Thursday, August 20, 2009

For Shekhar on his 47th birthday...

Osho said that happiness is experienced when you fit with your life, when you fit so harmoniously that whatsoever you are doing is your joy. With Shekhar in it, I fit my life. From the moment we met, there was a sense that everything fit seamlessly, there was a unity in being that bypassed boundaries. It was right, it was cosmic, it was meant to be...

He was my 'kalyana mitra' - noble friend - which Buddhist tradition defines as one who will not accept pretension but will gently and very firmly confront you with your own blindness. Since no one can see life totally, you must depend on the one you love to see for you what you cannot see for yourself. Shekhar saw all things with 'logic, clarity and reasoning' unlike my emotional, reactive and intuitive vision. Without him it's like I wear glasses that are mismatched to my sight, there is no perspective or counterbalance.

One of Shekhar's favourite ice-breaking exercises at the start of his training programmes was to get a male trainee with the biggest feet to exchange footwear with a female trainee with the smallest feet...apart from the comic relief there was a deeper lesson of walking in another's shoes. It was something he did with the ease of an old soul, with compassion, without judgement. For the past 16 months I have tried to walk in Shekhar's shoes and as would be obvious, they don't fit either. He was a big man and for a person used to following his footsteps, his shoes are too big to fill.

He was the rock to my water, the shore to my sea. I miss him, I miss who I was with and because of him and as time elapses, I miss me...because without him I really don't know who I am anymore.

Life has a way of folding onto itself, for him it ended on a wet April night. For the boys and me, it hangs on the hooks of his memories. It just doesn't fit anymore. Life without him is tight, too small, shrunken, as if the threads that held it in place have unravelled and been stitched back with no account for size.

Birthdays and death days mark the two ends of what Shekhar called 'the curved straight line' - the circle of life - beginning and ending seamlessly, giving meaning to each other in an eternal karmic cycle. We celebrate one and mourn the other but the truth is if one happens the other is certain. Birth and death give context to each other, without them the interval is meaningless. Shekhar said he loved beginnings, not endings so it is his day of birth, the beginning, that we mark today. For the next however many hours it is the 21st of August across all datelines... Happy Birthday, sweetheart.


He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

From Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone by W.H. Auden

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I have no skin

Some people forget how to smile and laugh. Others suffer from 'survivor's guilt'. Some emanate self pity, bitterness and anger. Somatic retraction expresses the burden of despair and sadness for some, while others just throw themselves into a related cause or their work, relegating it to the realm of the subconscious. There are an evolved few who accept with equanimity and live by what the Indian scriptures propound - detachment. But whichever way you cope - grief is not pretty. We are uncomfortable because of and around it. All that naked unbridled emotion, exposed vulnerability, uncontrolled and tortured suffering without the safety of censure is we tiptoe around this elephant in the room.

I have learnt that there is nothing right you can say to a grieving person. No words can really make it better. The inner censor takes a back seat in grief and no matter what anyone says the pain is so overwhelming at times that the person who is grieving loses sight of borders - both within and without. Words escape, emotions are like napalm and collateral damage is high.

Words are clever little creatures, aren't they? They slip off tongues, intended to comfort but end up as platitudes. Take the simple question "How are you?" What can one really say in reply? None of the standard answers work. "Time will heal" throws me every time. I live on grief time, it passes differently for me - it expands into painful nanoseconds experienced like the pecks of a bird on living flesh, each moment burdened by memory or what could have or should have been - months and years are too long to consider or put in perspective. "The good die young..." - what does that make me and the boys? "Enough..." - is there a statute of limitations on grief? "It could have been worse" "At least he left you with good memories" "Get a grip..."

I have only recently realized that these words trouble me because of a simple truth - I am not ready to hear them. Some day I will probably look back and know they were true but I am just not there yet. I don't know when I will be...the room is small and I can't seem to be able to get the elephant to leave...


I have no skin
Every breath hurts, every memory is a wound
All boundaries have vanished
I stand exposed, fragile and vulnerable
I leak...

From I miss me by JSV


" Grief is a most peculiar thing; we're so helpless in the face of it. It's like a window that will simply open of its own accord. The room grows cold, and we can do nothing but shiver. But it opens a little less each time, and a little less; and one day we wonder what has become of it."

Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha