Friday, March 7, 2014

Worlds apart

(Dad's view)

As many of my readers know, husband-ji is currently in India attending his grandfather's funeral, which lasts for 13 days. And I am here, caring for my father, who is recovering from surgery on a tumor in his colon.
It feels like we are worlds apart....husband-ji is mourning the death of his grandfather, and I am trying to bring my dad back to life.

Husband-ji is going to bed when I wake up, and his day is starting when mine is ending....the time difference is just so much...

It's snowing here, and it's 40 degrees there....

There's silence here, and he says it's loud and turbulent there....

It feels like we are just worlds apart right now...and we are, in a sense. How can two places be so different, not only in geography, but in what we are doing too...a funeral, and a life-saving surgery...on different sides of the globe. Like night and day.

I haven't really had a proper conversation with husband-ji on the phone since he left. There are always so many people in the background talking so loudly, it sounds as if there are ten people in the room, each screaming at the top of their lungs. Every time he goes into another room for some privacy, he says someone comes in and demands him back into the other room. Oh, the pressure...

Speaking of family pressure, husband-ji almost lost his shit at his uncle, because apparently they were complaining that he wasn't staying with them...going on and on about it for days. Meanwhile ignoring the fact that he was the only one of his generation who even bothered to come to India. Even dear FIL started to pressure him too, saying "it looks bad".... (to whom??? I wonder...) and then husband-ji finally said "I don't give a shit how it looks, I came for thatha and nobody else". And after all this - losing thatha, the race-against-time to get on the flight, missing the chance to say goodbye to him, the heaviness of it all - the family's main concern is that husband-ji is not staying with them because "it looks bad", never mind husband-ji's comfort or the fact that he is also mourning...

"I have no privacy here"; " it's so chaotic here"; "I've had enough, after a week of being here"; "I can't take the heat", husband-ji says, disgruntled. The Telangana state has just been formed and there are city-wide shut downs, petrol strikes, and mass power outages for 4 hours at a time. The city is a deranged mess.

It has been hard not have a proper talk with him - a heart-to-heart with my best friend, after all we have both been through. When he calls me before he goes to bed, I'm rushing out the door to see my dad; when I call him after I put the baby to sleep, he's rushing off to a pooja...We literally talk for 5 minutes at a time. Then, after hardly speaking for days, I call him, and then he says that certain people are complaining that he is "on the phone ALL the time with me"...(excuse me, aren't I his WIFE?!) We are both so frustrated.

He was always the odd man out. He was always the black sheep. The same world that molded him somehow also continually found a way to repel him. "They just want me in the house but they are not including me in anything". Sounds familiar...sounds like he is a firangi too...

My dad misses husband-ji a lot. He keeps asking what day he is coming back - being in a hospital bed, he has no sense of time.

It is strange to visit him at the same hospital that I was in only 6 months ago. It is all too familiar - the sounds of the IV machine, the nurses scurrying around, and the identical city view. The clock, that moves so slowly...and then the intercom jolting the floor awake, saying "Code red, 5th floor", the sound of someone going into cardiac arrest.

It is hard to see him like that, in pain, in the hospital bed, exhausted. He looks so elderly. Whenever I'm around him, I feel like a little kid - but I'm not - he's elderly, and I'm the adult now. I'm a parent now. Did I really grow up so fast? I'm the young one now, and I have to take care of him...I'm the one that has to help him walk...

I feel too fast for him, the way I glide around the room - as he struggles to sit up in the bed, and walk to the bathroom. As he slowly reaches for the water bottle. I feel my strength around him, or his lack of it...and wish that I could just magically give some of mine to him. Recovering, and a long process. 

But today was the worst day so far. He didn't want to get out of bed. He slumped over while eating, hardly looking at me. I felt like he was giving up - giving up on himself, giving up on us - the suffering was just too much. I was not able to uplift him, he didn't want to be uplifted. I just wanted to shake him, and say "Dad....the worst is over...the tumor is's going to get better from here onwards". But how can I convince him when I am also trying to convince myself? "Dad," I say, "When this is all over, we'll all go to Venice to celebrate, okay? You have to make it to Venice..."

Half of my day, I spend at the hospital, taking care of my dad. The other half, I take care of my daughter, all the while processing the first half. I have no choice but to be strong. I have no one to really talk to. I can't cry or let my emotions out, because I have x number of hours before the baby wakes up again. My barrier of strength is built on matchsticks and is surviving on the mere idea of hope....I'm just gliding on a thin sheet of ice...



  1. Alex,

    Hang in there! We are all praying for both sides of your family. Before long husband-ji will be back home with you and your Dad will get out of the hospital and be home with your Mom. This is a really hard time for you right now and your faith and hope will get you through this difficult time. My thoughts and prayers are with you.


    1. Can't wait....I didn't realize how much my dad missed my hubby and how close they were until this all happened. Feels like something is missing without him here...can't wait for him to be home, and for dad to be out of hospital...

  2. Alexandra,

    What a situation. Hang in there. I'm sure May a just keeps you going at times like this. We've never met but you and your family are in my thoughts.


  3. I wish you good luck and courage in this difficult situation... I hope all will be in order soon !


  4. @Alexandra

    I hope you guys pull through this. The Hindu funeral ceremonies are typically long drawn with lot of rituals. Since inlaws are conservative brahmins, I imagine that they have gone the whole hog.

    I had an elderly tamil brahmin colleague working with in office. He was on the verge of retirment. He lost his mother and had to perform a religious ceremony for two consequtive days, every month for a year right after her death. Imagine the cost. He would negotiate with the priest in Chennai on phone about the cost of the annual ceremony to be performed after one year since his mother passed away in Chennai. After one year he went there and spent a fortune on the ceremony. I was astouned at the amount spent on utensils and other things which he gave away in the ceremony. And this fellow was on the verge of retirement and the sole bread winner for the family. Since he was conservative brahmin, he followed all the rituals for the peace of the departed soul. Those who are non brahmins can take short cuts as recommened by the priests but the brahmins, the upholder of the rituals, have to follow everything. They are kind of caught in their own net. I don't think his mother would have approved such fortune being spent on her. These ceremonies have always been a good business for the priests. Every one performs these rituals because no one wants a bad funeral for his/her dear ones. As someone rightly said it takes a lot of hard work to remain a Hindu.

    1. Thank you :)
      Yes, it seems as they have done everything by tradition. In our family many are very devout and have many priests in the family. Thatha was also very devout and performed many poojas, including our Satyanarayana Vrata after-marriage blessing. They were really stressed out organizing the funeral procession and the catering and priests, etc. and also there were the daily poojas and not to mention the whole family was put on restrictions, including diet and not visiting others' houses.
      I will do a more detailed post later explaining all that they had done. The final day, the 13th day went off really nicely, about 60 people came, friends and family. And me and Maya also got to see it over FaceTime, so that was really nice.
      We were going to go to India for Diwali this year, but we may go in December instead since we will not be celebrating Diwali again due to thatha's passing. But again that all depends on my dad's condition and if his chemotherapy is over by then.
      Hearing about the Iyengar death rituals, it seems so heavy and emotional - to see the dead body, to do the daily poojas, the cremation...I would have been bawling crying. But I guess it is all about the process of honoring, for the departed soul AND for the family.

  5. Our thoughts are with you and your family Alexandra. Hope your father gets better soon. :)

    Take care.

    1. Thanks K :) He is home now from the hospital, yay!


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