexplored ice cream shops to taste homemade ice creams, while we ordered crab imperial and legs of snow crabs. The question “Do you have your mask on?” every time we left our hotel and seeing masked people on the road reminded us we were living through a pandemic. Those 6 days, from the safety of my balcony and sometimes from empty stretches of the beach, I simply sat and stared at the ocean. The hypnotizing crashing of waves, the endlessness of the ocean, the sand between my toes, the laughter of children playing on the beach, the comfort of a book in my hand and the closeness of my husband and children made me completely happy. The feeling of happiness was a conscious realization really. I said to Sean, somewhat bewildered, “I feel happy.” In these 5 or 6 months, I had forgotten how it felt to be completely happy.

We were masked for most part of our vacation. We cooked our meals and got take outs for some dinners. We never played miniature golf, which is our constant (apart from sun and sand) when we go to the beach. Yet, we found peace. Most importantly, perhaps, we filled up our reserves of hope that this phase of our lives too shall pass. We will reunite with humankind instead of going the other way, fearing contamination from my fellow human.

One day…..

In the meantime, I will look back to this memory for sustenance on a dark and gloomy day.

As we reopen..


How are you feeling as we take tentative steps towards reopening? I feel, not nervous, but all of a sudden, overwhelmed. We have been in isolation since March 13th, 2020. I write this blog today on June 24th at 9:12 am. I just read some work related documents that I need to remember to do my job effectively. I will go back in a couple of days for a few hours. Truth be told, I am really looking forward to going back. On the other hand, I am apprehensive if my brain, which processed the ramifications of the pandemic for all these months and dealt with the roller coaster of emotions that I was feeling, will be able to handle the myriad of work related and real life related information that now it needs to not only process but remember. I read my emails requiring me to remember information on various aspects of my job and I quickly gloss over. I have started compartmentalizing on what I need to know NOW. I have created folders and sub folders to save the emails, after glancing through them, and plan to go back to refer in a ‘need to know’ basis. I am being kind to myself and hope you are too. How are you dealing with the influx of information that is, all of a sudden, pouring in?

On the home front too, information has started rushing in. My daughter’s college finally gave us their decision that they will open classes for fall semester according to plan. We were in a limbo as to whether she should get ready to furnish the apartment that she leased near campus or consider staying at home if classes went online. Now she is scrambling to find out who has a spare bed, table, chair, dresser and all that a poor student needs to get by for a year. As we make lists for all that she will need, my mama heart worries a bit about her catching the virus far away from home. I hear myself repeatedly talking about hand hygiene and social distancing. She is a responsible person and I know she will try her best. But still….

My son decided to take an intensive Chemistry class over the summer but that conflicted with his swim training. Thanks to the coaches, his schedule got adjusted, which meant ensuring he gets to his practice at 6 am in the morning. I am grateful to have a partner who is still staying at home and silently doing all he can to ease our transition back into life outside the realm of our home. He chooses to get up at the wake of dawn to take Ryan to his morning swim practice so I don’t have to.

All these changes are positive. All these show cautious yet forward progression towards life as we knew it before Covid 19 ravaged the world. My sedentary and anxious brain needs a little transition time, I guess, to function at its full capacity. We are all in the same situation, we all have to take the time we need to get back to being as effective/functional/productive as we were before the pestilence knocked us out of our orbit. We need to be mindful of each other’s unique position in this transition and show as much kindness as we expect to be shown.

“About” then and “about” now.


This is what I wrote “About” the blog when I tentatively ventured into blogging about 9 years ago. Ryan was about 5 and Sahana almost 11. This blog started as a parenting journal.

Hello, hello!

I am primarily a mommy. Staying at home, holding the fort. I am the cook, cleaner, chauffeur, educator, therapist, confidante, tutor….you get the picture. I like to read – a lot. But lately, haven’t had much time. The blogs here will mainly be about what mommy thinks. Many of you moms probably can relate. Some of the blogs may be about the books I have read, or some funny observations. It is not going to be profound or very thought provoking…sorry. These days, I feel like I am incapable of deep thoughts. My mind is constantly jumping to the next chore that I have to do before the day is done. But it sure is fun to have this space to come and pen down some thoughts whenever I have time.

And how has my “About” changed?

I am still primarily a mommy. Instructor and Research specialist at our county library. I cook sometimes, rarely clean, part time chauffeur only till Sahana comes home from college, not an educator, part time therapist, part time confidante and not a tutor. Do you get the picture? I still like to read .. a lot. However, lately I have not had time. Note, I replace ‘but’ with ‘however’ because a dear friend told me she was replacing the ‘buts’ from her life. I choose to do the same. Although, I still read a lot, I have not really written any blog about books (psst..that is hard work).The new blogs will still be about what mommy thinks because I thought real hard about who I am and I do believe I am first and foremost a mom. I also love the mommy aspect of myself the most. I don’t think moms with young children can relate to my blogs anymore because the busiest part of my mommy life is behind me. There is a possibility, though, that moms of older, almost grown up children may still nod their heads with what I write? Although as kids got older, I wrote about them less and less to give them their privacy. Their childhood, or at least a part of it, however, is documented in these blogs for them to peruse when they are older. I am still incapable of deep, thought provoking blogs because I have come to the realization that I lack the ability to pen down complex thoughts. Well, let’s be honest. I don’t think my mind can analyze complex thoughts. The blog are still simplistic and I like them that way. My mind still jumps from one thing to the next and constant worry about my parents living in the other part of the world is omnipresent in my conscience. Covid 19 has given me some time and opportunity to think what I would like to do as I carry on with my life. I realized I still enjoy writing. I find this a way to reach out to people. It still is fun to come to this space and continue to write down my thoughts. I even paid and upgraded my blog site, yet I do not know what purpose that will serve. I do not get much traffic to my blog. I figured, I will be motivated to write more if I made a financial commitment. If I write, I will stay away from all the unpleasantness that seems to have taken over our world.

I will say one thing before I end this blog though. There has been a significant change in my life since I started this blog. I was almost friendless 9 years ago since I was a relatively new transplant in a new country and on top of that I am an introvert. In the span of these 9 years, I have found friends who have become my adopted family in my adopted land. You know who you are. Thank you!