Once upon a time…

I lived a lifetime in a day.

I woke with an urge to call Sunita Aunty and offer her my condolence. I didn’t know what to say. But I needed to call her. So I did. I could not hold my tears. But she was brave and so strong. I offered her my time and my support to her kids who will spend their life wondering what they could have done to have their father around longer. And that they will find it hard to find an answer. And finally they will also give up, like me. And Tulika, like me, will do her best to tell her kids about their Nanu.

I said a few more things. I don’t recall now. But I remember her saying, “thank you beta. You take care.”

After I spoke to her a very deep guilt overcame me. I had not called my cousin ever since he came back from the hospital. I had not even offered my condolences to him for his father’s death. I just didn’t know what to say. I was afraid.

But I had done it once this morning. And so I was up for the challenge. So I called. My sister in law who in my opinion is the bravest soul I know, helped me with my words. She understood why I had not called. She didn’t doubt my intentions. And I told her what I had not even told myself. Truth is that in life so far, I have only learnt to inspire people to move forward. I am so action driven that words fail me in moments when I am expected to simply share a state. Just yet. So forgive me when I was silent. No words came to me. And she said, in a loving and caring voice, “I understand, beta. You are still young. It’s ok.”

Gathering enough courage from this exchange, I spoke to my cousin as well. He sounded well. It made my heart full of love and warmth. He also ended the call with, “God bless you, beta.”

Beta means “son” in Hindi. But colloquially it is more like, “a child”.

I’m the youngest amongst my cousins from all sides of the family. My cousins are 10-15 years older than me. After a very long time I felt like that youngest cousin yet again. The one who was protected by the love and care of all around me.

Life as an immigrant can be challenging. We carry so much weight on our shoulders from a young age. So when someone reminds you of how much younger you really are, it feels like a load lifted off your chest. Like a steam let off. It also feels very warm from the inside.

Day started with some tears, but rolled on to some chatter with Dadu and Dadi. They are also still shaken. I know. I don’t know what to say to them. Perhaps over time I will. I worry about how many friends they have lost… and I worry what fears they are fighting in their mind, that they don’t share with us. Since we are so far away.

And then…. The dishwasher broke down. And I washed the entire load from the night before, and more from the sink, and practically everything that I used in prep for the tea get together in the evening. It was a lot of utensils. Phew! But I closed all my activity rings and Apple Watch thinks I had a great workout. Agam magically found a mechanic and peace was restored.

In the evening a few of my work friends came over for tea. We had a real get together after a long time. And it was so nice to see everyone. Some we had been meeting off and on, and some we were meeting after a long time. A lot happened in this “long time”. For one I am not even on the same team as the rest of them, anymore. But I don’t feel that way. It felt like I went through some revolving doors and I am in this middle space. I am bad at transitions. And I am also bad about seeing lines and drawing boundaries.

And here I was, after a tumultuous day, back to what I do best, being with people. Deriving my energy from them, and giving what I know to give – a lot of warmth.

It is a strange coincidence that I was the youngest one in this group too.

I got a lot of warmth from my interactions in the morning, and extended it out to my friend in the evening. It is this exchange of warmth that makes up our lifetime.

I felt like I lived a lifetime, in one day.

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