Nobody.

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Image by CarbonNYC on Flickr

My friend Paresh G. recently lost his mother to cancer. It’s a loss that many people endure, but can rarely put into words. As I read his words, the tears flowed & my heart broke for him…and every person who loses someone they love to cancer or any illness. Please take a few minutes to read his  raw, heart-wrenching piece below. 

 

 

I’m preparing you for the fact that this a long read. It’s very raw & and uncharacteristically for me, very emotional. I’m sorry if this note upsets anybody but there is a message I want to convey. I just cannot convey it without context. So thank you if you read this. More thanks if you share this – please just tag me so that I know it’s been shared. 

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Nobody prepares you for loss. I’m not talking about losing a bet, or your phone, or your car keys. I’m talking about gut punching, heart ripping, soul tearing loss. Everyone says it’s inevitable but there’s not one single experience in any one person’s life that can possibly prepare them for the loss of a loved one. Especially if that loved one is a parent. Ever more so if it is your mother.

I’m typing this on her birthday. It has also been one month, 2 hours and 53 minutes since she died 8 feet away from me with a team of doctors and nurses attempting to revive her after she went into cardiac arrest. My mother had just passed from complications caused by advanced ovarian cancer & chemotherapy. This was her second (technically third) bout with cancer. She went from diagnosed to dead in 32 days. Count them – 32.

When we are all children, we have at least one memory of us being helpless & our mothers being the first person to scoop us into their arms to protect us; to shield us from the feeling of dire despair. To shield us from the inevitable pain that will come from the inability of being unable to change that one situation we found ourselves in.  

In my case, I will now have two. The first one was when I was a kid in Bahrain & hurt myself messing around on the front steps of our home. I remember gouging my knee on some rocks as I fell face first. Before I could even react, I remember Maa picking me up & holding me. Then the tears flowed but I was safe. 

On February 15th, my world came crashing down when the ICU attending doctor pulled me in & in a flat tone told me that Maa had gone into cardiac arrest & that they were trying to revive her. They worked on her for 18 minutes. She died at 7:45 am. The tears flowed. I couldn’t breathe. I had to hold myself up against a wall. And as I fell to the ground, there was nobody there to pick me up. The one person who could have was 8 feet away from me. Gone. I can tell you that this specific moment will be the most helpless I will ever feel in my life ever; not because she wasn’t around to console me but because I couldn’t do anything to save her.

I spent around 40 minutes by her bedside holding her hand while crying & waiting for my sister & father to make it to the hospital. When my sister walked into the room where we were, I couldn’t see her face. I had been crying that hard. She asked me what happened & when I shook my head, I fell into her arms because I had failed at the one thing I had gone to India to do – take care of my mother while she was ill. 

Then I had to go tell my father. I’ve given him many reasons to be ashamed of me in my life. Lord knows I’ve done gloriously bad things where he had to deal with me. But I will never live down the shame of having to walk up to him & tell him that she was gone. I will never be able to forget the look in his face when I told him. I will never forget his body shaking as I held him when I told him.

Nobody prepares you to plan your mother’s funeral. Nobody explains to you how hard it is to store your mother’s body in a safe, enclosed space where rodents won’t get to her while your family is flying in from around the world. Nobody prepares you to make that call to your brother while he’s at the airport & half way home to tell him that she’s gone. Nobody prepares you for the hour and a half ride behind the hearse carrying your mother to the mortuary so you can give her a proper good bye the next day. 

Certainly, nobody prepares you for the question ‘Do you want to use ghee or kerosene when you cremate her?’. Nobody prepares you for the moment where you go from being 33 to feeling like you’re 63 in the blink of an eye & are forced to go from the baby of the family to the one carrying the load of the logistics so that the rest of the family can just grieve when they arrive. Nobody prepares you for a Facebook conversation where you have to tell your older brother that he doesn’t have to be strong because you got him. There’s no guide for telling your sister that she did everything she could have done & more while you’re holding her on a set of steps on a hospital landing as she bawls into your shirt. 

Nobody prepares you for carrying your mother half a mile to the cremation grounds. There is no manual for the colossal feeling of loss, guilt, grief, anger, resentment & hate you feel when you see your mother’s body burning & how it was too soon.  

