Thank you!

In a corner of a bedroom in our Chennai home, cleared of furniture and all other encumbrances, there sits an urn.

It is actually a fairly simple clay pot, about eight inches tall and six inches across at its widest. It is covered by a Kerala-style thorthu (towel), the same one I wore around my waist when I and three others carried my mother’s body on her last journey. And in it rests a couple of handfuls of ashes and a few shards of bone.

This is all that remains of a 77-year-old lady who lived a full life — as professional, as wife, as mother and grandmother, and as the go-to friend to the many dozens who, unbidden, arrived at our home with stories, most of which we were hearing for the first time, of how mom had in her unobtrusive way helped them at times of dire need.

A good friend once pointed out to me that the true test of character was how you behave with, what you do for, those who can do nothing for you in return. By that litmus, mom had ‘character’ to burn — and it is an integral part of who she was that we are finding out how pervasive her influence was only after her passing. When she was alive, she never spoke of any of this — nor, as we are learning, did she permit the beneficiaries of her generosity to speak of it.

That urn is warmed by a lamp that burns bright 24/7, and it will stay lit till the morning of the 26th, when I consign to the elements all that remains of my mom.

Meanwhile, what has warmed me — and the immediate family, with whom I have shared all of this — is the kindness of strangers, the compassion of friends, the empathetic readiness of strangers and friends alike to reach out a supporting hand. You imagine, when something like this happens, that all you want is to be left alone, to be able to crawl into your personal space and nurse your wounds. And that is what I told the friends who called. Some heeded that, others ignored me and kept calling, messaging, writing mails, reaching out in many different ways. And I realized that they were right, I was wrong —  isolation is no cure for grief. To those friends I owe more than I can articulate (to say ‘repay’ would be to insult them beyond measure).

To the many who on this blog and through calls and emails and Twitter DMs shared their personal experiences – with parents, with children, with illness, with life, with death – what can I say that does not come out cliche?

Hearing your stories helped me make sense of my own; reading of your pain helped me cope with my own; knowing I was not alone helped me arrest my emotional free fall and  recover a sense of balance and perspective.

To say ‘thank you’ is to insult your generosity of spirit. Yet ‘thank you’ is all I have, for now. I hope you know there is a wealth of feeling packed into those two words.

PS: There are many mails, and messages in the comments section here, that I haven’t been able to respond to. I will, though. Soon.

8 thoughts on “Thank you!

  1. Dear Prem,

    Yet another piece of touching prose! I don’t know, your writings bring back those emotions that I felt in 2009 ( as mentioned in my comment on your earlier blog). Being away from her for a few years owing to my living in Saudi and seeing her but once a year, I felt the pain of the loss even more. I even began to wonder if I did the right thing by making this decision for a career change and moving to the Middle East, which seemed “greener”! Now the achievements and accomplishments seem hollow, when I realize what I missed…. the company and love of my “Amma” before she forgot who I was and eventuallyl forgot who she was…..and forgot…..


  2. May her soul rest in Eternal Peace. My Ishvara give you and your family strength to bear this huge loss.

  3. Prem…May her soul rest in peace and may you find yours in this plane.

    And yes, thank you. I just lost Dad last month and your writing is thawing unknown, unreached corners of my heart and mind

  4. Prem,

    May her soul rest in peace. I completely empathise with what you are feeling right now. And I second whatever Mee has posted above. Your writings deserve to be read by more and more people. Hope that happens soon.

    – Your fan.

  5. Prem,

    May her soul rest in peace. I completely empathise with what you are feeling right now.
    And I second whatever Mee has posted above. Your writings deserve to be read by more and more people. Hope that happens.
    – Your fan.

  6. Condolences, may your mom’s soul rest in peace.

    Reading your previous piece I am reminded of my own situation and the question I struggle with, “why is it so difficult to deal with people who you most love when they are alive and in front of you”.


  7. Even if you don’t respond, its perfectly kk. Just be…

    I don’t claim to be as well read as you, but have read a fair deal- there is something about *your* writing ~ a certain depth and clarity and honesty – which is rare and very engaging. Stay on top of tat. And carry on regardless. More power to you.

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