Conversations of SuperWomen

superwomen

Ting***Messenger Beeps***

X: Hola girls…Howz you all

A: Me Bindaas..

Y: I am fine..On my way to office

A: So early?

Y: Yes. I normally reach by 9 am.

Z: Hello girls.

Y: Hey A, I loved your write-up…so well written.

Z: Yes yaar, very well written. I too want to express my feelings like that you know…but somehow I can’t.

A: Thanks re. But honestly, what irks me is when people say that I am a strong woman.

Y: We are, aren’t we? God has provided us the strength.

(Pling….pop comes a quote)

“You can break down a woman temporarily but a real woman will always pick up the pieces, rebuild herself and come back even stronger than ever!”

X: Ghanta strong! Nahi honi hai mujhe strong…

A: Exactly! My point too! I don’t want to be the super woman with super strength!

X: Yaar, I want to be a weak woman who needs her man!

Z: Honestly, me too.

A: Me too…Nahi ban ni mujhe strong….naah!

X: Ask my pillows yaar…They get wet the entire night and know how strong I am!

Z: Yeah, at times, I wish he just comes to hug me tight.

A: And I want to sleep one night – just sleep, knowing someone is beside me. Bass ek raat…

Y: I somehow feel his presence always…as if he is with me.

A: Chal yaar, bye girls. Time to get ready.

Y: Yeah, I need to go back to my baby. She is not well these days…

X: Why? What’s wrong?

Y: Kind of stomach infection I think.

(Mute Convo for next 7 and half minutes on stomach infection – its definition, causes, remedies, side effects, precautions…..)

Ting***Messenger Beeps***

Y: Good Morning girls. Here is a lovely quote I read today.

(Pling….pop comes a quote)

“Be the woman who fixes another woman’s crown, without telling the world that it was crooked.”

A: Morning Y. Yaar, you have some of the best quotes in your collection.

Y: Actually I find them very inspiring. I keep collecting good quotes.

X: Good Morning girls. Hey, look where I went yesterday.  Concert ….

(Pling…Pling…Pling….pop comes three pics – one after the other)

Y: Wow!! You look so gorgeous…hot rather!!

X: Hai na? Cleavage-sheavage included!

A: Kameeni lag rahi hai poori! Akeli gayi thi ya saath mein…..

X: Hai na saath mein…wait….

(Pling…pop comes a pic)

X: Yeh dekh….my boyfriend.

Y: Aha….our little boy!! Your son actually looks like a superstar.

A: Like mummy, like sonny…hottie hottie

Z: You both look so ravishing yaar.

X: Hai na ? My friends ask me to move on, find a life partner for myself. But how can I find a better guy than this one?

Z: Honestly, I too have a lot of dilemma about moving on.

A: You should. Your baby needs a Papa and it is honestly, very tough to single handedly bring up a small kid.

X: Yaar, mera problem kya hai pata hai….my husband has set such a high standard that I keep comparing every guy that comes my way with my hubby.

Z: Exacttly…I know…this is my problem too. The guy that I am made to look into, hardly has time for me. And honestly, I need a man who has time for me. I don’t want to be a time pass. I want a proper life partner for myself, who will also be a good father for my kid.

X: Oye, sun meri baat, don’t trust that Barbadi dot com or whatever…take your time honey….nothing doing, only the best….we are no leftovers okay…not becharis…

A: Yeah, but all said and done, there is one thing you guys should keep in mind..don’t compare…you will not get another guy like the one you were married to. Set a standard but don’t make your departed husband the yardstick. They were ek, ek item piece …so no use comparing.

X: But yaar A, that doesn’t mean we should settle for anything, anywhere…I mean…I have told my guy…yaar main koi fenki hui cheez nahi hoon….

A: Oh..ho…come to the point baby, so tera item number fixed hai…

Z: Really? Oh…tell us about it.

Y: Congratulations…many congratulations…

X: Arrey kahey ka congratulations!! Sun meri baat…Batati hoon na…

(Mute Convo for next 5 and half minutes on how men are born bloody ****, how they may sometimes be trusted but NEVER totally, how men will be men.

Conclusion 1: Hum koi side pe chakhne wali achhar nahi hai…just for change of taste….

Conclusion 2: God is there to take care of us. Why do we need any one else?

Conclusion 3: We are mortal beings too…I mean God is fine but how long can we chat with God?

Conclusion: Yaar, main toh aur bhi confused ho gayi hoon)

Ting***Messenger Beeps***

Z: Good morning guys. Guys, today is my anniversary.

Y: Happy Anniversary my dear. It may be a tough day for you but we are here.

A: Yo! Today we will celebrate yaar. Congratulations to you both. I am sure he is celebrating too. And it’s party time folks. Chal, I will send party-sharty gaana for you to dance.

(Pling…Pop comes a song link. )

Ladki Beautiful kar gayi chul

(Pling…Pop comes a song link)

Tum hi bandhu sakha tumhi

X: Helllloooo girls..Hey Z, Congrats Honey. Aaj koi pareshani nahi. No tears, No rona dhona. He will not be happy to see you crying, right? So smile.

Y: Here is a beautiful quote that I read.

(Pling….pop comes a quote)

“Find a heart that will love you at your worst and arms that will hold you at your weakest”

Z: Where yaar? Such hearts are so rare. No one will love me like my hubby did.

Y: And that is why I want to be like this for the rest of my life. I will happily live on with his memories.

X: Oye, sun meri baat. Even I was like this okay…I had even thought of a particular dress like men that I would wear on for the rest of my life. But look at me now. Things change. Time will change a lot of things.

Z: Seriously yaar. Who would have thought that I would have gone out with someone and think of marriage yet again?

Y: But I am quite determined about what I want to do.