Then it gets worse. From that moment on, for every waking moment, every moment between sleep & waking, every empty moment at a traffic light or elevator ride – you have two things in your head. The moment she died. And every other decision you made that led to that moment. It consumes you. It shapes you. Frankly, it changes you. You pretend that things are fine; but they’re not. They never will be because your mother won’t see your kids. You mother won’t be around to show your children the things she taught you. She won’t be around to be stern but kind; firm but gentle; elegant but prone to giggle fits.

She won’t be around when your dad subconciously reaches out for her hand while he’s sitting on the couch. She won’t be around to tell you, unequivocally, that you’re being an idiot for not calling your family back home because they never call anyway. She won’t be there to crinkle her nose at you when you tell her that she looks gorgeous in that one sari she’s wearing. She won’t around to cut you in half with a look from across the room because you’re being an idiot. She won’t be around to gently shake awake as she’s passed out on the couch, laptop open, playing Freecell because that’s totally her scene man!

 

She won’t be around to tell you that she loves you.

You won’t be able to tell her that you love her.

Ever. 

 

Her last words to me were ‘How much more are you going to do?’ My last words to my mother were ‘No matter how much I do, it will never be enough for you. I love you. Please get better but for now go to sleep. I’ll be right here. We’re going home in the morning.’ She never left the hospital. She never opened her eyes again.

Legally, I was supposed to be the family member who took her of the ventilator. I struggled with my ability to make that call when the family would have assembled. So what does she do? She pulls a typical Gajria move – Do it yourself because someone will totally screw it up if you don’t. 

My goals in going home were simple. 1) Get mummy through some chemo sessions 2) Help my sister & father in the running around that India always requires families to do for medical patients. I was supposed to get her through two mini chemo sessions then hand her off to my brother. I was supposed to get her ready for a risky hysterectomy that was coming in the summer by navigating her through the first set of chemotherapy sessions. I kept watch on her in an old dining room chair by her bed side so my father & sister could sleep to recover their energy. I had 12 straight 22 hour days to help my mother & she died on day 15. 

This is not the easiest thing to write about but it’s important because this is a terrible disease that has taken the ultimate toll on my family. You’re seeing one person’s point of view here. If you ask my brother, his pain & coping mechanism is different. My sister’s too. My dad is heartbroken but not broken. My sister in law is the beacon of positivity & my wife will always be my rock.

My mother has built a strong family, and I won’t speak for them but I will confess to being an utter shit show & train wreck. Nobody prepares you for the guilt of having made decisions that potentially cost your mother her life. Nobody. Everyone has been kind & told me that I did what I could. They tell me that she would be proud of me & that they are proud of me. I’ll never believe that because I truly believe that if I had done all that I could have done, I wouldn’t be writing this. Nobody prepares you for the emotional turmoil you go through & how you take it out on yourself & your loved ones because you cannot bottle the rage that you have at yourself & the situation. 

Nobody tells you how to deal with yourself on the flight home. Nobody prepares you for that first hug on the other side when a good friend picks you up two years to the day of losing his own mother & you know exactly how he felt. Nobody prepares you for the tears as you write a note to the world about why this sucks. Nobody prepares you for the month of grief that comes pouring out at 1210 am. 

On the plus side – nobody prepares you for the unconditional love & support you’ll get from your friends and family. Those who were there during the two longest days of my life – you know who you are. The support even outside of that has made me a hesitant but rather strong believer in humanity. Mummy, as usual, was right – people are usually good & want to help… if you just let them. Just don’t forget to return the favor.

This is what I want you to do – Talk about cancer. Get screened for cancer. Desi culture tends to stigmatize cancer as an unspeakable disease. This is not the flu. This shit doesn’t just go away. Cancer patients deserve to have an educated & armed support system around them to help them heal & get them to the finish line.

Ladies – Please get those Mammograms. Please find out if you can get screened for ovarian cancer & then do it. Especially if cancer has occured in your family.  The test is to look for protein level markers of the protein CA125. Ovaraian cancer is called the silent killer because it’s almost invariably found too late to do anything about. 

Guys – Talk to your mothers, mothers-in-law, sisters, wives & significant others about getting screened. You have just as much invested in their lives as much as they do. 

My sister in law found this site: http://www.ocrf.org/ for Ovarian Cancer Research. 

Find out what the cancer can do & how it can be treated:http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/ovarian|| http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/ovarian-cancer/DS00293

 

Do something. Do anything. Because this isn’t the first time a son has lost his mother to this & it certainly won’t be the last. 

