Dealing With The Inevitable

The wall clock displays 3:45 pm as the phone rings. The ringtone sends a chill down the spine. An odd timing for a phone call.

A contact who rarely ever calls is what is blinking on the screen

Mom shivers as she answers the call and says, “hello?”

Mom starts screaming, “HELLO! WILL ANYONE SPEAK?”
The phone call disconnects and mom looks at me. She says, “Keerthi, I’m scared. I heard people screaming and crying in the background…”

I slam my chemistry textbook shut and sit upright. We both just stare at each other blankly, me seated on the sofa and she standing in the balcony

The phone rings again. Same contact. Mom answers the call with a shiver in her voice.
“Hello?”

And after 30 seconds mom starts screaming. Tears stream down her face like a waterfall. I stand up immediately.
I know what has happened.

I go towards mom, eyes filled with tears and hug her. Probably hugged her after years because I’m not someone who hugs often. But I knew this is when I must.

She comes inside and just cries. Keeps crying and blaming herself and life. I’m in complete shock and honestly I was crying looking at her rather than because of what was happening. I can never see her cry. I cry when she cries.

She tells me to call dad up and tell him.
“Dad, grandpa is…..” I couldn’t continue the sentence. I didn’t have it in me
“Keerthi speak up! I can’t hear you!!” I hear him screaming on top of his lungs.

“Dad! We just got a call from our village in Karnataka…”
“And?”
“DAD!”
“Keerthi speak properly. I’m outside and can’t hear you properly”
“Dad a call came from the VILLAGE! About Grandpa!”

I was wiping the tears from my face as I said this because I had to speak clearly. He now understood.

 

Silence. Among the commotion all I could hear and feel was silence in that train ride. Neither did I know what to feel or how to feel. I didn’t know what to do. A strange feeling took all over my body.

1

I’m dealing with death for the first time in my life. I was going to see my grandfather lie still with his eyes closed like he was sleeping. Except this time, he wasn’t going to wake up.

 

My paternal grandmother did pass away nearly 2 years before this but it didn’t sting as much as this did. Maybe because I wasn’t that close to her as I was with my maternal grandparents. That’s what I believed then but as we arrived at the station I came to terms with the fact that the previous death did sting me as well.

I just didn’t realize it then because I wasn’t forced to face it so I did what I generally do – shoved how I felt right into a corner of my soul and went about my life.

This was different. I was now been taken to a house where I was going to see my granddad and family. Sounds normal except he is going to be lifeless.
I’d look at my mother and then look away. I had no idea how to expect myself to behave, what I would do.

I was creating scenarios in my head and was preparing myself for any sort of scene that could possible happen. But little did I know that no amount of preparation or imagination for that matter would ever make me ready for what was about to happen.
We got out of the car and I saw my mom’s elder brother standing on the porch, waiting for us. Mom runs up to him, hugs him and just bursts out crying and he cries too. Mom’s younger brother comes out, looks at them and cries too.

That scene was not at all close to all the possibilities that I had imagined.

 

 

My grandfather was nearing his eighties when he passed away. He had a natural death, a slow and very painful one. Painful for him and for the ones around him.

He suffered for nearly six months. In these six months his health deteriorated steadily and no one could do anything. From walking around aimlessly, he went to simply sitting. And from there, he retreated to his cot where he lay for nearly 4 months.

In his last days, he wasn’t eating. All this time even though he behaved like a small kid, he’d eat a little. But then he didn’t. And my aunt called us up asking us to come as soon as we could. To get our chance at looking at him for it could be our last.

The last time we saw him, he was all fine. He stuttered then, and walking was slow. But he was alright. Leaving the house, even in our wildest dreams we didn’t see this coming.

He was unwell and we couldn’t go to see him. Neither us, nor his two other sons. And we all wanted to at least get a glimpse of him. A last memory.

But that is life. Reasons upon reasons came up which is why we couldn’t go. Tried like crazy but it just wasn’t possible. All of them frantic.

At the last minute, everyone arranged it. Mom’s younger brother was going to leave on a Saturday evening and the elder one on that very Saturday night. We were going to leave the following Sunday afternoon.

The call that we all got?
It was that very Saturday. Before anyone could make it.

And that is why three out of his four children cried together even more than babies do.

