A month on…..

What does grief look like? What does grief feel like? What do you call a monumental blackhole that suddenly appears in your life?

In the last 5 weeks, these questions have been front and centre in our home. Today it is exactly one month since Appa left us. From the moment he collapsed at home to the day we farewelled him finally in the upper reaches of the Yarra river and for some time after that, I was functioning on autopilot.
mvimg_20190122_133717When a catastrophe like this strikes, people react differently- some turn inward, some break down to pieces, some become risk takers, some put their faith in the divine and yet others like me become objective driven.
Perhaps that last one is due to a lifetime of training – Appa was super planned- everything had to be done properly, no surprises. So much so that he would insist we need to leave for the airport early enough that if we forgot our passports, we could come back to get it and still make the flight…..of course, he wouldn’t forget, since there was a checklist for everything. 

Grief similarly is unique to everyone- some rant, some cry, some fold in and others celebrate the time spent well. I find it hard to be maudlin but social expectations of what grief must look like, can fell the most stoic!

Today, a month on, as I try to answer the questions of grief and loss….here’s what they feel like to me.

This trip, I took Amma & Appa to the Dandenong Ranges a few times…..At one point I dropped them near a park entry and went off to find parking. Appa commented that I should drive carefully, because there were two old people waiting for me…. My reaction to that was an eyeroll…. I have since choked many times thinking about that 15 second interaction.  Grief…..that is what it feels like, the choking feeling in your throat.

The day before Appa went into hospital, he insisted on seeing a statue of Rishi Sushruta at the Royal College of Surgeons.  I parked my car illegally in East Melbourne and we ran into the college to see the statue. We took many photos and Appa shared them with his friends in India. The look on his face as he spoke about the whole episode, the absolute joy….I was thinking of that this morning while brushing my teeth…..I looked up and saw my face. Grief…..that is what it looks like.

Scrolling thru endless photographs, reliving robust “discussions”, laughing over idiosyncracies, repeating phrases like “general feeling of wellbeing”, “ambience”, “oppress, suppress, depress”, missing the elaborate breakfast and vegetable cutting rituals and reaching out to call on my way back home from work….and realising that one mobile number will now not be answered with “Vasu speaking”.  That is what you call a monumental blackhole.

But life does go on for those still here, we’ll get thru the days, think about th


e happy times and the silly memories, cry a little at times, find reasons to hug loved ones tighter when we can, pick up the phone and call people who hold a special place on the slightest whim and enjoy what we have more intensely.

No other way to honor a person who believed above all else that best thing about life was that there is always a new restaurant to be tried and a new place to be explored.


What’s in a day……plenty!

It’s the season for stoking patriotic fervour…..Republic Day celebrations in India, with full pomp and ceremony.
Some of my earliest memories of this day are still fresh in my mind – the misty cold January morning, taking bus number 510 towards Central Secretariat and walking partway to Rajpath. Sitting on the benches, still wet with dew. Being awestruck by the crisp uniforms of the millitary men, marching, the twirling mustaches and plumed headgear of Rajputana Rifles or the fierce cry of the Gorkha Regiment. The in-sync marching and of course the immense feeling of pride as the rockets, missiles and other millitary gear made their way slowly down the parade. The bands rousing us from our thoughts and the changing of the guards 3 days later would bring the Republic Day celebrations to a close. The week would make the most jaded feel a twinge of pride at what the nation acheived. We were too young to understand the politics, too oblivious of the corruption and other wrongs- but we all knew that together the country had fought, bled and finally become a republic in which we were all equal.teaser-24-784x441

Many years and a lifetime of education in school of life I can now appreciate the concepts of unconcious bias, unconcious privilege and the inherent advantage that being born in a family that values education and equity accorded me. Privilege is not merely monetary, but the ability to speak up without fear and expectation of being heard.

Life takes us in strange directions and our family landed in a country that also celebrates the same day as their national day.
It has always seemed fortuitous and as a new migrant, I was pretty stoked.

20 years on, you understand a bit more of the history and appreciate the deeper, underlying seething tensions, the grief of loss, of the snatched cultural reality and the all pervasive nature of colonisation.

In my line of work, I meet many people who talk about their feelings, fears and inhibitions. I have had a client tell me she cannot live in a old house, every time she’s moved, she has only ever rented or bought a brand new home. She feels oppressed in houses that may have had other people living there before her.
Another client has not been able to drive or ride a blue car, she was in terrifying car jacking 15 years ago in Jo’berg. Another one had her house broken into and refused to go back in, she stayed with a friend for 2 months, while her partner found another house and put their old one on the market. None of these people seem unreasonable or strange- they just have had traumatic experiences and carry those memories with them. Practitioners like me are sympathetic to their trauma and work with their limitations freely and respect their feelings.

None of their traumatic experiences can compare with what has happened with First Nations People across the globe – their lives treated with disdain, horrific diseases introduced, entire populations wiped, languages and cultures supressed and children stolen.
Of course, there have been positives, there always are, but none of those were sought out- they were foisted upon.

We cannot undo the past- that is evident, but we can be more sensitive to the process of healing. Changing of a date seems to be a small change with a large benefit. Why are we not heeding the growing number of voices that are calling for this small change? Asking people to “move on” is neither the right way nor an ethical/moral one.

Last week, a colleague asked me about the Indian “National” Day that also falls on 26th January and what the day commemorates, if it was the day India was discovered or became independent. I told her that it was neither – It is the day that the Indian Constitution came into effect and India became a republic, so actually celebrate it as Republic Day- even though India had won independence from the British almost two and half years earlier, it was a constitutional monarchy with a monarch appointed Governer General until the constitution came into effect, and India became a constitutional democracy.

For most Indians of my generation, the celebrations around Republic Day and Independence Day hold a meaning that cannot be articulated – and this must have come thru as I spoke about it with my colleague, because she said …..”obviously, it never occured to anyone to celebrate the day British landed on your shores, did it?”

Never thought about it like that…..and no, I don’t think anyone would want to celebrate that, even though I do appreciate the language, rail system and other “positives” that colonisation afforded us.