 

Happy Birthday Maa. I love you. I miss you. I’m sorry I wasn’t good enough but I promise to do my damndest from here on out. I won’t forget when you asked me how much more I was going to do. 

The answer will always be never enough. 

Why Your Crappy English Makes Me Stabby

Yes. I win ALL the time.

I’m known for my obsession with grammar & spelling, both in person & online. People in my Twitter feed often get pissed at me, telling me to get a hobby or simply to f-ck off.

You know what? I’m not going anywhere, people.

Lamest reason EVER for being single & lonely.

Here’s the thing: With the vast majority of you, the only way I know you is through Twitter, or maybe my Facebook page. My first impression of you is the way you spell & structure your sentences. Remember the old adage, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”? Yeah, that applies here. If you type/tweet/post like a moron, chances are high that I’m going to think you’re a moron… If the majority of your interactions with people are via text/tweet/Facebook post, some of those people may judge you on your atrocious grammar, too.

You could say I’m an a$$hole, which I very well could be–but I’m not. I see these stupid errors that people make–an unnecessary apostrophe, using “to” instead of “too,” or yet another FOB asking to “make phraansheep” with me–and I find them rather excruciating. For the majority of us (excluding the FOBs), English is our primary (or only) language. Why, then, is it so hard to master? Perhaps it’s not a priority for you, which is understandable; after all, there are so many other things to be concerned with in our daily lives, like what nail polish color you should choose or if your car is as cool as everyone else’s.

If you can’t spell or master basic English grammar, please realize that people may (and probably will) judge you for it. How will you ever apply for a job with a cover letter customized to that position? What about a dating profile? In both of these situations, your writing is your first impression. Don’t screw it up.

This may be your best course of action.

I hope you think of me as you type out your next tweet or send a message on shaadi.com to that sweet honey you’ve been eyeing for the last couple days. Who knows? That sweet little honey could be me.

Make me proud. Don’t look like an idiot.

Say “Thank You” & Shut Up.

Please. Take one.

I hate it when I give someone a compliment, and the person side-steps it and says something like, “Oh, no–I don’t look great at all.”

Listen, if I didn’t think that you look fabulous in some way, why would I go out of my way to tell you? Think about it. Accepting a compliment gracefully doesn’t mean you’re arrogant or think you’re better than anyone–it’s a skill… one you need to master.

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So, say “thank you,” blush appropriately at the wonderfulness of the random compliment, and enjoy that spring in your step, would you please? Don’t argue with the complimenter–they may rethink that lovely little tidbit that they shared with you.

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As for the infamous backhanded compliments that Indians just love to give other Indians? Feel free to borrow my knife & do what you please, but a witty lash of the tongue will usually put them in their place.

Take a minute and look at yourself in the mirror… and don’t hesitate to love what you see.

Enjoy your day–you look wonderful.

WTF, America? Abbreviations that SUCK.

Right.

Brekkie = Breakfast

Jelly, Jeals = Jealous

Champers = Champagne

Presh = Precious

Hilare = Hilarious

Profesh = Professional

Obvi = Obviously

When the hell did this happen?? Seriously. Make. It. Stop. Is it so f-cking hard to pronounce that extra syllable, or wrap your mouth around pronouncing an ‘f’ or an ‘s’? Really, people?

We talk about how people in America are getting stupider. I find that the people who are most defensive of this concept often can’t spell, don’t understand the concept of grammar, and abbreviate words that really do not need abbreviating. Abbreviations are there for a reason, and should only be used if they are commonly used and known.

Sure, you can say & do whatever you want. Honestly. But realize that people will judge you, and perhaps stop listening to you altogether.

Step it up and learn English. After all, if you live in the States (or a country where English is the primary language), shouldn’t you be able to demonstrate mastery of the one language you’re required to learn? (I realize that some of these words may be commonly used in other countries. Leave them to those countries, will you please?)

If you decide you need to use any of these abbreviations anywhere in my immediate vicinity, please realize 2 things:

  • I will immediately lose respect for you.
  • My knife is easier to unsheathe than you think.

Don’t make me get my knife.

WTF, America? You’re Saying It Wrong.

I love being unique.

I am a person. I am of Eastern Indian descent. My parents gave me a traditional, Eastern Indian name. It’s a simple, beautiful name. Five letters long. The meaning suits me well.

