A Year Passes…

“Death is not extinguishing the light; it is putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.”

~ Rabindranath Tagore

This very day last year, was the day I said my final goodbye to my dear Papa. Papa was in hospital for 3 weeks before he passed, the final week being in the Intensive Care Unit. It was a heart wrenching time, one in which our hopes were being raised and dashed every day as we were given his daily hospital reports. One day we would be told things were just not looking good, the next day the doctors were asking us what magical powers we had for his improvement was inexplicable, the day after that back to things not looking so good. Every day walking into that ICU ward, my heart would be pumping so hard I was convinced that the security guard could hear it. What will they tell us today? Will he respond to my voice? Will he be sleeping soundly? Will he be struggling to breathe? The anticipation at times got too much to bear. Unfortunately for us, my Papa was needed somewhere else. His mission in this life was complete and on 20 August 2018 at 2.25pm he bid us farewell. We gave him the send off we think he would be proud of and slowly, painfully tried to get on with our lives.

It’s what I experienced the next 365 days that’s inspired this post. As you would expect, friends and family offered their condolences and shared in our grief. I know a lot of people felt there was not much they could do but impart some kind words, but it’s these very words that got me through that tough year.

As soon as the condolences started flooding in, what kept me going was hearing how everyone remembered him. Words like “legend”, “kind”, “smiley”, “balanced”, “centered” were in so many of the messages. I did not take even one message for granted, I soaked it all in, every single word. I remember one memory my cousin had was of Papa teaching him how to swim. I laughed…. because Papa himself didn’t know how to swim. But that was who he was, he could teach others even when he didn’t know how to do something himself.

There were a few thoughts that particularly stood out for me and that helped me navigate through all the emotions I went through. One of the first things that I clung to was something a close friend said to me: “When you lose a parent, you gain an angel”. Thinking of that has given me much comfort.

Months later I found myself feeling angry. Why were we given hope of him getting better only to have him taken away from us? I spoke to one of my dearest, wisest friends about how having hope was pointless to me now. She explained to me her views on the difference between being hopeful and being determined.

She said “I don’t know about hope. Whether having it or losing it matters. I think of hope as a rather weak cousin. Optimism is important I think. Because our vibes affect the outcome. Most important of all is determination. Keeping on until the goal is achieved. And you will then understand that it all comes down to control. We need to differentiate between that which we can control and that which we can’t. When we have no control, we can hope. But when we do have control, then we must be determined. I think in Papa’s case you were determined, yet it was not something you could control or do anything about. If you were determined in a situation where you should only have been hoping then what you are feeling is natural.” I’ve read these words over and over and slowly I can feel myself accepting that I could not have controlled the situation and what I was holding onto was determination at a time when all I could have really done was hope.

When I finally felt myself begin to grieve, and it took a really long time to get there, I was conflicted. Did grieving mean I was not being grateful for the memories? Such beautiful memories of such a beautiful Papa who made me feel like the luckiest daughter in the world. How could I feel sorry for myself? I shared this with another good friend who explained that there was no correlation between grief and a lack of gratitude. She encouraged me to feel the pain, to feel the loss, to open up to my emotions and to recognise every journey is different.

Along the way I stumbled across an article on grief. I wish I could remember where I read it so I could give credit where it’s due but I never made note of the source. The article explained how grief is like a huge circle within a jar. It is so huge the circumference is pressing up against the sides of the jar. The jar, in this instance, represents your outlook or approach to grief. In the beginning the circle is taking up all the room in the jar. Many people think in time the circle will reduce in size. It doesn’t. Instead the jar needs to increase in size, so much so that the grief starts feeling smaller. I interpreted this to mean that your outlook and approach to grief needs to encompass things like acceptance, gratitude, hope, in order to grow the jar. The grief will not get smaller, but I promise it’ll feel smaller.

Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay 

With every birthday, anniversary, father’s day came a mixture of emotions. But I got through it all with the help and kindness of everyone around me. To all the beautiful people who shared their memories of Papa with me, I cherished every single word. To all the friends who went out of their way to pick me up when they could see I was down, I thank you. To my extended family in UK who have always been there for me no matter what, I’m so grateful for you. To my family in Kenya, despite the pain you’re going through, you are always there for me, like my safety net. And to my three boys here at home with me, thank you for your understanding, your support, and most of all, your cuddles.

As vulnerable as it makes me feel to share this today, I do it because I know I’m not the only one who has experienced loss. If any of the words said here can help one other person going through the same thing, then I’ll be making a start to fostering the kind of life that my Papa was known for, a life well lived.

