Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Remains of the Day

Recently one of our family friends passed away. She was a kind-hearted and generous lady of around 70, who lived an active life. She had lived with her doting husband in Kolkata, working for an NGO that helped underprivileged children. Their only daughter studied, married and eventually settled in the US. This lady had gone to visit her daughter this summer and passed away most unexpectedly of a cardiac arrest. She did not have a history of heart disease. Her husband is inconsolable. He is a UP Hindu and she was a Mangalorean Christian. They were part of the swish set of 60’s Calcutta – he a squash playing, party loving dashing young man, she a beautiful, dainty young woman with an independent spirit. They met at a party and hit it off.

Their love and beautiful sense of companionship could be seen in the way they spoke about each other. Now, this uncle says, he doesn’t know how to stay alone in his big house. Everywhere he turns, everything he sees reminds him of her. He speaks of her beautiful saris which are hanging in the cupboard, her neat little kitchen where she would experiment with different cuisines, her favourite couch on which they would sit down to watch the latest DVD’s their daughter sent… At 75, his love hasn’t dimmed.

Their daughter is here now, to share this hard time with her father. But what will he do once she is gone, I wonder. He refuses to settle down in the US at this late stage of his life and she has her life waiting for her back in Chicago. I watch as he dabs his eyes with his handerkerchief and wipes away some memories. In a voice that is cultured and unfailingly polite, he thanks us for going to visit him. I put my arms around him and give him a hug. I wish I could do something more to ease his pain but I know that in life, as in death, we are alone.

Monday, May 3, 2010