Search This Blog

Monday, January 1, 2018

2018 and a new phase of my life - After Mummy

I look at my life as distinctly having two parts.

'With' Mummy and 'After' Mummy.

My mother, Satinder Serna 

I know it may be hard for some people to understand the logic behind these words but it really is so very simple.

I was a different person when my mother was alive and I feel like a completely different person after she has left us.

There is a hole in my heart which hasn't been filled two and a half months later. On the first day of 2018, today, while I've been involved in a wide range of other things, all I could do was think about how it would have been if I could see, touch and hear my lovely mother Satinder.

There are two parallel streams of thought running through my head at all times of the day- one, the real world where I have to participate in day to day activities and in many cases, initiate them.

The other, thoughts of my mother and everything she meant to me. 

In a word, 'indescribable'. 

Every day, I realise, more and more, how much she shaped so many different aspects of my life and along with that so many, many others, including my father and brother's.

So while my pain may take forever to go away, I'm going to try my best to turn it into my biggest strength.

I am now going to live my life more and more the way that my mother would have wanted me to. On a day to day basis, as well as on a longer term too.

I am going to be thankful for the fact that she was a part of my life till October 2017 and encouraged and enthused  me to become the person that I am today.

Just 21 years older to me, my mother, Satinder, was a pillar of strength for all of us at different stages of our life. Most importantly, her strength  and fortitude in dealing with her own ailments, particularly through 2017, will serve to remind us forever that true courage has many forms, but for for us, it was in the form of Mummy.

And so, I will strive to go through 2018 with my mother as my guiding star and my angel who watches above us from somewhere up above.

And if I fail, I will try, then try again and finally, try some more.

For that is exactly what Mummy would have wanted me to.

Friday, November 17, 2017

On Mummy - A month later

With Mummy and Pop- Nov 2014

Its the 17th of November and a month since Mummy left us.

A month in which I've tried everything possible to deal with the grief that has followed- succeeding sometimes but failing more often. The tears can and will come anytime -It could be while having a cup of 'elaichi' tea, looking at my phone at 730 pm,desperately  hoping that it will ring and the phone screen will show 'Mummy' (for thats the time she would call me) or while looking out at the flowers that are now blooming in the garden, or the chair that she would sit in whenever she came over to our place, or putting her shawl over my knees while watching TV-touching and feeling it over and over again to get a sense and feel, possibly a whiff of her...

The mind wanders and constantly asks questions



Sometimes that grief turns to anger as I question medical science, sometimes myself for not spending as much time with her as I should have in her last days - but my mind responds with-"How could you have known that she would go?"

So thats when I realise that this is going to be a long , possibly very long cycle and I must do something about it- then manage to locate  this quotation that seems to be the answer to my immediate problem.

"Grief starts to become indulgent, it doesn't serve anyone and its painful.But if you transform it into remembrance then you're magnifying the person you lost and also giving something of that person to others so that they can experience something of that person." ( Patti Smith)

Theres no doubt that dealing with the passing  of a loved one is probably the hardest thing that a person faces in life. And the most important step to be taken to complete that journey is that of closure. The word ‘closure’ itself comes from the Latin word 'clausura' meaning a finish or conclusion and that’s where the key lies.

Of course, some of us would like to be able to camp out in shock and denial forever, but in time, the shock wears off and reality sets in. We need to figure out a way to restore meaning and purpose to our lives and to re-engage with the process of living as well as try and to open our shattered hearts.

Well reputed grief counsellors have another constructive suggestion. They suggest that a good way to deal with it might be to write down what one remembers about the person.  Noting  one’s thoughts about that person will help.

This may prove to be difficult for some people, but this will also help to let one’s feelings and thoughts out. In today’s world there are so many options available, try writing a journal, blog or if one doesn’t want to share it with anyone, nothing works better than a good old fashioned diary.

I'm certainly going to try that - add to which I have possibly the most extensive photograph collection amongst most people I know- who knows what may come out of all this- a book on Mummy perhaps? 

 Neha with Mummy on her last birthday- 11th May 2017

With Mummy Nov 2016

And for all those who are going through the same pain as we are, they should  try to begin a new chapter in life, which is probably the most difficult step. One may never be able to erase one’s memories of the departed, but that is not the intention.
However, at some stage, the people left behind need to begin to move on. Remembering the happy moments is probably one of the best ways to do that and here's one such happy pic from our life in Meerut decades ago.

Memories of another day At our home in Meerut

To close, here's a lovely quote by Elizabeth Gilbert from Eat, Pray, Love - ‘The day is ending, it's time for something that was beautiful to turn into something else that is beautiful. Now let go.’

I hope I get there someday......

Monday, October 30, 2017

Mummy -Our very own Guardian Angel

Mummy and me- March 2015

Mummy left us two weeks ago and with that life changed forever.

Grief lies coiled like a snake at the pit of my stomach and rears its head at any point of the day or night.

I try to control it momentarily, and succeed at times. But mostly fail as it works it's way up into my head and then spills out of my eyes.

I cry until it has passed, then steel myself.
Until it begins again, then I allow myself the luxury of the hot tears 

as Mummy would have wanted me to.

My grandmother, Mataji, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Sodhi,   passed away in 1991 and  Mummy who had a very special bond with her had to deal with the same loss and battle the same grief that we are grappling with right now. And in her own inimitable way, she handled it as magnificently as she handled so many other issues in her life, most of them being health related.
Mataji, Mummy and me

Born with a golden spoon in her mouth, Mummy, fondly called Biba, was the eldest child of Sodhi Mahinder Singh and  Mrs Rajinder Kaur. Landed gentry, based in Ferozepur, Punjab, and direct descendants of Guru Gobind Singh Ji from my grandfather's side, they were an extremely progressive couple who firmly believed that education was the best gift they could give their children. Accordingly, my mother was sent to Tara Hall, 
( Loreto) Shimla, while her two brothers, Manjit and Baljit went to Col Browns and Doon School in Dehradoon.

