Incomplete… Part IV

I dedicate this post to my dear friend Reena, who married her Big Love on this beautiful summer day. 

The Big Love.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mtsofan/8221708017/sizes/c/in/photolist-dwwpmv-9Vzh3F-d64gks-ahjewq-bBV5AW-8m5jM9-dczkwb-8LLZbB-aqfyrm-beRnng-dSoysd-8zr465-82cwPw-dN1ZGu-7Lv1Kp-cUDeLw-afHf6t-8bRe97-cz2HTA-86DJLP-8fsVLW-9hYtQA-9Y9x5d-8VL7DQ-9nk9pU-7CLdva-frimb8-e25AnE-cb8ruQ-d6GRjG-aMGg6T-89RsEL-akZHp2-f6BM3M-8yQDaN-8TLQxX-9qU66A-bDV2du-7BKB6F-9Xz153-awiG4D-7VeLgx-9i8BdN-drCRtu-dX9DoU-cdu1Mu-99nMGm-9hTBoo-fxXF8c-eYE3JD-dtWaGD/

Photo by MTSOfan on flickr

There are so many different kinds of love. Love for your family, love for your pets, love for your friends, love for the barista that makes your coffee perfectly every morning. We experience it, but we may not always appreciate all the love in our daily lives… especially when we find ourselves alone, seeking that one love, the Big Love.

What’s the Big Love? The love we strive to find in our lives. The love that makes us smile, makes us blush, makes us stammer and do stupid or awkward things. It’s the love that we yearn to hold hands with. The love that we want to spend time with, having conversations late into the night. Entwining our thoughts and ideas while entwining our bodies. Well… that’s my Big Love. Everyone has their own definition, their own emotions that go with their own Big Love.

My life is good–it’s full of good things. It’s not perfect, certain things make me stabby and there are people that I would gladly throw out of a window on certain days. But when I look back on my day, there are things that make me smile, and people who warm my heart. I have somehow found an amazing group of people who I count as friends–they’re smart, strong, caring, & supportive, and I’m grateful for their friendship. But…

But I find myself longing for The One. Remember how I said my parents love me, but I would never be “complete” in their eyes if I wasn’t married? Well… My life is full of great things and wonderful people, but now I find myself wondering if I’ll find The Big Love, and if I’ll ever feel complete without him.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/94585506@N05/8614340534/sizes/m/in/photolist-e8dKjE-etED2C-dUGHNM-c7PTEw-7CM6EK-8HqkJD-bXkFD3-8HtZqA-dyZctp-8cFHmH-ah5uzh-bxrNto-8uwdsc-9ezww5-dAMhCN-f2MhNE-7LGgcY-9ytpED-cfPqpq-bNbVUx-7CMjhg-9DYjed-c5kPUf-c5kztW-f3gwpM-9DYcdE-9WRWdY-8wBUNa-bZftGd-ds7uDg-bxrZJs-8dgeky-bNRf2i-bwVzW1-ed3Wtz-9A7BHe-9kssjz-7DTFWg-7USPmN-7Djvu7-9Xn4Bb-bra7bL-bra67A-8tAnwz-8tDomu-e8uUUG-97WQYP-bhVhL2-7SvAs1-9SMv5D-9utv2X/

Photo by marsmet532 on flickr

I have also wondered if admitting that I’m looking for love makes me weak, or less than… but as I’ve talked to people around me, I have found that, on some level, we’re all looking for love. When I see a friend fall in love, it makes my heart swell, and it gives me hope. We hold onto the hope for The Big Love even after endless bad dates, broken hearts, dysfunctional relationships, breakups, and divorce. Does that make us weak?

No. It makes us human.

I wish you luck in your quest to find The Big Love. And for those of you who have found it, I’m happy for you–you give me hope.

Nobody.

Image

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. 

—–

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. 

Incomplete (Part I)

I’m fast approaching the mid-thirties mark, and finding myself bewildered & anxious as the new number becomes clearer in the distance. Where has the time gone?