X: It is a long life honey and you never know what life has in store for you. You should be open my dear. Did Z or I think of a marriage earlier? But we are thinking now….because somewhere along you do need to have a companion.

A: I agree. Don’t be so rigid in your thought process Y. You have a kid too and he too may need a father figure.

X: And you too A.

A: Spare me. Marriage is done for me in this life. Never, never again.

X: But why yaar?

A: Emotion ko agar side mein bhi rakh de, fir bhi , be practical yaar….I have two kids and in a few years my elder one will be ready for a partner. I don’t even want to think of a remarriage in the farthest of dreams.

Z: But staying alone is not easy always.

X: Yes yaar. I mean at one point when you would be alone, you would be needing someone. And then may be you would also feel the need of a companion. Tu aise kaise bol sakti hai ki kisiko chahiye hi nahi?

A: Aisa maine kab kaha ? I just said I don’t want to marry anyone anymore.  (Wink emoji)

** Silence….deathly Silence**

Y: Umm…I think I should share a beautiful quote with you all

(Pling….pop comes a quote)

“ I am who I am. Like me, Love me. Take me, Leave me. Know that I am a true friend to the end and ask for nothing in return in return except two things: Don’t hurt me. Don’t use me”

A: Ha ha ha…I shall keep this with myself for future….in case I need it.

X: Yes yaar, mera bhi wohi kehna na …hurt mat karo, use mat karo.

Z: Guys, today I will be going to a resort with my family….may be I will be less confused, less sad.

Y: Yes, I think we should all try to be as happy as possible.

A: Yup, we will be happy. We are happy.

X: And we will remain happy forever…

(Thirty seconds later)

***Ting***Personal Messenger Beeps***

X: Yaar, are you there?

A: Yeah, ofcourse. Bol na.

X: Yaar free hai? Baat karoon.

A: Haan re. Main bhi baat karna chahti hoon.

X: Yaar, am not happy…yeh happiness wala natak mujhse hoga nahi.

A: Me too…Happy hoon ki nahi khud ko hi nahi pata chal raha hai. If I am happy even for a single hour, I keep thinking ki saala zaroor koi aafat aane wali hai.

X: Same yaar….Ek dafa haans kya loon, ro ro kar haal behaal ho jaata hai.

A:  Honestly, I can’t take this up and down wala feeling anymore. Now I am happy, the next moment I am sad and I cant even show the world that I am sad – I am not supposed to. Why? Because I have the tag of a superwoman.

X: Is se behatar hota ki hum Sati ho jaatey…yaar, it is tough to live without a partner…The world takes you for granted somehow…Yaar main to is se better Jauhar ho jaaun.

A: Yes re…I mean…I really sometimes feel like giving up…I want to give up at times.

X: But yeh jo ‘mummy’ wala tag hai na…how do we cut off that? Everytime I have thought of giving up, I have thought of his face.

A: Precisely….When I am ready to just let things slip off my hand, I look at the face of my daughter sleeping and bahut gussa aata hai…nahi ban ni mujhe mummy….Even if I don’t want to, I have to live on just because of her.

X; Wohi to….I have to keep smiling so that he doesn’t become worried.

A: Yes re, we have to go on…live on, survive….just for the sake of our kids…

X: Chal yaar, ab ro dho kar bhi kya fayda…

Ting***Messenger Beeps***

Y: Girls. I went to the parlour today after many days – just completed my facial, manicure, pedicure,

X: Arrey wah. Click a pic and send.

(Pling….pop comes a photo)

X: How pretty you look!

A: And always so fresh too.

Y: Thanks. I would always send photos of myself to my hubby during my parlour visits.

A: And “I love you”, says your S. How do you say that in your language ?

Y:Njan Ninne Premikunnu

A: Okay, Y, Njan Ninne Premikunnu

Y: Thank you, thank you. Njan Ninneyum Premikunnu

Z; Really Y, you look really pretty yaar

A: Girls, it is going to be yet another year. One more year….

Y: And what a life changing one….

A: Yes…But 2019 will be different. Either 2019 will make us or we will make 2019 an year to remember.

X: Yesss….Ab toh jiyenge zindagi aise ke naseeb bhi hairan ho kar dekhe ki yeh ho kya raha hai.

A: Yup, it will be a make or break year for me…for us…And I want to fulfil all my dreams.

Y: Yes, I have some concrete plans too.

Z: Yes yaar, I mean…the coming year has to bring something concrete to my professional life.

A: Mine definitely.

Y: Mine too.

X: Girls, I have already begun on some concrete plans. Help me execute the same.

Y: Ofcourse dear, any day.

X: And together, we will do something..definitely.

A: Yeah, for sure. We must live up to our name of being the warriors.

Z: If we are superwomen, we better be,

Y: With or without our wings and wands.

X: Wings and wands gayi tel lene, mujhe saala is duniya ko dikhani hai – akeli hoon…kamzor nahi.

(Mute Convo for next 10 and half minutes on how 2019 can be a different story with ideas ranging from Books to Bati Chokha…..

Conclusion 1: Yaar, I have to execute my plan and I will begin from today.

Conclusion 2: Ofcourse. And I too want to begin my year on a positive note.

Conclusion 3: Yaar, 2019 is still 20 days away. For now, I want to sleep.

Conclusion 4: I am toh still confused – Plan A loon ki Plan B….Whatever, ab ke liye so hi jaati hoon….)

(Image: Pixabay)

 

 

 

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Still Surviving

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These three and half months have been the most interesting time of my life. Amidst the enormity of sorrow and endless nights of tears, I have grown up. Being protected by my parents first and then my husband, I have always been that one woman who refused to grow beyond her teens. But I did. Over these hundred days, I’ve experienced the death and rebirth of myself several times.  Walking through fire, I’ve realised that the fire doesn’t hurt as much as does the fear of walking on it.  And taking the toughest walk ever, I have come to realize many little lessons of life. Lessons that have made me still survive, amidst the odds.

