This article is part of The Ascent Summer Program 2020
By Vir Kamath
The year was 2015. I was having the time of my life as I was enjoying and spending a well-deserved summer vacation with my mom in Singapore. It was indeed a memorable one with moments I continue to cherish. Little did I know what life had in store for me.
It was May 18th 2015 and I was looking forward to another beautiful day. The time was around 7 am in Singapore where I awoke to the sound of my mother sobbing. I was disturbed by this and immediately went to comfort her. I was a bit surprised to see her talking to my dad via facetime that early in the day. My mom gave me the phone and went to another room. Thinking that my dad would know what happened to mom, I asked him “what’s happening, dad?” What I heard next tore me apart.
The words that came next were “ Nana passed away.” Nana is grandfather in Hindi. I was beyond shocked, sad and couldn’t believe what I heard. It was the first time I experienced the loss of a loved one and had no idea how to react as I was only nine years old at the time. I first comforted my mother and then we quickly made the decision of returning to India. On the plane back home, however, tears poured down my eyes. They were tears I was not able to hold back. It was at that moment I realized and registered that no matter what I did, I would never in any way get to meet my nana (maternal grandfather).
From the time we touched down in India, I was trying to cope and understand the true sorrow and sadness of losing a loved one and how to get over the loss.
I did something I had rarely done before to get over my grandfather’s death, that was going back to all the positive and happy memories and moments we had shared. My nana was a very warm and kind person who I loved to visit and spend time with. As a grandparent, he was there for me and always sparked energy when he walked into the room. He also introduced me to the sport of cricket. Cricket was a sport that I found boring and did not know much about but my nana changed that. He taught me about the rules and some players and teams that he was a fan of. Today cricket is one of my favourite sports.
Another memory I cherish is when I went to Jaipur and it was the last time I visited him in his house. I was about 7 years old, it was summer in Jaipur when we went to visit my grandparents for a few days. Due to the weather, I dug a few feet into the ground to make a pretend mud pool (out of pure curiosity) as that was a particularly humid day. However, I never got to complete making the pretend mud pool fully as my mom and I had to go back to Mumbai. As I got back to my daily routine in Mumbai I eventually forgot about the mud pool in Jaipur. After my nana’s death, my grandmother told me a story which made me miss my grandfather even more. After my mom and I left Jaipur, some people wanted to fill the hole up and redo the garden. However, my nana put his foot down and did not allow anybody to touch my pretend mud pool. He wanted to remember it as I had left it. When I heard this, I just broke down and couldn’t stop crying, I never realised what he meant to me and how much I missed him. These are some memories we made that I shall never forget.
While remembering the moments I also talked to people like my mother and a few friends because I did not want to keep suppressed emotions and sadness inside me and just expressed myself which I really think was the right thing to do. The thing I do today and always will is spending as much time as possible with the people I love. I never take anybody I meet for granted and spend time, meet them or just talk whenever possible. This is also something that I did not do often with my nana and will not repeat the same mistake ever.
Another happy memory that I have of him is our shared love for food and cooking. My nana was a fantastic cook and I remember spending many days watching him dish out delicious treats. His biryani, parathas, shahi tukda (an Indian dessert) will always linger in my memory and taste buds. He had this secret recipe of an Indian spice mix called garam masala which he would lovingly make each visit for my mother. This bottle of masala is my mother’s most prized possession in her kitchen even today. She hides it from everyone and uses it sparingly to make it last. He gifted her his last bottle of the spice mix and it’s still there in our kitchen to this day. Some days when I miss him too much I go into the kitchen, open that bottle, smell it and feel his presence once again.
To all the people who are dealing with grief and loss, I would like to tell you all that in the beginning you are going to find it tough and will feel sad which is normal because nobody would want to lose a loved one. I would recommend that you try your best to remember the good moments and memories you shared with that person. Talk to someone when you feel down and out. You should express yourself till you get all of the sadness and grief out. Spend as much time with the people you love. Lastly, never take somebody for granted because sometimes we lose our loved ones and goodbyes happen unexpectedly.