2

It’s been over a year and the scenes following up to his last breath are still vivid in memory. Maybe, that’s what death is. Strange isn’t it? One minute they’re with you and the next minute, you have to learn to live a life without them.

I can only imagine what my neighbors in my hometown felt when their family member passed away. I saw him leave that afternoon. I turned around and that uncle smiled at me as he entered his van with other family members. Healthy and happy, being his goofy self he was hopping along with his niece in hand.

At 4pm, we hear – he is no more. Such a sudden death. And till this day, I can’t come to terms with the fact that he isn’t here anymore. I remember seeing him oh so clearly, the day he passed away. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that it would be my last view of him.

 

A visit to my hometown now feels incomplete. So used to seeing my grandfather being a part of my yearly visits, to now not see his wooden chair on the porch gives me this unsettling feeling. I recall the times when I was a small kid. A fussy eater, I would not eat rice which my grandmother would make me. Not being able to bear seeing me go hungry, my grandfather would ride his cycle all the way to the market just to get me a packet a bread.
I was too small then to understand at that time, but now it is these very memories I hold so close to my heart and at times tear up just remembering them.

3

All I can hope is that he’s out there somewhere watching over us and that we make him proud. That all the regrets he carried with himself about the life decisions he took, fade away and that at least now he doesn’t have to feel bad. That he did what he felt was best, and we consider ourselves lucky to have had his presence in our lives.

My baby cousin brother still believes his grandfather went to the market. He just hasn’t come back yet….

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What did 2013 teach me?

Only a few more days are remaining for this year to get over and for another year to begin. I’m not gonna say the clichéd phrases such as “Oh My God this year passed by so fast!” or “Another year is getting over and I haven’t done anything in my life” because you and I both know that there is no truth in these irrelevant phrases. Every year has 365 days (or 366), 12 months, 8,766 hours (approx.), 525,949 minutes and 31,536,000 seconds. So there is no way that the year passed by fast. As for what you’ve done with your life, well only you know what you’ve done…

Now lets come to me. All I can say is that this year has proven to be quite an important one for me. It was like a roller-coaster ride with my highs and lows. And hopefully my all time high is going to approach very soon.
Anyways, this year saw a change in my family life, social life, educational life and also in my physical surroundings. In short, my whole life changed.

There was the major change of environment as we came back to India after me spending 16 and a half years in U.A.E. And well, that’s the cause of all the changes in my life. While most of the changes were bad, they did teach me a lot about me and my life. So I thought that as the year is nearing to an end, I think I should reflect on what all is it that this year has taught me.