* Time the Healer: The most oft-repeated line that I’ve heard since my husband’s death is – Time is a great Healer. In my personal experience, there can’t be a bigger myth than this. Time doesn’t heal, it is we who learn to walk with our wounds. Infact as time proceeds, and the crowd and sympathisers begin to thin out, it is then that the enormity of the loss strikes in. In my case for instance, I spent the first four weeks in a kind of surreal feeling where I could hardly realise what was happening. Moreover with people coming in and out – there was hardly a time to realize the loss. As time proceeded and I was almost left alone to cope with my grief, I missed him every moment. And now, after about a hundred days, the battle is not just emotional – it is practical too. I mean if I do not feel okay, I still have to get up in the morning and drag myself because I am left with no choice. I do not have the luxury of telling my husband to attend to the need of my children. I’ve had nights of headache when all I could do is to request my daughter to press my forehead with her tiny fingers or ask my tired son to go to the market the following morning. Time doesn’t bring down the enormity of sorrow, loneliness or even importance of a missing person – it only teaches us to survive in the changed conditions.

* Guess the Guests: Life is a strangely baffling game. In the past few months I’ve had the good fortune of interacting with several women who have lost their close ones very early in life – and almost all of them share a similar experience.  The closest ones are the first ones to depart like a guest! The ones we expect to support and stand by us are NEVER (and I shall write it again in bold) the ones who actually do so. Rather, the hardly-met, never-seen, met-once are the ones who unexpectedly lend their greatest support. And it isn’t my experience alone. It is the story I have heard from most women with whom I have interacted.  In most cases, where it involved a family with children, the closest ones retracted first for the fear of having to take the responsibility. But life is never unkind. And the support system is mightily replaced by a contingent of friends, well-wishers, cousins , office colleagues – people who hardly know you. Even till this morning I’ve had friends telling me, “Tell me what you need.” I’ve had friends who have battled a leg pain and walked up the stairs to my flat only to hand me a cheque for my child’s education. I’ve had a young brother in law ensuring that we have medical insurance for ourselves. For every snub, apathy and looking away, I’ve had someone or the other place their gentle hand on my shoulder to ask me, “Are you okay?” Like I’ve said an umpteen times, it really isn’t about money, it is about ‘being with you’ which matters the most. It brings tears to my eyes to see my mother who is hardly able to walk, my father who battles COPD every moment, walking all the way to my house just to give company to my child. And in those moments I can’t help but thank God for keeping my parents safe for me. But I have heard of women being totally left alone to fend for themselves and their children.

* Strong Women, Bechara Men :  What happens when the wife of a man dies, leaving behind kids ? He is either married off again for want of a mother for the kids or the elderly relatives pitch in their support to look into the domestic chores and/or the children. Or, in extreme cases, the kids are packed off to their nearest relatives. Because how on earth can a ‘bechara’ man manage office, home and children? There are exceptions and I proudly announce that I myself know of such exceptions, but the general  system remains the same.

What happens when the story is about a woman with kids losing her husband? Frankly, we take the concept of women being ten-handed Durga too seriously and suddenly the woman becomes ‘Shakti’.  The society pats her back, ‘you are a strong woman’ they say as she grapples with the need to look after her children, manage the household, look into the financial need – all on her own. And rather than pitching in support, her closest ones leave her panting, withering, struggling under the weight of the stamp of the all powerful Durga. In most cases that I’ve come across, the death was inevitably also followed by a legal battle to ‘claim her due rights’ – whether it is to do with property or finances. So, with her eleventh hand, she also has to tackle legal issues – at times in the quest of a place to stay. And that is because of the Article 377ish backdated concept that once married, her father’s house is not her own and once the son of the house dies, the status of the daughter-in-law is nullified. Legal provisions be damned, THIS is how the society functions – even in 2018!!

We can push back the dreams, aspirations and needs of a widow and thrust a hundred responsibility on her in the name of being an embodiment of ‘Shakti’ but we are not ready to handover purple-golden costume to a widower to be a ‘Shaktiman’.

* God Provides: I have always been the God-loving kind of kid. Not so ritualistic but somehow I’ve always believed that the concept called ‘God’ took care of a variety of problems – from nagging pimples to maths exams; from curing the broken leg of a road-side doggy to making a crush talk to me….And He did. Not the pimples, but the more difficult problems…the one called God had a solution to everything…well, almost everything. But when that all-in-one friend of mine betrayed me at the most crucial juncture of my life, I somehow lost faith. But over the days I have somehow come to realise that inspite of my disappointment with Him, He does work from behind the scenes.

I’ve always had the privilege of working in my NGO with a very meagre honorarium just because of the fact that my husband being an IT person, had a better paying job.  We have been through several ups and downs but we’ve always had the privilege of depending on him to run the family. Overnight, and all of a sudden that shade of comfort has been pulled away from us! With a hardly –there salary, two children in the midst of education and with no savings back-up we would have been left nowhere. With zero financial knowledge, things would have been tougher. But it hasn’t been. Because how much ever I may disregard Him, my husband was right in his belief afterall – God Provides. Every time I’ve gone into the brink of being a broke, a hand has reached out to pull me up.

My daughter had a piggy bank which she called the Magic Pot. Everytime she would discover her box being nearly empty (courtesy, the late night raid by her parents) , she would be upset for a while and then her father would tell her that it is the Magic Pot and would never be empty. The next morning she would discover it heavier, wealthier. I see that same magic happening in my life everyday.

There is a saying in Hindi, “Jaako raake Saiyan, Maar sake na koi” which means the one who is destined to be protected by God can never be killed.

