Graduation


I did not feel an emptiness in my heart when the black and yellow school bus swallowed my 5 year old Sahana to take her to her first day of kindergarten. I must admit I felt a sense of relief instead of sadness at the separation. I was relieved because little Sahana could not wait to get to kindergarten and start a new life in a new country. We had just moved to United States right before she started kindergarten. She was trying to understand and get acclimated to her new environment and she was looking forward to making friends in school. After kindergarten, there were other transitions – finishing elementary, moving on to middle school and then high school. High school years passed in the blink of an eye and a beautiful morning dawned for her high school graduation. She got admission to the college she wanted to attend.

Right before she went off to college, I had pangs of separation, of course. However, seeing her eagerness to experience college made me happy. She could not wait to leave home. And I was simply in awe of this young woman who was ready to move on and embrace a bigger universe.

We drove her to her college, got her settled in her dorm room and then it was time to say goodbye. We all went down the stairs of her dorm together. She stood on the pavement as we got in our car and started to drive away. I looked back to see her lone self standing on that pavement waving us good bye. I felt this immeasurable emptiness in my heart then as she got smaller and smaller in our rear view mirror till we turned a corner and we couldn’t see her anymore.

Four years have passed since then. In her junior year she waved us goodbye at the airport and boarded a flight for Madrid, Spain to spend her junior year abroad. While I was sad to see her go I was, however, more excited for all the adventures that awaited her out there. And adventures she had, the first being losing her luggage after she landed in Madrid. She arrived but her luggage did not. That unpleasant experience, thankfully, was followed by mostly fantastic experiences, knowledge, travel and friendships.

Covid 19 struck when she was in her 7th month in Madrid. She had to pack within 2 days to board a flight home. Her senior year in college was spent at home, in her room, taking classes via Zoom. She handled everything with mostly good spirits, hoping she would be able to graduate in person. That did not turn out the way she had hoped.

But today is the culmination of all her hard work and her resilience after being robbed of a senior year experience. Today she graduates with a college degree, magna cum laude in both her majors, with big dreams to give back to the world that has given her so much. My heart explodes with pride, love and joy as this young woman emerges in the world with so much potential.

Congratulations Sahana!

My big fat Bengali family is partying hard somewhere…


Elizabeth Kubler Roth On Death and Dying has written, “The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”

I will take time off from my usual grief journal and write about a scenario which could be happening behind the veil, who knows? My aunt died yesterday in her sleep. My father died a few hours ago. The death march in my family continues. Anyway, I think all my family members over the years who have said sayonara are having a raucous get together somewhere without us who are still limited in our physical being. Although I was an only child, I grew up in a loud, boisterous family with grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins. And when we got together the decibel level generally reached an unacceptable level for neighbors. In a middle class Bengali family, there was always a lot of food, sweets, snacks along with more than a generous amount of teasing, shouting, loud conversations about who can eat how much and laughter. My aunts did the cooking, my mother held court in a semi languishing posture because she was self proclaimed lazy. She provided the entertainment.

I think all my departed family is together now, partying hard…..somewhere.. There is the same raucousness, same loud teasing, same laughter. Food? I don’t know.

Sahana was waiting for her final grade in college. She was on tenterhooks because this grade was going to determine if she would graduate with magna cum laude. Well, she did. Because of the tragedy in our family, her achievements have not been celebrated like they should have been but she knows we are immensely proud of her. When she found out she will graduate with a magna cum laude, she said, “Oh mom! Can you imagine how much bragging didiya is doing up there to her family? Oh she will be obnoxious about it. She was always so proud of my academic achievements and talked about it to anyone who would listen.” When she said this, dadai was still breathing. But I am sure baba will look on with his usual beaming face as ma tells everyone how brilliant Sahana is.

It was a happy vision – ma with her youthful energy which she had lost towards the end, talking to her siblings, aunt and parents about her grand daughter’s achievements as her siblings try to pretend that they are as interested in it as she is. 🙂

I wrote this before baba joined them. Now everyone is welcoming him into the party.

“Arre Gautam, esho esho.”