After I think the age of seven or eight, my relationship with my Mum became strained. I’d grown up, I could figure out what was happening around me and she was beginning to fall ill. The colour of my skin, also became quite troublesome for her as I grew older.
Hailing from a Sikh family, I was expected to be white, as milk and my skin and hair, have a life and mood of their own. Girgit ki tarha rang badalta he. Depending on how long I have been out in the sun, whether my eyebrows are done or not ( unlike my mother, I hate going to the salon) and if I’ve gotten enough sleep or not, I turn from wheatish to chocolate brown. So from 7-8 to 15-16, I was a chocolate brown colour, to my poor mother’s horror. She had to hear plenty from her family and I had to hear plenty from my brother and mum, ‘kali, Kali’ they would chant.
It’s only when I grew up, that I realised she didn’t know any better. I still have more than enough relatives, even friends, who look at their white skin, the way my mum would look at hers and think it’s an achievement. Thankfully, I didn’t grow up with a complex about it but I wish it wasn’t an issue. I wish we won’t have wasted time on so many trivial things.
The cuteness quotient in 26 Hemkunt, has reduced to zilch, as the baby has transformed into something else. They say your loved ones turn into stars, I think our baby has turned into a rainbow or a butterfly.
Like I have SB and SC, two extremely stark personalities, my mum too, had many, many shades. Though, her darkness was all encompassing- with suicide attempts, violent behaviour and addictions always at the fore, her brighter side- the upswing, was what most people remember her by.
That’s a successful life, to not be flawless, to be quite imperfect actually but to love, so cheerfully and fully that the flaws seem inconsequential. If you ever want to know, how it feels to be loved wholeheartedly, obsessively and imperfectly, you had to be loved by my mum. Her love was full of sunshine and rainbows, with little dances and lots of kisses. If she loved you once, she would love you always!
There’s a song by Sheryl Crow, ‘are you strong enough to be my man?’. At the worst times of my life, I have listened to that on repeat (yeah, yeah, I kept believing in Prince Charming till I turned 35. Someone said something about finding a soul mate today and I said-‘ Mine’s committed suicide. He took one look at me and thought, ‘God, am I going to be stuck with this?’ Trust me on an incorrigible romantic fed on story after after story of family members, eloping, that’s the only thought that works) an umpteen number of times.
I suddenly remembered that song, today, when I was looking at mum’s pictures. It takes a special kind of man, to deal with a woman so full of spunk. I wish her companion would have been that for her but we all have our limitations. What she really needed she never got but surprisingly though it diminished her, it never did mitigate her love.
My Amma, had a very tumultuous existence. In the beginning there were a few happy years, though I was too young, I don’t recall them. I think like me, she was born with a void inside, that she kept trying to fill- with family, friends, medicinal drugs but she never could. Though, she smiled a lot, her eyes always wandered away, from people, like she wasn’t there, like she was meant to be somewhere else.
When the heart hurts pray. Pray for your heart to survive the pain. Pray for the one who has departed. Pray that the one who has departed is happy wherever she is. Pray for the world to heal. Pray for all the other people who are in pain, may God relieve them. Pray for everyone you have ever loved, may God protect them in these trying times.
If you are a spiritual being, there’s an interesting app, I’ve been using Meditation +. There’s of course the Chaupai Sahab, which makes you feel stronger, during your trying times. But collective praying, in a jamat, is a powerful tool. In the times of social distancing, video calls, help. My Sufi friends were nice enough, to do a couple of sessions with me of the zikr on whattsapp and the ex assistant reads the Fatiha for mum. I try to follow, along.
These are troubling times, physically and emotionally for all of us. For some of us, it feels like the world has come to an end and this is when we have to remind ourselves, that, we are very lucky, to have all these luxuries. It’s not necessary that our heart will agree with all that our mind knows. It will want to wallow longer, get lost in despair, want someone’s hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, it will want to be ungrateful and childish. That’s when prayer helps, fake it( positivity, gratitude etc) till you make it. Sometimes working on the outside, helps to change the inside.