Death gives us challenges; challenges which cannot be described in words. But we like it or not, God or whatever we choose to call that Almighty, also gives us the strength to combat it. Coming across the stories of women who have gone through such challenging times, I have realized that God bestows the power to survive as well – from running a successful boutique beginning from a scratch to managing a demanding school job, women have been there, done it. And now, as  they proudly flaunt their pictures with educated children, well-established siblings, it gives hope to believe that amidst the rubble of devastation, we have the power to hold on to the tiny green sapling that peeps from between.

It is with the same hope I dream of a day when my son would come home with his first salary, place it in front of his Dad’s picture and say, “Proud to be your son, Papa”.  It is the same dot of greenery that makes me believe that my daughter will one day share her meal with the poor and the needy and say with pride, “Poverty is a mind game. You are as poor as your thoughts are.” May they both learn to share and be enriched. May they return back to the society the umpteen love that they have received; inspite of and despite of the little struggles they had to face. May they rise above the challenges with pride and dignity.

(Image Courtesy: Pixabay)

Being Prepared

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It is the beginning of a new month.And Augusts are always special. Often, there are an umpteen number of holidays and festivals lined up in August – which would naturally mean fun time with family. August Is a very special month for me too. Both my father-in-law and husband have their birthdays in August and our marriage anniversary is in August too. Incidentally my grandparents too were married in August. Hence, the month had always been special for me.My son having completed his board exams this year, my husband and I had planned for a gala wedding anniversary this year. But what we hadn’t planned for was a future without one of us. So, here I am – facing the August rain – alone!

Death, sickness and separation isn’t a pleasant thing to talk about but standing at this juncture I’ve realized that it is wiser to look at the issue practically than attach a mere sentimental value to it. Everytime my husband spoke about ATMs and banking issues, I would hardly pay attention because I always had the rosy belief that I would die in my husband’s lap with a red saree and that perfect smear of vermillion on my forehead. The result of this was the intense game of permutation and combination I had to do to crack the code of ATM pin while he was hospitalised. Thankfully, I had known him too well to decipher his thought process in selecting the PIN number!

Incidentally, I recently read a real life incident in a group about a couple who were young and married for just three years or so. They were both well established professionals. Unfortunately one fine day the husband went out for a work, never to return again. All that was returned to her was his mangled body after a fatal crash. This wasn’t the end of the story. The story merely began from here. The husband being an IT guy had passowrd protected every important document, every mail, every banking detail. Being in IT security services himself, he had the habbit of changing the passwords every now and then. Thus began her epic struggle in retrieving all his data, documents, banking details etc. Also, both being working professionals, they had the luxury of choosing very high EMI to be repaid. With her husband’s death a bulk of the earnings was gone, leaving her in a difficult postion to pay the EMIs alone! I could well relate with her narration and thus thought of penning this blog.

From childhood, I’ve always heard of this phrase – Be Prepared. Being a Christian I understood from childhood that it is important to be good and kind so as to ensure a safe berth to heaven. Being a Hindu, my husband had also almost heart the same thing – what we do today, now will ensure a better kind of birth in our next cycle. So, either for Berth or for Birth, we prepare ourselves and invest in spirituality and ‘doing good’. How much we are able to do is a different question but often we are never prepared for the rainy days – especially when we are young. We almost, always believe that ‘’being prepared’’ in practicality is for the older generation.

But at times when lightening strikes, we are caught unawares. A young couple, about to be married, were recently struck by the lightening and thunder as they were spending some intimate moments together in an open park. They had merely got into the park after a shopping spree for their wedding. The man died on the spot, while the woman is critical. Life, often catches us unawares – just like the incident…..We cannot change that but we can be practical enough to make it more comfortable for the other half.

Insurance and Investments – I have always been too wary of issues like insurance plans – merely because of the complexities. But now I realise the importance of one. And yes, medical insurances alone don’t work. They work for short hospital stays, surgeries and basic medical conditions but often for long term treatments, they do not offer unlimited financial guarantee. I am not saying they are not important but there should and must be back-up arrangements as well.

As to insurances, along with long-term life covers, it is equally important to have insurances that can be withdrawn for emergency needs. To make the process of emergency withdrawal hassle-free, it is always important to always keep a company of a friendly insurance agent.

As to investments, it is wiser to have joint investments. It not only eases the burden on one partner but also make each other be aware of the investments. https://www.financialexpress.com/money/how-joint-investment-options-with-spouse-can-help-you-plan-your-finances-better/1159331/

It is wiser to have joint bank accounts where money can be withdrawn by either of the account holders. This helps not only in cases of death but also in sickness of one of the spouses when doing signature becomes challenging. In my case, my husband was always insistent on a joint account where either of us could sign. Though it did take some time for me to remember my signature but ultimately I could withdraw money. It also helped that he had made me do the original bank signature on a document and keep it safely. When I was really racking my brain as to what my signature was, I chanced upon the document and I remembered how my bank signature was. So, if you not in the habbit of withdrawing your money often, keep a sample of your signature. It helps.

All this is possible only if you do not have any major trust issues with your spouse !

In case you have children, think of a solid investment plan that can support their education, even in the absence of their parents – if at all. Frankly, both of us did not have much idea or thoughts about such investments. The idea of this was shared and well explained by my brother Kailash. Step by step he told me how we can actually plan a secure future for our children even in our absence.