I have plenty of milestones to look upon–degrees, graduate degrees, getting my own place, moving cross-country to change my life & career path. I’m proud of all of my accomplishments and have worked hard to achieve the things that I have. I have messed up, I have failed–but I have done my best to learn from each and every thing that has crossed my path, whether blissful or wildly unpleasant. I have discovered new friendships, lost more than I can count (& mourned them all), I have found love, I have enjoyed lust, I have reveled in the pleasures of the tongue & the flesh. I have travelled the world, danced the night away in Spain, immersed myself in the flavors of Italy.

And yet… I feel incomplete.

I recently had a conversation with my father–the closest we’ll probably ever come to a heart-to-heart. He’s a good man, a good father. But at his core, he is a simple man, who wants the best for his only daughter, the girl that has been the apple of his eye since…forever. He loves me and is proud of everything I have accomplished, as well as the things I strive to accomplish every day. The conversation has made me think hard–with an open mind and an open heart. My defenses? Nonexistent.

My father told me about a family friend, whose daughter is a surgical nurse. She is one of the best nurses in her hospital–hard-working, compassionate, and always willing to spend time to help a patient or a colleague–and dedicated to her family. I’m proud to know this girl. My father beamed as he told me about the purchase she recently made for her mother, and I smiled at his evident joy.

“We have wonderful daughters who have accomplished so much. I’m proud of you, I just want…” He stumbled, his eyes searched my face. He was waiting for my defensive reaction to his poorly disguised reference to the fact that his darling daughter, quickly approaching the next big number, is still single. I had nothing to say… My brain was a blank slate. I chose to smile.

“I know, Dad. I know what you mean,” I said quietly, trying to keep my voice from breaking. He smiled back, visibly relieved. I held the smile as long as possible, my heart heavy. I refused to let myself think about it… but here it is, in my face.

No matter what I am able to accomplish in my life, my parents will never truly be happy unless I find someone to love, to love me as I deserve to be loved. They don’t want me to settle for a warm body (with a good biodata) by my side–they want me to find a good man that will love & care for me the same way I would for him. Someone who would complement who I am as a person, just as I would for him.

You know what? I want that, too. I just have no idea how to find that kind of love, and no idea why I have been unable to find it for so long… even though I’ve never stopped looking.

 

(It looks like this will be a series of posts, as I explore this. I’m opening myself up in a way I’m not necessarily comfortable with, but I think it’s important… I know I’m not the only person to have experienced some of these emotions.)

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.

WTF, America?

I am temporarily shelving my title of Angry Brown Girl… To be replaced with Disgusted and Saddened Brown Girl.

This should really exist.

Have you heard about the kid at Rutgers, Tyler Clementi, that killed himself? This happened last week, after his roommate & his roommate’s friend (Dharun Ravi, and fellow Rutgers freshman Molly Wei) broadcast a video of Clementi hooking up with a man. This story breaks my heart.

I’m not going to get into the hate crime aspect of it… Rather, I want to focus on WHY Ravi & Wei thought this would be okay. Ravi set up his computer to record and broadcast Tyler and his companion hooking up–WHY?? In what circumstance is this okay? Was Ravi bullying Tyler? Did he not like Tyler? I don’t know… But what made Ravi think that he should live-stream Tyler and his date? Was he proud of himself? That’s how I interpreted it, after reading some of his tweets leading up to the day of Tyler’s suicide.

The Today Show on NBC covered this story this morning, and it was said that the suspects were at home with their families, and that Ravi was ‘confused’ and ‘upset’. What is so ‘confusing’ and ‘upsetting’, Dharun Ravi? YOU chose to tweet (you can view DR’s last few tweets here) and then BROADCAST your roommate having sex with another man… TWICE. Your roommate, who may or may not have been open about his sexuality, then jumped off of the George Washington Bridge. You’re ‘CONFUSED’?! YOU BULLIED someone… And (I believe) your actions led to his SUICIDE. And you’re ‘confused’. Give me a f*cking break. Take responsibility for the fact that you acted like a sociopath.

You know what sucks? This insensitive prick, Dharun Ravi, is of Indian descent. I look to be proud of my kinspeople, and I am disgusted to have anything in common with you. And what does your family think? I hope that they can live with the fact that they have YOU as a son.

Otherwise… You have broken two families, Dharun Ravi. You disgust me as a human being, a ‘man’, and a person of Indian descent. I can only wonder how you have hurt people in the past.

Thank you for reading my rant… What do you think about this case? I would like to know your thoughts.