There’s a story, I heard about an experiment that was done with rice. Somebody took three bags of rice and started saying nice things to the first bag, nothing to the second bag and bad things to the third one. The bag to which good things were said, lasted longest and so on and so forth. You get the gist. Humans, animals and plants are like that. You can alter anybody’s behaviour by what you say to them, consistently. Words are very powerful.
With overly sensitive people, such as my mum, the change, was very dramatic. This understanding played a large part in altering our relationship, made us closer in her latter years.
Someone said something, about that to me today,’ how little it takes to actually please you, most people just miss it because you scare them away, with all your yelling’ that I realised, this trait of mine is so much like my Amma’s. How fierce, she was, when we were little! Though she was a hoarder, she loved things but nothing pleased her more than a smile or a kiss.
I remained locked up in a room today, trying to calm myself down. The praying, the books, the instrument calmed down my nerves and so the BP, was comparatively normal. My mum would gulp down bottle after bottle of cough syrup and lock herself up in a room, where there was no ventilation, to get away from the games people played. But I promised myself, I wouldn’t turn into that version of her. Plus, though she had a terrible temper, there wasn’t a vindictive bone in her body. I thankfully, have SB to count on.
The retreat in my case is usually a preparation period. The sharpening of the saw- cry, introspect, pray, talk to only those who can have a positive and healing impact on your existence. All of us thankfully, have a few people like that. In any case, this lockdown is a gift, from the Universe, to us and Mother Nature to heal ourselves, to understand that everything we need is within us.
P-S- The last person my mom saw, before she passed away, was my dad. A picture is worth a thousand words! No guesses about how in love she was with him.
Someone said to me the other day, ‘ You lost your brother at such a young age and took it in your stride. You’re older now, you should be able to handle this better!’
Maybe, I should. But I suck at most things that are practical and come naturally to others. So I’m wallowing in self pity, while people are dying outside. My personal grief has taken over any part of me which is capable of watching, hearing, knowing or empathising with another.
Yes, I know, I should be shaken and whacked. As my Bp shot up yet again today, the Diastolic levels upto a 111, SB kicked in. ‘ Enough!’, she yelled at SC. So here we are, trying to figure out, how to get our shit back together. If I don’t stop myself now, I’ll fall into an abyss. I do have concerned friends and family, who are just a phone call away but other than a loving aunt, who messages regularly and an ex assistant ( now a very close friend) who has seen me go down that rabbit hole, no one will be able to drag me out, from that place.
So, I look at the Alprax the doctor prescribed, look at my mum’s picture when she was addicted to Corex and say, ‘Oh no! We just can’t go down that road!’ If you are genetically inclined towards addiction (which in my case, I am from both sides) when you’re grieving is when you need to stay away from drugs, pills and alcohol. A few sleepless nights, ain’t going to harm no one. So let’s see what we can do.
There are five stages of grief. Some even suggest there are seven. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are the five, Elisabeth Kubler- Ross, wrote about in her book On Death and Dying.
In her later years, she discovered that these are not necessarily, linear. My first reaction, when I feel helpless, is anger. SB usually kicks in with full force, so the more hurt I feel, the angrier I get. Maybe it’s due to the lockdown that I am more melancholic than pissed. Which is a bit scary and exciting.
To know that you are on the edge of your sanity-alone, terrified and tired, cornered just because you are a single woman and the only child of your parent’s ( if my mother didn’t own stuff and had been in and out of hospitals for 31 yrs of my life, trust me, the story would have been told differently) is in a way terrible but empowering. No? After all, how often do you get to play the hero, of your own story? So here I am trying to keep myself in one piece. If I fall, I’ll make a lot of people very happy, if I rise, I’ll be defying all the odds. I just have to find the white horse and the gleaming sword, within and rise to the occasion.