Be organised, keep a record – I have always been clumsy. Comparitively, my husband was the more organised one. Though it was devastating when he was hospitalised and I was too nervous, it did help that he was organised and kept a record of different things. As I rummaged through the drawers, I found his black clutch purse which contained all the important documents – his ID proofs, warranty bills, bank papers etc. It was a huge relief for me. I carry that clutch purse with myself now (though I often forget where I last saw the purse 🙂 ) Also, he had a diary which contained important information – like the password for the home wifi connection. My father-in-law always stresses on the need to keep things at proper places – keys, wallets, old sim cards, papers, telephone book, visiting cards etc. Looking back I feel this is very important. By chance you are sick and unable to communicate, your family members would always know where to kind the keys to the locker, telephone number of a long-forgotten relative etc. And it is very vital to keep the medical documents in order – prescriptions, medical reports, medical insurance papers. I did have to rummage a lot when my husband was hospitalised because the doctors did need a track of his medical history.

It is an equally good habbit to maintain a written record in the form of a private diary containing passwords, important notes and information. My husband’s diary gave me a clue to his work related issues, the net banking password and important telephone numbers. It was very vital for me to get hold of those.

Inform and Be Informed – It is very important to always keep the family members well informed about the different policies, bank accounts, financial commitments etc. For the spouses, inform and be informed. So that if one passes away the handling of finances can be smooth. With my own life experience I’ve noticed that it is a wise decision to involve children in the information process. Children remember a lot of things that adults don’t. My husband had a good habbit of always trusting on his daughter and informing her about everything that is within her grip. As a result, after her Dad passed away she could recall and remember a lot many things – where her father has stacked away the cup cake moulds, what prompt should be given if the laptop shows a certain software malfunction, how to change the password, where was the shop from where he had ordered her school uniform etc. With my low memory, this came handy. Children are fantastic secret keepers as well, so you can trust them blindly. Only you should know how to place the story rightly! Now, I make it a point to always inform my children about different important documents, passwords etc.

Keep your liabilities low – If you both have a liability – a loan to repay, an EMI to give, plan it such that things can be manged even if a person is single. In the real life incident that I read, the lady underwent a huge crisis because the collective EMI that she had to pay post his death was more than she could afford with her single income. So, it is better to be judicious. Also, be aware with things like mortgages. We had a ring mortgaged. While he was in hospital, we repayed the entire amount. But after his death they wouldn’t give the ring back citing different legal clauses. So, for more than two months we are running aorund preparing affidavits, notorising documents. And we are yet to apprach the councillor for her approval of legal heir document. So for a mere 10,000 bucks we’ve ended up spending 4000 bucks on legal issues alone, so far. And we still have a long way to go. So, it is best to avoid liabilities that would pose challenges for your heirs.

 

Build foundations for a support structure – Not always, but what we do for others is often returned back to us in rich dividends. That my husband had a very good rapport with every ordinary human being – from the newspaper vendor to the milkman to the local shopkeeper, has actually helped us and still helping us in many ways. Simple, ordinary people come forward to support us, help us just because he was friendly with them. I remember the local cleaner coming up to me and tell, “He was very special. No one smiles at us but he did. What a beautiful soul ! Didi, if you ever need any help, I am there!” Yesterday I had a terrible backache and it made walking back from office a huge challenge. Everytime I would put down my feet, a pain would rush down my feet. As I was worrying, the local taxi driver – a friend of hours, brought in his taxi and drove me home very carefully. And he was the one who rushed us to the hospital day in , day out without taking a look at his watch. Having come for my husband’s funeral , he told just one thing, “ From the day his son turned a year old till he grew up, this man personally came and invited us for the birthday parties. I’ve never received so much of honour from anyone else!”

All these experiences make me believe that little attitudes of ours help build a solid foundation of support for the family. It is foolish to assume that every member of the extended family would support in the same way. It is much more crucial to build little links with social systems that make a part of our daily life.

Invest in human bonds – One thing that I have learnt in my own journey is that there is nothing greater than human bond. A good, solid friendship works a long way to support you in times of crisis. I have had blogger friends whom I’ve never seen providing their relentless support. I have seen my long-lost childhood buddies become my pillar of strength. I’ve had my brother-in-law , whose existence I did not know of turn into my brother. I’ve seen my husband’s ex senior office colleague become a  father figure through his constant words of encouragement. And all have extended their unending support merely on the basis of a simple word called ‘humanity’’. When many of my closes people have walked away, people whom I hardly knew came in to support me. So, I believe that it is worth more than a thousand riches to invest in good human relationships! In times of crisis, nothing works better!!

Legacy of Values– If you have immovable assets, it is wise to have a will drafted even if you are younger. It is a myth that family members stay happily ever after. Property disputes have led siblings baying for each other’s blood. It can also lead to displacement of your own people from your own home. So, it is wiser to know who stands where even before catastrophe strikes. But assets, money, property is not what should be your primary concern. Success is not what you earn in your life-time, it is the legacy of values you leave behind. There was a time when my husband used to work in Sales. One day he came home flummoxed. “The other guys keep a margin for themselves even above the margin of the company. How can they do this?” That day I told him one thing, “I am proud of you. I would rather die a poor man’s wife than walk on the carpet of dishonesty”. He had held on to my hand for many moments. Cut to future.My daughter came back from school. “Mummy, we had a surprise test for History today. You know everyone was copying from their books. I didn’t. My freind asked me why I wasn’t copying so I told him that even if I fail, I would never copy. My Papa would never approve of it!”” It brought tears to my eyes. My husband died a poor man but he left behind unmatched riches in terms of values and upbringing in my children. I can vouch for the fact that if not anything, my children would never, ever be dishonest. When we die we take nothing with us. But what we leave is a part of us The legacy of values that we leave behind carries on for generations to come!

It isn’t a pleasant thing to talk about death and disaster. I used to be the last person to hear about such depressing issues. But I have realised that life is all about uncertaniities and it is wiser to be prepared than to be caught unawares. All that I have written here are my personal views. You may not agree to everything but as I have said before, it is my mission to create awareness. It is my own little tribute to my husband!

The Other side of the Fence: Dealing with Death

candle‘Death’ was the last word in my dictionary of sunshine and happiness when I was handed a word puzzle. I arranged the letters and it spelt : D E A T H. Disbelief followed a heart-wrenching, gut-wrenching feeling of helplessness. I looked and re-looked at the lifeless, cold body that I once called my husband. People spoke of responsibilities as a mother, some spoke about the soul being around always, but above all what stood in front of me was Death.

Dealing with death is the most difficult part of survival. Nothing helps, believe me, NOTHING helps. But yet as I came face to face with death I realised that having a helpful and rational bunch of people around, always helps – not to ease the pain but to reduce the after-effect – the trauma that follows. One big truth that I have come to realise is the effect of death of a loved one becomes more and more profound in the days that follow. Facing death is a surreal experience – a zone between reality and disbelief; the hard-hitting realisation comes in the days that follow when what is left behind is a handful of memories and a whole lot of trauma – especially if the death is an unexpected one!

Having gone through the experience myself there are several responses I really wish the society shuns or follows, just to make ‘handling death’ an easier experience. These are my personal opinion and I am ready to be branded a social outcast for saying what I feel.

Allow the freedom to choose rituals: After a month long battle at the hospital for his Dad and after a night long fight with destiny, when my teenage son finally arrived with his Dad’s body, he hardly had time to say a proper good-bye to his Dad, he could hardly sit beside him to kiss his fore-head as a final farewell. Instead he had to take part in rigorous pre-cremation rituals that was not just taxing on his physical well-being but also his mental well-being as well. And after all this when he was asked to put fire on his Dad, he couldn’t take it anymore…..It is more than a month now, and every single night he shudders and cries remembering the rituals. And it is not with him alone, he shares the same trauma with his school friend who too had to undergo similar process when his Dad passed away a few years ago.

Call me blasphemous, brand me anti-religious, I don’t care. As a mother, it is my appeal to the society as a whole – move on…allow the families the freedom to choose the rituals. It is absolutely fine for a son or a grandson to follow every ritual respecting the last wishes of an aged father or grandfather. But at the same time it should be equally fine for a married daughter to light her mother’s funeral pyre if she wishes to and it should be absolutely fine to spare a father from putting fire to his young daughter. It doesn’t matter which religion, but please cut down on the rituals. Facing death itself is a tremendously traumatic experience, don’t add on to the grief by piling on rituals. Trust me, every soul reaches where it intends to go – the mountaineer who loses life during a climb and whose body is never found, a victim of air-crash who never gets a proper burial, a homeless aged man who dies on the roadside….they all go where they have to, if at all. Even Kalpana Chawla, I am sure found her space in the space that she deserved.

So, if you ever find a family that is trying to do it differently, be firmly beside them. Give them the courage to face social ridicule. In our case, thankfully a few rational souls did come forward in support of my child and hence he was spared from further post-cremation rituals. And I really wish that our society improves in the number of such rational population and spares yet another child of a post-death trauma.

Your role doesn’t end here: Most people leave after cremation or funeral. If in your capacity, begin your role from here. The grieving family is often tired, hungry and yet may have guests at home. Please partake in the arrangements. In our case, in the night of the cremation, we were just seven people – my in-laws, my children, myself and two male guests who were sons-in-law from my in-laws side. Apart from the unending turmoil within, I had a splitting headache where I could hardly open my eyes. But I had guests and children. Thankfully food was arranged by my father. But how I wished there were a few more people to do with serving, cleaning and making arrangements for sleeping! You needn’t stay back for the night but do stay as much as you can to help the family. My friends came with a brilliant idea the next day where they proposed that they would make arrangements for a part-time domestic help who would look into the small nitty-gritties at least for a few days. At the time I had refused. But looking back I think it was a brilliant idea that they had proposed! It definitely helps. It is an equally good idea to supply cooked food or provide grocery supplies for a few days of the mourning for the family, of course with their permission and if it is not against their ritual.

Be Sensitive: Death is the time to really portray your human self . How you behave, what you do, what you say – every small detail can make or break a grieving family. Be sensitive! I still remember, while waiting for my husband’s body to arrive, holding my crying daughter’s hand, I suddenly discovered two of my very close relatives standing close-by and sharing a hearty laugh! At first it was disbelief and then it was a piercing pain. My point is, either you are there or you aren’t. Please do not attend the last moments if you do not genuinely feel about it. Don’t make it a courtesy visit!

Similarly, if you do not have anything good to say, do not say at all. A day on after my husband’s death, a member of his family went on and on about how my husband never followed rituals, how he was ‘egoistic’ as to not ask help from relatives etc. Any other time and occasion he would have perhaps ended with a broken jaw but I chose to merely ignore him. But those words are still pierced as glass shards in my heart! Be sensitive! Saying, “He lived a long and hearty life and now that he is dead, don’t be sad. Thank for his long life instead.” or “Oh, thankfully she is now relieved of all her pains”, definitely sounds cool but the person you are referring to is someone’s father or mother. For him, it may not be the ‘relief’ that you are referring to! If you do not find words, just stand….at times silence speaks a thousand words.

Hear Out: At times it helps ease a lot of pain for the family members if they are allowed to talk – of memories they shared, of good times, of bad times, of challenges ahead. Lend a patient ear. Hear Out. Let them speak. Trust me, it does wonders for the wounded souls. Even today I can go on and on and on about my husband…It helps!

