Friday, August 17, 2012

Man bites dog

On one ordinary Saturday evening, Shekhar’s life passed…one minute he was there and the next he was gone.
Then two years later, my Mom’s life passed…one moment she was there and the next she was gone.
Each time I lost more than the people I loved. I lost a definition. I moved from wife to widow in an instant, from child to…I am still looking for a new way to define myself.
After Shekhar, I lost the will to live. It was the singular thought of my children that kept me going. Until Mom… when to bypass the pain and angst I experienced after Shekhar, I decided to throw myself at life and living. I forgot definitions and said yes to everything that came my way – new job, travel, responsibility and obligation. In a ‘man bites dog’ frame of mind, I reacted, attacked and engaged with life. By ‘man bites dog’ I mean jumping into situations that are against your nature and norm that unnecessarily complicate what could have been easier if you just let sleeping dogs lie…
This has been my life for the past two years. Now, I realize allowing the pendulum to swing from one extreme to another has not helped. It is time to regroup and reassess. Time to find the centre. Time to redefine. Time to forge a bond with myself. Time to let go of the dog.
As we draw near to what would have been Shekhar’s 50th birthday, the boys and I have taken a leap from our errand based lives to create new memories. To overlay the sadness with a new map…it is not just a time to look forward but also a time to look back and see just how far we have come. I have been afraid to do that…what if I turn back and he is just a speck on the horizon. What if we have come too far…
For too much of my life 
I have been a noun; 
child, boy, man, father, whatever; 
nouns of identity. 
Often, preceded by too many adjectives…
I exist through my living, 
not because of some label. 
Descriptives enhance mind pictures, 
but do not define the essence of my spirit. 
I am living. I am being. 
I am not a noun. 
I am a verb. 

From I am a verb by Gene McParland, North Babylon, NY

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Still buffering...

As I looked to upgrade the technology of our PC from the old to the new, I came upon an app the boys already knew about. In my excitement I complained, “Why didn’t you tell me about this before?” Our younger son, always quick with his repartee told me, “Mom, when it comes to technology, you are still buffering…”

I was laughing so hard, I couldn’t take offence…just the vision of myself trapped in the ever turning hourglass, the little spinning wheel and the ever so slow increasing scale of the buffer was and still is enough to make me chuckle.

It was a very profound analogy on so many levels. In the four years since Shekhar, I have had to reconstruct everything in my life. Every day when I feel more confident about something, I am equally frustrated by the lack of progress on another. It is hard to build when you are trying to leave space for someone who is no longer there. How do you accommodate a memory? Still I have soldiered on…stretched, challenged, redefined, fallen apart and put myself together again. I have no long term vision now, no five and ten year plans like I had with Shekhar, so in the true sense, I am still buffering for a life in the absence of a better half.

As the boys achieve new milestones, grow out of their schoolboy skins into young men…I have realized they are buffering too…for new beginnings, challenges and adulthood. We are all works in progress. As a salute to the times, where technology defines your vocabulary...buffering for me now is just another name for living. 


For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way. Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.

Father Alfred D’Souza

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


We go through life pushing ourselves to achieve and accomplish...goals, dreams, milestones. When we are weak, we look outside ourselves for someone to motivate us, believe in our champion.

I recently saw a popular British comedian push himself beyond his physical limitations on television. As his feet dragged and energy flagged towards the end, family and cheering supporters egged him on. His triumph over physical odds would  not have been possible had he not outsourced his motivation to those who believed he could do it. He drank from the well of their strength, support and belief. I used to drink from the well of Shekhar's belief in me. He saw in me what I could not see...he was my champion, my motivator, the one who helped me overcome what he liked to call my 'ignition problems.'

I also outsourced my prayers to my mother. She had a better connect with God and made my case to Him when I could not. She spent long hours communing with God, sharing, requesting, cajoling, begging on our behalf - for our success, our happiness, our place in the world. It was enough for me to know I always had someone in my corner - no questions asked. That she had God on her side was just a bonus. When I found her letters among old photographs the other day, her prayers and blessings floated off the yellowed pages.

These were my people.

Today, as we began the akhand path to mark Shekhar's fourth death anniversary on April 19, I missed my mother standing by my side, praying for me and my children. I missed drawing on Shekhar's strength. God has taken my people.

I have now decided to bypass the physical and directly outsource my strength, motivation and prayer to God. Although I struggle to trust Him again, He has brought me this is time to let go and let God.


Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones. And when you have finished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.
Victor Hugo

How can He be perfect?
Everything He ever makes...dies!
George Carlin

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

In the name of the father...

In his 1991 book Immortality, Milan Kundera wrote, "We don't know when our name came into being or how some distant ancestor acquired it. We don't understand our name at all, we don't know its history and yet we bear it with excited fidelity, we merge with it, we like it, we are ridiculously proud of it as if we had thought it up ourselves in a moment of brilliant inspiration." I only realized the import of this quote I had extracted long ago when I sat in the cold at our younger son's citation ceremony.

As the names were announced one by one, the children came on to the stage to receive their citation. My heart burst with pride in the anticipation of seeing our son being commended. He did, to a mispronunciation of our surname. In one fell swoop, one significant moment of ignorance and brazen callousness not only had Shekhar  been erased from my son's name but he had changed origin, community and state.

Man leaves very little behind when he dies. The tangibles change ownership, age, fray or become useless. Only the intangibles remain. The memories, the love, the humanity...the name.

What's in a name? In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare wrote that it means little, except in essence. Yet when Juliet says, "Deny thy father and refuse thy name...'Tis but thy name that is my enemy," she refers to all the indefinables that come with a name. The name comes from the father. It signifies family honour. It represents lineage and loyalty.

To me our name anchors memory, defines who we are and says we belong. It is our unique identity, our signature, our introduction and...Shekhar's legacy.

I spoke to a friend the other day. It is sixteen years since she lost her husband. We spoke of many things but when the conversation veered to her husband, her breath caught on his name. Sixteen years and his name still had the power to keep him alive.

The boys have that power. They carry Shekhar in every breath, fiber, cell the name of their father.

A name pronounced is the recognition of the individual to whom it belongs. He who can pronounce my name aright, he can call me, and is entitled to my love and service.

Henry David Thoreau in the Writings of Henry David Thoreau (1906)