  • I understood who I really am – From the past 5 years I’ve been known for who I was then. Being with the same people and never having time for myself, I was convinced that that was my true self. But when I came here ans got time to myself, I realized that I wasn’t who I was 5 years ago. I’ve changed a lot, and it is for the good.
  • I don’t have a best friend – I don’t have a huge group friends. The number of friends I have is equivalent to the number of fingers I have. I’ve always been close with them but I soon realized that the ‘best friend’ factor is missing from my life. Someone with whom I can share all the matters regarding me without any hesitation. The hunt is on though. Hopefully I’ll find one very soon!
  • My mom is the best thing in my life – All the times I wailed about why am I living such a life, she’s always been there with me. Whenever she has been upset, I’ve tried to cheer her up. We have become incredibly close this year. She’s always either fighting for me, fighting with me or laughing with me at various things and people. The level of respect I have for her has increased to infinity and I seriously don’t know what I would have done without her, or without all her courage and strength. I feel honoured that I am her daughter.
  • I will love chocolates for the rest of my life – My love for chocolates has increased now. Especially when I’m not able to eat them because they aren’t easily available here. Distance has made our bond stronger.
  • Don’t trust anyone too easily – I din’t really trust anyone easily before, but still my trust and friendship was broken with a few people. I think you can say that they forgot me when I shifted here. And to be honest, it hurt me a lot because I shared a large chunk of my life with them and now they just don’t talk to me like before. But I don’t care anymore because I believe it is their loss. They’re gonna miss me when I’m gone!
  • Apparently I’m funny – I’m always known as the serious one in my friend circle, hardly laughing at any jokes. But recently I’ve been called funny. I think it is a hidden talent of mine. Hidden because I haven’t found it yet!
  • There is no reason to be anxious around boys – I went to a girls school in U.A.E. and I din’t have a life outside school so I never had to face any boys so forget even talking. Now that I’m here and the school is co-ed and the place has so many boys around, my anxiety has disappeared. Yaaay!!
  • There is no harm in making new friends – Being socially-awkward, making friends isn’t very easy for me. But somehow I’ve mustered up a bit of courage and as a result I have new friends now!
  • It’s good to loosen up a bit – I’m a really serious person and I take everything seriously. My life has always been between the four walls of my room. But since last year, I’ve loosened up a lot. And for reasons as such I can enjoy life a bit more than I used to.
  • I have a really good memory – Someone asked me what my first memory was, and I said it is of my first birthday and everyone in that room was shocked. Time and again it has been proven that I have a really good memory. But I don’t why it doesn’t stay the same way for studies though…
  • I can forgive, but never forget – I had to do a lot of ‘forgive and forget’ this year. I always thought that I can do it easily but I can’t. I just can’t simply forgive someone let alone forget about it. Even if I do forgive someone, I just can’t forget what they did. Its not possible. Disadvantages of having a good memory I suppose.
  • Giving second chances is not my thing – When you have done something wrong to me, you can’t expect me to accept your apology and give you a second chance. What’s done is done. Giving you a second chance isn’t going to erase the fact that there was once something you did to me which wasn’t acceptable. And don’t tell me that ‘life gives you a second chance’. Life doesn’t give second chances to anyone. It only gives you new beginnings.
  • I have weird characteristics and habits – I’m not gonna elaborate on this. Nope.
  • The virtual world is a brilliant place – This virtual world has been the place where I turned to while I was sad, or the time when I was happy. Also the perfect world to fangirl. So this world has played a big role in my life so far.
  • Music means the world to me – Music has played an integral part of my life. Whether it was when I wanted to hit my brother on the head scream at my brother for annoying and irritating me so much, or when I wanted to transfer myself to a peaceful location, music has helped me do that.

So this is what this year has taught me, alongside a few trivial things which you needn’t know as you’d get bored even more. All in all, I’m thankful for this year because it taught me things I never thought I’d ever be able to learn. Some things are important in your life but you may never know. You’ll only realize their importance when you are forced to.

What did 2013 teach you? Was it something great, or something that you’ll never talk about ever again?

Languages

So its been quite some time that I’ve shifted to India from U.A.E. and I’m still having trouble settling in. Its not as easy as we thought it was and time by time my mom will say, “Let’s just go back to U.A.E. now. This place is getting out of my hands.” If my mom is saying that, then you can understand I guess how much difficulty we are having staying here!

There are the obvious things we are having trouble adapting to like the changed environment, lifestyle, mosquitoes etc. But one of my personal difficulty is language. So I thought that today might be a good day to elaborate on that. Let’s get to it now shall we?

When I was 8 months old my parents took me to this wonderful country called U.A.E. and well, I’ve spent my entire childhood there and also most of my teenage years. So I’m brought up in an environment with diverse cultures and different languages speaking people. So the language that was given most importance to me was English because it helps me to converse with any type of people. And then at home I was taught the language that comes from the place I belong. But in school I was taught India’s national language – Hindi. Somehow that last part is what people here forget.

Over there when I was to converse with anyone, it’d be English, with elderly people its Hindi and then sometimes at home the language of my state. So I know all the languages. But most of the people here think I don’t know Hindi. They think I can’t even understand it! I know I talk a lot in English, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know Hindi. I can very well talk so. And also understand.

Quite a while back one person cracked a joke in Hindi. It was funny and since everyone was laughing, they din’t hear me laughing. And then one person asked me, “You understood right? Want me to explain what was being said right now?” I got really furious because this happening way too much with me. I said, “You know what? I’ve learnt Hindi for 10 years. I’ve aced my Hindi exams and was the one who represented my class for Hindi speeches and reading competitions. Do you really think I don’t understand Hindi?” And she replied, “I thought you don’t know because you’re from Dubai!”