The problem? People who don’t want to take a moment to read my name or try to pronounce it correctly. Seriously, people. It’s MY F-CKING NAME. No, you can’t shorten it (it’s five letters long, for chrissake!). No, you can’t call me (insert Anglo name here). I find it highly unprofessional/disrespectful/ignorant/pathetic when people tell me my name is too hard to pronounce.

It's okay to be different. Don't be ashamed of it.

But you know what makes it worse? Those fellow brown people who allow these ignorant morons to mispronounce their names to the point that they begin to introduce themselves to others brown people with the same affected tone. I met a great (brown) guy at a party one night–great personality, good-looking, etc., but I couldn’t get over the fact that he introduced himself to me as ‘Ka-PEEL’–not ‘Ka-pill’, as it’s meant to be pronounced. I had to walk away after I asked him why he mispronounces his own name–‘It’s easier for the Americans. My name isn’t normal, you know.’

Americans are striving to give their kids new and original names. Failing that, they try to spell them differently to set their kids apart (Madison becomes ‘Madysyn’ or some other BS like that). We can’t be proud of being different? Why can’t we be proud of having a heritage that values names & having a language & culture that dates back thousands of years? Just because it makes you uncomfortable when you have to correct people so they can say your name correctly?

Nothing wrong with being different.

When I meet people (& I get out there & meet a lot of people on a daily basis), my name often gets mispronounced. I know, it’s different. I patiently (& kindly) correct them. And you know what? People always make an effort if they know there is an expectation. Try it out sometime.

And remember… If you don’t respect yourself, no one else will.

Please Hold…

This Should NOT Be How You Live Your Life...

After seeing my timeline clogged, day after day, night after night, with young girls in their twenties tweeting about lost love, trying to find love, or why they don’t have husbands, I just couldn’t f-cking handle it any more. Why are you all sitting around pining?

I went on a rant on Twitter: “Makes me sad to see young girls desperately seeking a mate. Get out there & live ur damn life! Never know where/when you’ll meet ur mate!  Don’t wait to try that new restaurant, travel to that faraway land, or buy that flashy new car until ‘after I get married’. You’re not dead.  Go live your life! You’ll be happier, have more life experiences, & be a less boring & pathetic human being. That’s NEVER attractive.” And yes, indeed–it makes me STABBY.

I see tweets like “I thought we had something good. Where did he go?”; “Where is my husband?”; “When will I finally meet my husband?”; or ‘I wish I could find a husband so I could go to Paris/Venice/outside my house without permission.’ Really, ladies? Aren’t you alive and breathing right now? Get off your computer, remove yourself from your parents’ control, get out there and live your life–quit bitching about your lack of one online. You want your life to change? YOU have the power to make it change… Don’t give that power to a man who hasn’t even materialized yet.

Go out, do the things you dream of doing, LIVE YOUR LIFE. You won’t regret it, I promise. Who knows? You just might meet the man of your dreams while pursuing your dreams…

Yep. I went there...

WTF, America?? Learn English!

Okay, people. I have HAD it with this particular mixup of words. Seriously.

Peek.

Peeking.

Peak.

Mountain Peak.

Pique.

The Dog's Interest? Piqued.

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary (online), the definitions of these words are as follows:

Peek (verb) :

a : to look furtively
b : to peer through a crack or hole or from a place of concealment —often used with in or out

Peak (noun):

1: a pointed or projecting part of a garment; especially : the visor of a cap or hat
2: a sharp or pointed end
a (1) : the top of a hill or mountain ending in a point (2) : a prominent mountain usually having a well-defined summitb : something resembling a mountain peak
a : the upper aftermost corner of a fore-and-aft sail   b : the narrow part of a ship’s bow or stern or the part of the hold in it
5: a : the highest level or greatest degree  b : a high point in a course of development especially as represented on a graph

Pique (verb) :

1: to arouse anger or resentment in : irritate <what piqueslinguistic conservatives — T. H. Middleton>
2  a : to excite or arouse especially by a provocation, challenge, or rebuff <sly remarks to pique their curiosity>  b : pride <he piques himself on his skill as a cook>

I am SICK AND TIRED of seeing people confuse these three words… CONSTANTLY. It’s not “sneak PEAK”, you moron… Unless you happen to be referring to a sneaky mountain or something. If you want people to be interested in a glimpse of your new product, service, boobs, etc., call it what it is: a sneak PEEK.

Don’t make me get my knife.