Updated: June 20, 2021 9:46:40 am
That thing in your belly
Time has altered during this pandemic — stretched out into a vast marsh of uncertainty. These past few months have been particularly swampy. During the recent Tamil Nadu lockdown, my parents and brother moved from Chennai to shelter with me further down the coast. We have not lived together for 20 years, but I was startled by how quickly we ordered ourselves. Between dogs, meals, dragging the projector out for evening films and dividing duties, our days took shape.
The Language of Sorrow
“After great pain, a formal feeling comes,” said poet Emily Dickinson. On May 20, when I heard of the Urdu poet Tarannum Riyaz’s death, I realised there was indeed a strangely formal composure in the chill of aftershock, even as lines from Riyaz’s poem replayed themselves in the mind: “One should keep phoning friends./ If one loses touch… the friend himself may no longer be around.”
The Hindi poet Manglesh Dabral, who died last December, also had a poem on telephones: This Number Does Not Exist. An ironic symmetry. It helped to think of symmetry in verse, given that there seemed little evidence of it elsewhere. The other line that kept looping back was, unsurprisingly, from Wilfred Owen’s World War I poem: What passing bells for those who die as cattle (1920)?
The End is the Beginning
I don’t know how to tell her. But if I don’t, won’t she blame me when she grows up? Isn’t she too young to understand?” These are questions from a 38-year-old father. He lost his wife to COVID-19, but has no time to grieve. He needs to find the best way to tell his six-year-old daughter that her mother, who she still believes is at her naani’s place and recovering from fever, is no more. Barring a few times, the child isn’t speaking of her mother’s absence. She has simply begun to ask her father to do the tasks that her mother did for her. “Has she just forgotten her?” he asks, and starts sobbing.
Tonight I Write the Saddest Lines
On May 18, the night you left this world to embark on a new journey in a new dimension, I had a strange experience. I had not been informed of your passing. You know how Pappa is na, he always protects us. I was talking to my friend throughout the night till 7.30 in the morning. Just as I fell asleep, I felt a presence on the left side of my bed, the side you always slept on. I woke up scared, but went back to sleep within seconds. Was that you?
Love means never having to say goodbye
She left us last night./ My whole heart. My whole life. The only god I know./ My Amma, I’m sorry I couldn’t save you. You fought so hard, my mama. My precious. My heart. You’re my whole life.
A heartbreaking and poignant love letter by a daughter to her mother.* The lyricism, the beauty, the grace of what we call life, loving and death encapsulated in a few words. As I read and reread them, the pain in these words choked me, but the love in them made my heart sing. If I were to die, I would want my children to remember me with, “You fought so hard, my Mama. My precious. My heart.” That would be the love story I would want them to cherish me with.
Every Missing Piece
In December 2020, I received a gift from a friend: two books for children which affirmed the power of a story effectively narrated, proved the importance of broaching difficult issues with children, and showed how a thoughtfully chosen gift could brighten up a sombre day in the life of the recipient. Those two books were Sidewalk Flowers (2015), by JonArno Lawson, illustrated by Sydney Smith, and Town Is By The Sea (2017) by Joanne Schwartz, illustrated by Sydney Smith.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.