One of my neighbors likes to show off a lot. So whenever she speaks to me she speaks in English and her English isn’t very good. One day by mistake she spoke to me in Hindi and I replied in Hindi and she says to me, ” You know Hindi? Wow. I din’t know! Did you learn it now when you are here?” I replied, “No aunty. I know Hindi quite well. So can speak from a very long time.” She then said, “Oh my! You’re from Dubai right? So how can you know Hindi?”

This is exactly how I react to everyone with all these assumptions that I don’t know Hindi. Reaction in my mind at least….

Just because I don’t speak in Hindi more often, doesn’t mean I don’t KNOW Hindi. Just because I spent my growing years in a foreign country, doesn’t mean I don’t know my national language. Do you all really think that because my parents brought me up in a country other than my native one, I don’t know the language of my country and don’t know my traditions? (Yes, they think that too. They think I celebrate American traditions. How is America and U.A.E. related? They’re not even in the same continent!!) Its getting kind of offensive towards me, and I can’t tolerate that.

I wonder why these people don’t assume the same thing about my mom though….

When questions about marriage are asked to a teenager…

Belonging to an Indian family, marriage is a huge thing for us. Especially for us girls. I really don’t understand why it is so, but I have no other option than to live with it. So all this really doesn’t bother me. Do what you want, talk what you want. As long as it doesn’t involve me, I’m cool. This attitude of mine seemed to help me escape wedding talks of my cousins, but it din’t when it came to um. me? I know what you’re thinking. A teenager and marriage? How’s that possible? Well obviously I’m not getting married! I’m not even legal. But that doesn’t let me escape!

Now that I’m in India and in the close vicinity of relatives, they talk about weddings. And when they see me, they start having speculations of how MY wedding is gonna be, and whom will I marry! Well obviously they don’t just jump on the topic, where’s the sense in that? It normally starts when they talk about my future. The talk starts very subtly with the first question being, “What profession do you aim to go for?” And after 5 – 10 minutes of talking I won’t even realize how they ended up talking about my wedding day!!

Now these ‘serious’ talks only last till those relatives are at home. But that is not the only ‘marriage talk’ that exists you see? You constantly get teased about it by your parents, especially your mom. To help you understand better, I will now provide some examples.

“You don’t even know how to cook till now! I’m telling you, no one will want to marry you when you grow up. No one!” – How is cooking and marriage related is something I find very difficult to comprehend. And cooking isn’t rocket science! We are just teenagers right now. Its not like we are gonna marry tomorrow!!

“You can’t even clean your own room? What will you do when you get married and will have to clean the entire house? Do you really want to leave a bad first impression on your in-laws?” – Um, haven’t you heard of house servants? I think they will be of great help. And I really don’t think the first thing my in-laws are gonna tell me to do is to clean the house. I don’t think cleaning my room should be associated with my marriage. Again, I’m not getting married tomorrow!

“If you want to marry a good guy in the future, then you have to study very well for that and get excellent grades. If you want to marry a beggar, then you can continue to get these average marks.” – Our class tests also come in this. According to our mothers, we are gonna take our class test paper and show it to the world after 10 years. This an incredibly good logic. I’m surely gonna do this. I might even frame my kindergarten test papers and hang them on my wall…

If one person is incredibly close to their mother like I am, then only will the following example occur.
“Just imagine. 10-12 years from now, we won’t be talking like this. Why? Because you’ll be married to someone and off to his place! I can’t begin think how fast these 10 years will pass by. I wonder how the guy you or us choose will be.” *laughs* – This is the joking part I was talking about. This is what comes up sometimes when we sit to talk. This is why I sometimes feel like running away from the room while talking to my mom. This is when I smoothly change the topic. This is when I drift away to my room and face-palm myself.

So I think the examples have given you enough explanation of how us teenage girls are always taunted about marriage. Thank the Lords that my mom isn’t so strict and not so serious about marriage and because of that I haven’t heard the first 3 examples in my house. Only the last one! 😀 But I pity my fellow friends who go through this on a regular basis.

So to all the great family relatives, the mothers and also the siblings who do this, kindly stop. We aren’t getting married tomorrow. When we are getting married, you can talk your heart out then. Stop assuming what we are going to do after 10 – 12 years. If we don’t get married even after 10 years (that’s my plan) then what will you do? Would you really like to be a matter of joke to us?

The Bully-vard Of Broken Bones

If you are a regular reader of my posts then by now you will know that I have a 9 – year old brother. And this post is inspired by his struggles in my native country.