Be there for the Post-Death Memorials/ Rituals: I have already written a Facebook post about it and I want to emphasise on this once again: if there are any memorial services or rituals organised by the family and you are invited, please attend. Having gone through the phase myself I realize that it is tremendously challenging to put an act together in such a short time and yet, at times, it becomes important for the sentimental values attached to it. Death is always a sudden event and hence there are huge constraints – financial, mental, physical….Even then the families do try to organise. It is much important to honour such an event than a well-planned wedding. Every friend who attended the little programmes organised by us, really gave us much happiness. Also, if you hear of such an event being organised and you know the family, do not wait for formal invitation, do visit the family. It would give them the much needed encouragement. I had a few friends doing just that and I shall remain forever grateful to them.

Do not play the match-maker: Our society has a strange and funny approach towards young widows and widowers. If it is a young widow, the discussion veers around her future financial needs, while if it is a young widower the game of match-making begins even before the ashes of his wife cools down. From “How will he manage everything alone?” to “He is still so young and such a long life ahead.” – the excuses are one too many. Hence the hunt for the wife aka governess for his child begins even before all the rituals are over! For heaven’s sake, stop playing the match-maker! A spouse is a partner – a part of one’s soul and existence, it isn’t easy to ‘get going’ just because the society is not used to seeing a young father bringing up a child on his own! The same society however doesn’t have a problem with a young mother bringing up children single-handedly, She is then just a ‘poor thing’. And all this I write from own personal experience – I have seen both! My request is to let them be! If a young man finds love again, let him marry but don’t thrust a relationship down his throat just because a society isn’t used to a single father as a parent.

If you are thinking of help, think of concrete plans: This stems from my previous point – nothing can undermine a financial support in a post death situation. In today’s world where both the spouses earn, do not make it a gender issue. If a young widow needs financial help, so does a widower and so does a retired father who has lost his son or daughter. But instead of a token support, spell out concrete plans as to how they may use the money. I’ve been very lucky in this front. There have been friends coming up with different forms of ideas of probable way by which they could support us. Like one of my cousins gave money to my son to buy books for his new class, a few of my friends handed me money for my son’s admission fees. Yet another group of friends offered to pay the monthly fee of either of my children. Death is so devastating a crisis that it often leaves a sense a bewilderment and a sense of helplessness. Hence a concrete financial support and advise goes a long way in planning! Offer unusual but extremely useful help – like sponsoring a part of the expenses of post-death rituals, offering to pay for monthly medical bills of the ageing parents, sponsoring monthly grocery coupons, an education related fixed deposit, offering to pay the monthly electricity bill! Sounds weird but in my kind of situation such help would go a long, long way in bringing up the courage to lead the family alone. And once again, do not make it gender-sensitive! Everyone needs help.

Do not limit your thoughts to financial support alone. Death leaves an unimaginable void – an unexplained loneliness.A warm and friendly company is worth more than many thousand rupees. If there are aged people having lost their son or daughter, do visit them whenever you can. it would ease out loneliness. If there is a young man or woman losing his or her partner, do talk to them whenever you can, visit them, try to engage them in different activities.

Play the Santa: Small children have different ways of handling death – they either become recluse or become over-reactive. I see the second type of trend in my younger child. Being the closest to her Dad, she suddenly has begun considering everyone to be against her. She is cranky, irritable and extremely adamant right now and exhibits extreme form of mood swings. Every now and then she looks at the photograph of her father and complains to him. And I know that she is missing her Santa.

If you ever find a child going through the agony of facing death, play the role of a Santa -please do. Children need very tiny things to make their life better again – a story telling session perhaps, a small surprise gift, a little outing or even a cuddle gives them enough happiness to tide over their sorrows. You can never replace the ones they have lost but you can always prevent a tear drop from rolling down their cheeks!

Same with pets. Pets too sulk with death of their loved one. They often end up with severe depression.If you are a pet lover, offer to take them for a walk or play with them. It helps them tide over their depression.

Trust me, nothing would give you more happiness than a genuine laughter of a child or a pair of thankful googly-eyes!

Tough call? It is! The choice rests on us – you, me, we…..How we respond as society shapes our tomorrow. A morally responsive and responsible society can make or break the fabric of a society. How we deal with death and help others deal with the same can build the foundations of a socially sensitive society. Are we prepared ?

(Image Courtesy: Pixabay)

The other side of the Fence: Helping through Hospitalization

hospital

One month to be precise, when I lost my husband. But the month included hours, minutes, seconds and zillions of nano seconds of that kind of intense pain which has no name. Within sixty days we have dealt with an intensely grueling hospital experience and a heart shattering death of our most loved one. Sympathies, help, kind words, support – we were never short of warmth. And it brought in myriad experiences as well. Surpassing the body blow that we received, there were many lessons we learnt. At one point my cousin who had faced a sudden death of her mother about a decade ago pointed out how she had to battle all the difficulties on her own without any support. That got me thinking. There are many moments when we are at the other side of the fence – at times feeling helpless as to how we should ideally react when we hear someone we know is hospitalized or has died. How best can we support their families ? How should we react and respond to such situations collectively as a society?

What I write here are based on my personal experiences in these two months – things we were thankful for, reactions that left us bewildered, support that we never expected:

Tackling Hospitalisation: So, how can we actually help those who are dealing with the hospitalization of their dear ones- especially in critical stage?

  • Cut down on enquiries based on assumptions – both negative and positive:: “So, he’s better now? Is he eating on his own?” Nothing hurts more than enquiries which are far from truth – things that you wish would happen but are not happening. It really hurts to say “No” to such queries. I remember one of my relatives asking me about when my husband would be discharged from hospital when he was actually going through a very critical stage.If you at all wish to ask, keep it simple – “How is he now?” Similarly, nothing puts off the relatives more than over-reactive negative remarks. “”Oh my God! Three weeks at the hospital and he is still in ICU?” Believe me, such negative exclamatory reactions are the last thing that the near ones look forward to.
  • Share positive stories: Having a dear one in the ICU is akin to a floating straw in a tumultous ocean and every positive story, every genuine medical miracle story hold out that little flickering ray of hope that they wish would happen! Genuine positive stories, genuine suggestions give the necessary zeal to fight on! So, share positive vibes, positive incidents and provide positive yet practical suggestions.
  • Always remember -if they could, they would: Even in crisis every family would try to give in their best support to the one they love the most. If they have not put him into a particular hospital specialising in neurology they probably could not afford or did not get a seat there. Always remember, if they could, they would. Every “Why didn’t you…..” question is only an agonising reminder to them that probably they are not dealing with the best option. It is not easy to be in their shoes but it is always worth a try.
  • Stop asking for “Visiting Hours”, focus on Solidarity visits instead : If the patient is in a General Ward and is in the recovery phase it is absolutely fine to go and visit him during the visiting hours. When a patient is in ICU, he is probably not in a position to appreciate your loving gesture in visiting him. ICU visiting hours are extremely limited and it is always better for the nearest family members to go and have a look. They may be waiting all day long for that one glimpse. If you are a close relative do go in but if there is someone closer, please offer them the chance. It is much helpful if you visit the hospital for giving moral support and solidarity support to the nearest relatives who spend their days at the hospital. I was very fortunate that a few of my cousins and uncles actually played their ‘Solidarity Support’ part to perfection. They never insisted on seeing the patient and instead helped in talking to the doctors, bringing medicines, offering tea and snacks or simply being there as a mark of solidarity. And I am so mighty grateful to them.
  • Care for the Care-givers: During the month-long hospital stay of my husband, my teenager son stood like a rock beside his father – spending days and nights at the hospital. During this time he would hardly have a proper lunch or breakfast. One of my cousins who stay in the vicinity not only arranged for a night stay at their house but also arranged for the much-needed dinner every day. And it helped him immensely. If you can and is within your capacity, please care for the care-givers or the night-vigilants. They need as much support as the patient.  A cold shower, a place to use a proper wash-room, a glass of cold water…..may be this is all you can arrange. Please do it! There is no service greater than caring for the caregivers.
  • Stand-in – even if it is difficult: A patient in ICU would often mean staying back at the hospital for the near ones. And it often happens that only a single set of people have to stay on -day after day – often tiring themselves. In our case, both my son and father had to be vigilant for about a month. Being a male ward, it was not feasible for women to stay on. And at times I really wished they had stand-ins to volunteer. If you ever get an opportunity, please volunteer. I know, it is often not possible to get a leave from office but then you do take a leave for a birthday party here and a weekend leave there, so why not? It would give much respite to the tired body of the care-givers.
  • Make medical arrangements, if within your capacity: One of the huge,huge ways you can help is by making medical arrangements – arranging for alternative hospitals, arranging for blood, arranging for medical consultations. There can be no bigger help than this. I had received tremendous support from a group of friends who not only arranged for an alternative hospital when the bills became too high, but who also co-ordinated every treatment process and consulted doctors and sought suggestions on our behalf. Believe me, this was an enormous help for us!
  • Every Support Matters: Nothing, trust me NOTHING helps more than genuine financial support. Medical expenses apart there are many tiny ways which accrue on to a huge expense for the family. Every little helps matters. I am most fortunate in this regard where relatives and friends slipped in little envelops and uninformed money transfers to us. And many from friends whom I had never met. It mattered, it mattered tremendously. So no matter how little, do pitch in. It is much more important to pass on a gift of a few rupees to an ailing relative than buying an expensive gift for a wedding present. In terms of usage value, NOTHING compares to the first one! And support may not be just in terms of currency. Some of our friends gave us discount vouchers for Uber ride. You wouldn’t believe how much of help it was for those who were to return home with their tired bodies after a day-long hospital visit. A friend of ours who is a chauffeur, untiringly supported us by offering to drive our vehicle or offer his taxi any time of the day or night – be it 3 PM or 3 Am. And we had no words to really thank him! Do it the way you can but DO SUPPORT!
  • Be Sensitive: Either you are there or you aren’t but for heaven’s sake please be sensitive. If you are travelling to another city to visit a critically ill relative. let your visit be for the purpose of solidarity alone. Do not convert your visit to a shopping spree or hunt for food joints. For the family that is uncertain about the next hour it really does not offer a pleasant sight to look into your bulging shopping bags – even if that includes gift for the family. There is a time for everything and this isn’t it! Similarly if you at all go to the hospital and discover relatives you have not met for a long time, do not convert the visiting lounge to a gossip counter – there may be children losing their mom or dad at that very hour somewhere down the corridor. Be Sensible, Be Sensitive!
  • Be There: ” I am praying for you” . Often, a message as simple as this helps soothe tired souls who need shoulders. I have had friends, cousins and relatives who stay very far away sending simple one liners or prayer messages. It really helped to know that so, so, so many people were there praying for us. No matter if the prayers were heard or not, at that moment, at that time, it really helped us fight the battle.

I know what you must be thinking at the end of all these demo capsules. Do I practice what I preach ? Frankly, not I. And the reason for that is too long and perhaps I would reserve the reason for some other time. But the one for whom we fought the battle certainly did. Any news of hospitalization or of death and he would be the first one to rush – and yes, at times even at the cost of his office hours. From arranging for money to ambulance, from attending funeral parlours to arranging for flowers for the final journey, he has always been there, done it. From being a regular blood donor to being beside ailing relatives, he has tirelessly played his part. And though we could not bring him back, perhaps somehow this is the reason why there were so many umpteen number of friends, relatives and well-wishers who pitched in and poured in their loving help..Perhaps this is what we call Karma!

 

(Image Courtesy: Pixabay)

 

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