Excelling in academics as well as games, my mother enjoyed the unique distinction of being appointed Head Girl as well  as Sports Captain of the school in her final year. Many years later, my brother Navtej and myself were thrilled to see her name on the Honour Roll of the school and had the opportunity to meet and interact with a couple of Irish nuns who had taught Mummy and regaled us with some delightful snippets about her school days.

With a deeply religious bent of mind, Mummy believed strongly in all religions but her personal favourites were Christianity  as well as Sikhism, the religion that she was born into.Queen Elizabeth and Elizabeth Taylor were as much her favourite celebrities as were Suraiya and Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur. As for the actors, Dharmendra won hands down followed closely by Dev Anand. 

With a delightfully husky voice, Mummy learnt the basics of Shastriya Sangeet and some Kathak as well. Years later and much to our amazement, remnants of her Kathak training remained well instilled, she could still lift her eyebrows one by one and and enjoyed sharing little snippets of her life with all of us.

College was at Lady Irwin, New Delhi where she studied Home Science with a precision that only she was capable of. However, a meeting with my father, Harnam Singh Serna, a handsome and dashing Probationary Officer in the Income Tax was to have far reaching consequences and having got married in Feb 1959, resulted in a magnificent partnership of 58 years. In fact, my mother's fervent desire particularly in her last year was to die a 'Suhagan' ( still married) and as  it happened, that was exactly God's plan too.   

My parents- July 2016

Mummy- Early 2013, shortly before her surgery

I couldn't  help but marvel at her positive outlook and zest for life. Despite the fact that she had severe arthritis, spondylitis and numerous other health related concerns for the last many years, she was always smiling, positive and interested in what other people were involved with - their dreams, their aspirations and forever ready to share her immense knowledge if the other person was positively inclined.
Another very significant aspect of my mother's life was her extremely well developed intuitive abilities as well as her remarkable sixth sense. While there are many amazing stories of her insights into things that were about to ( and eventually did happen) her relationship with her mother, Mataji, (particularly after her passing) remained as strong as ever. Over the years, Mummy told us about  are numerous instances when Mataji came to her and helped her and in this piece I am sharing an article I wrote in Nov 2013.

"Mummy came back home yesterday after a 15 day stay at Medanta the Medicity, in Gurgaon.

It was a moment to cherish forever and as the ambulance brought her back home, she smiled, looked up at her home, said 'Satnam Shri Waheguru" and then just as she came in, "Home is where the heart is." We couldn't agree more!

Thankfully, the surgery went off well but it was the post op complications that kept her in the hospital a week longer than all of us had planned.But that extra week is what has taught all of us the power of patience and belief in what a combination of a good hospital, good after care, a great team of doctors and nursing staff and so much more. It has also taught us that there is a certain pace to everything and that try and wish as we might, people will heal only at the pace that they can.

It has  also convinced me more than ever before that our guardian angels are always there for us and they are also the ones that keep our mind, body and spirits strong as well give us hope for the future. And this little story will tell you exactly what I mean.

As Mummy tells me, after the five and a half hour surgery, she was moved from the OT to the Post Op room till she regained consciousness. (It is only after this that the patient is moved to the ICU)

It was then that she had this sleeping- waking dream which was  so real that she actually felt warm, safe and comfortable. It was a crowded place with many people milling around. Mummy says it was as though she was looking down at the scene and felt as if she was searching for something, or was it someone?

Some time later, she saw exactly who it was. Mataji, her mum, was sitting in the middle of the crowd and dealing firmly with hordes of people who seemed to be running towards  the opposite direction. In fact, a few of them even told her to leave that place as soon as possible for there was something not quite right there. It was then that Mummy saw Mataji stand up and deal with that situation as firmly as she dealt with many  things in her life. Telling all of them to carry on in the direction that they were heading towards and firmly standing her ground against a few who seemed as if they would sweep her off with them, she said in a loud voice.

"Cant you see, there's no way that I can leave this spot? My daughter is lying ill in bed there and I will wait until she has recovered."

At that, the crowd moved on and she sat alone, waiting.

And some time later, Mummy recovered full consciousness, knowing that her guardian angel had been there for her.

Yet again.... 

It all felt so real.'" she said and I believed her.



My parents with my husband Avi and daughter Neha

Mummy with my brother Navtej- Nov 2015

Cut to a few days back- the 20th of Sep to be precise- Mummy was in a hospital room at Fortis Escorts and having been in and out of ICU's four times already this year, was hoping to be discharged in the next couple of days. She had been very quiet for a while so I decided to start  a conversation.

"We haven't talked about Mataji for a while, Mummy. Do you still see her now and then?"

Her response- "She's with me all the time. In fact, right now, she's sleeping next to me." Then patting the left side of her bed, she smiled gently.

I sat there silent, wondering what that meant.

Three weeks later, I knew- Mataji had been with her daughter through her last weeks and had then taken her back to be with her forever and ever.

I'm equally certain that just like her own mother, Mummy is now our guardian angel. Last evening something that we had all been dealing with for over a year finally came to a close. Even though Mummy isn't physically there with us to share it, she is smiling down at all of us from up above and with that thought, I know that we will be able to deal with the aching void that she has left behind.

Then I realise that she is now a part of every breath I take and of every thought I think.