Yesterday evening when my mom and him came back from the playground situated right below my building, my brother looked upset and my mom was in an angry mood. When I inquired, she said that the children with whom he ‘plays’ told her that my brother swears a lot in my country’s national language – Hindi. They also told her that he curses and teases the children. I was shocked because I know he doesn’t even know one bad word, and now we have complaints that he abuses? Then went a long conversation between my mom, me and my brother. We needed to know if this was true.

My brother admitted to telling some words, but he never knew that they were bad. He heard the other children using them, and picked it up. He told it to them because he wanted to be accepted by them. He wanted to play with them.

These kids dominate the entire building. They are from the ages 9 – 12. You’d expect them to play with someone who obviously is the same age. But things don’t always turn out to be the way you expect them to be right?

My brother isn’t physically strong. He can’t run fast without tripping down and he still can’t jump. In short you can say he is weak. So the kids in the country where we both grew up took care of him in school. He had amazing friends who would guide him anywhere in school. His best friend was always regarded as his body-guard. They cared about him that much!

But the kids here have a totally different definition of care.

When we just came to the building they treated him well and played a lot with him. They loved him and cared a lot. We were really happy that he found good friends here too. But we jumped to conclusions too soon.
After 2 months of everyday play, one boy decided to turn the tables. I don’t know what was his problem.  Let’s name the boy XYZ here.
Whenever my brother would go to play they’d just ignore him. My brother would run behind them, and they can’t turn around and tell him to stop! Then one day we found out that XYZ and his partner beat my brother with a dirty broom that was just lying around. They told my brother not to tell my mom or else they’ll stop playing with him. Living in that fear, my  brother never opened up to my mom, dad or me! That broom caused him allergies. His entire body was red, and for two days he couldn’t go out.
Next day my mom and I shouted at those kids and especially XYZ. We gave him a final warning. The next day they played extremely well with him. We thought they learnt their lesson.

A month passed by, and everyone was happy. Until one day my brother started crying at home all of a sudden.

After a very rigorous interrogation and numerous attempts to break his loyalty towards his ‘friends’, my brother decided to open up. And what he said, left my mom and I in tears.

He said that XYZ would tell him to hide in a room. When my brother tried to get out, he and his friends would be pulling the doors so that he’d be trapped inside. Sometimes they pulled his pants, slapped him or made him trip down by putting their leg in the way while he was walking. And when he fell down, they wouldn’t let him up. Instead they’d stand on his pants so that standing isn’t easy for him. And after all these disastrous events, they’d tell him to shut his mouth about all this and never utter a word to my mom and I.
He was being bullied everyday and he kept quiet about it because he was scared.

My brother was weak infront of them. Their continuous fighting among themselves followed by a series of curse words to their own siblings, it was too much for anyone to control.

We told them to stop playing with my brother anymore, and told my brother the same. But my brother was so lonely here that in the end he ran behind them again.
Those kids gained a bit of sense and started playing with him properly. And they were always under my mom’s guidance. So my mom always monitors  every move of theirs.

Then came yesterday. My brother is also at fault here because he din’t need to repeat the words that they use. He’s extremely short – tempered and whenever he’s angry, he’ll start saying each and every word that comes to his mind and gets really hyper. But those kids are obviously at a greater fault here.

Now my brother swears he will never play with them and those kids also say that they never ever will play with him. I don’t want to hear anymore of these cases regarding bullying. I just hope that everything is back to normal till we shift from here. Then none of us have to face these kids ever again.

One thing is still confusing. If they never wanted to play with my brother, then why din’t they tell that directly to us? Why all this torture and made up stories?

These kids were at such an extent because their parents never took their actions seriously. They always say, ‘They are kids. They’re just having fun!’ Everyone in the building knows how bad they are, yet no one stands up to them. That’s why my brother is their first victim. After all this those kids have got severe shoutings by their parents and everyone else in the building. Hopefully they learnt their lesson now and no other kid will be a victim of bullying in this building.
If you yourself are either a victim of bullying or you know someone who is being bullied, stand up to it and defend them. You are not going to lose anything but you will gain respect from others. This needs to stop, and we all can do that. No one should feel the way my brother does. No one deserves that.