Do I want them or not?

As I did a puja for my parents after their death, the priest explained that I am releasing them from the worries of this world. As a daughter, I am telling their soul that their watch (over me) has ended, the priest explained. Go in peace, I told them as their souls supposedly merged with water. We come from water and we become one with water when the soul leaves the vessel, our body. Whether that is true or not I don’t know but the idea is beautiful. After a lifetime of watching over me, they were released from the responsibility. It will be 2 years in May. I truly spend my every morning with them before I begin my day. When they were alive, my day began with either a message with them or a phone call. A quick message or a quick phone call, but some connection nonetheless. Even today, my days begin with a connection with them. A silent communication or remembrance but a connection nonetheless.

People say they will always watch over you. Or they are blessing you and loving you from far. While I want their blessing and love throughout my lifetime, I don’t want them watching over me. I want them to be free of me. I don’t want them to witness my grief. I don’t want them to see the hollowness or the eyes that remain sad no matter how much I try. Parents don’t live forever, that is the absolute truth. No one lives for ever. More than the deaths, it was the cruelty of it. It was how they went. I could not be there. I did not even know where their bodies were taken to be cremated. They did not receive the last rites. They, along with thousand other Covid patients in India, were deprived of the honor that the dead receive. I am devastated about their death and I am devasted how it happened. The question ‘why’ that I often ask the universe is not necessarily why they died. We will all die. The ‘why’ is more for the way they were taken, without the comfort of them knowing I was with them.

Anyway, I digress. I was saying that I don’t want them watching over me because they should be free now. But when their grandkids achieve something, my first thought is how proud they would have been. I hope, then, that they are watching and beaming like they used to. Sahana graduated from college right after their death. Ryan learnt to drive, Sahana got jobs, she bought a car, Ryan became captain, he got into college. After each achievement I said to them, “Are you watching? Do you see that your grandkids are growing up? Since they were born, you two lived for them. You cherished each phone call, each laughter, each joke. When they came to visit, you bought all the toys from the toy store and all the books from the book store. Do you see how they are growing up and becoming decent human beings? You would have been proud of them. You would pick up the phone and announce to the entire extended family in Kolkata how great your two grandkids are. You would tell your friends and post on your social media. You would shout from the rooftop.”

I don’t want them to be witnesses of my sorrow. I want them to be free from that. I do, however, want them watching their grandchildren as they grow. I don’t want them to miss out on this joy. I feel like they missed out being part of the lives of their most loved people. So I am in two minds – do I want their watch to end or do I want them to watch over us?



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.

Planted a flower

My mother died of Covid on Mother’s Day. I saw her on a video call at the hospital and wished her happy Mother’s day in the morning. She wished me happy Mother’s day back. Then as they put the oxygen mask back on her, she said she was going to spend some time in her sister’s house and then go home. With that, she closed her eyes to rest. I take comfort in the thought that she died thinking she was in her sister’s house, comfortable. She had no visible discomfort. She fell asleep, lost consciousness and never woke up. For a fiery lady that she was in life, this was a very quiet, peaceful exit. She went gently into the night.

Sahana gave me a geranium plant for Mother’s day. The day after my mother died I did not know what to do with myself. Instead of pacing aimlessly in my living room, I thought I would plant my gift in memory of my ma. Planting the flower given by my daughter and in memory of my mother gave me tranquility. I don’t know what happens after death but I refuse to believe she is gone from me. I believe, at long last, thousands of miles between us is not a barrier any more. Her physical form could not traverse the distance to be with us whenever she wanted but now her spirit does not care about those miles. It gives me peace to think she is within me, surrounding me. A part of her, her gene, is always in me. But that is for the scientists to explain. I am trying to feel her essence, her benevolence, her love around me, enveloping Sahana, Ryan and Sean.

I go out often and sit by the baby flower plant. Within its green leaves, hopeful buds and one single bloom, I find my mother’s energy radiating into my universe.