🌹🌹🌹

Shraddha

Always and Forever in our Hearts
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Raksha Bandhan

raksha bandhan

it is said that you don’t
choose your family
but if i had a choice
i would choose you
over and over

the protection of a brother
the guidance of a father
the bond of friendship
magic of music
the exchange
of spiritual thoughts
where
you listened more
but when you spoke
it was an eternity in a moment

with a thread so fragile
the power to link us
in each world
in every lifetime

all the time in the universe
would never have been enough
but it was my fortune
to have walked with you

i pray that you are free
sailing in the skies above
we all miss you deeply
blessings of Raksha Bandhan
with all my love…

***

a dedication to Papa from his youngest sister Pushpa, written upon her request by Sonya Kassam 

Raksha Bandhan – a day where a sister ties a Rakhri on the wrist of her brother as a sign of her love and blessings

Serendipity

An interesting phenomenon – there are those who think of serendipity as a “happy accident” and others who see it as “destiny calling”. What’s not in question is that it exists. Think of the science world where Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin came about purely by accident. Returning from a 2 week holiday Fleming noticed that one of his petri dishes had developed mould. The mould had created a bacteria-free circle around itself leading to the discovery of penicillin.

In the religious world, baby Ganesha had his head chopped off while standing guard for his mother Parvati. His father, Lord Shiva, after a case of mistaken identity, swung his “trishula” leading to the accidental but momentous birth of Lord Ganesha.

In the fictional world, the 2001 rom-com by the name Serendipity follows the story of a couple who write down their telephone numbers in a book and on a dollar bill and decide if the items make their way back to each other, then they are destined to be together. For those that haven’t watched it they do make their way back and there is a happy ending. But that’s fiction I hear you say?

Then let me bring to you a story much more real, much closer to home.

Meet Narendra and Savita. It’s the year 1954. Both still in their teenage years. Both living in Kenya but in totally different cities, neither knowing of the existence of the other. One of their favourite pastimes was to indulge in reading a very popular Gujarati children’s magazine called Ramakadu. Apart from interesting articles and games, the magazine had a section for readers contributions.

One evening Savita picked up her pen and scribbled an article entitled “Bahadur Stree” about brave women. Coincidentally around the same time Narendra felt inspired enough to also send in a contribution to the magazine and wrote about a quiet, peaceful wetland in the town of Kikuyu in Kenya that he had recently visited. Now I don’t know how many contributions this magazine had to sift through every day and how they decided which ones would be published. But it just so happened that both Narendra and Savita’s articles were published in the same magazine in the same edition!!

And this is a big deal why?

Because my dear reader, just less than 10 years later Narendra and Savita were walking around a holy fire bound by a red cloth, pledging their lives to each other. They were married for 55 blissful years and were, to many of us, the ultimate example of what a marriage should be like.

So it’s up to you what you see serendipity as.

To me serendipity is when something beautiful happens to you when you weren’t even looking.

To me serendipity is Narendra and Savita, sitting hundreds of miles apart, with an invisible red cloth pulling them together with every passing day.

And if you’re asking yourself why I am using their story as an example, it’s because Narendra and Savita are better known to me as “Papa” and “Mummy”.

image-from-rawpixel-id-544887-jpeg

~Shraddha

Image Credit

Related Posts:
Legacy of a Gentle Man
A Letter about Success

Legacy of a Gentle Man

Last year we had created this blog to share our parents’ thoughts, memories and lives.

We lost our beloved father a few months later.

Sharing this post in Papa’s memory.

We hope to rekindle this blog soon.

With best wishes and thanks for your support.

S,S,S, & S

SONYA KASSAM

sleep is a disconnect
from the illusion that is your life
what is death, but
an awareness that you are asleep

It has been 9 months since our beloved father passed away. The void is still hard to come to terms with. Unbelievable how time just moves on, life passes by leaving you simply wondering.

During the memorial service, we attempted to convey the legacy of this gentle man. Sharing here some of what was said that evening about Papa.

Arhan:

All of us grandchildren remember the sleepovers where Dada would teach us to play carom and checkers and he would make chips for us some days. They were so much fun. We will all miss him a lot.

Samia:

Our beloved Nana was more than just my grandfather, he was one of my best friends. We had so many sleepovers at his house. He always reserved my special pillow…

View original post 2,058 more words

A Letter about Success

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We found an old letter our father had typed out and sent to our sister when started studying History and Philosophy of Psychology.

So, you are now taking up “History and Philosophy of Psychology”. I hope you are enjoying it and finding it interesting.

You mentioned a phrase:
“Your motto in life should be to strive, to struggle instead of to succeed. Work that is well accomplished is the joy of life.

Parthsarathy has written this which is, of course, from the Gita.   Yes, on the first hand it looks heavy but after a careful analysis and understanding it may make it lighter and simpler.

In this phrase the word “Succeed” is the key word and one should try to understand this and its effects.

1. When you aim to succeed means you expect something to happen. When you expect or wish … you are limiting your potentiality to your expectations. Actually the potentiality can be greater than your wishes.

What is the basis of success? What is the criteria of success? When my parents were able to count up to 100 they were a successful lot in their period. When I was able to speak and write in English they thought that I had achieved great success. Successes/failures are based on certain criteria/standards which keep on changing as our ability improves. Potentiality will be unlimited of course.

2. We seem to have designed our own criteria and limits i.e. if one can obtain or reach certain limits created by us it would be a successful venture. For example in education when everybody manages 50% marks and you get 60%, you are successful. But if everyone gets 60% you will be successful only if you achieve 70%. What if everyone or most people get 100%? Well, the examiners will have to change their criteria.

In other cases people study some subjects but later in life end up in an entirely different area and still are said to be highly successful.

3. In life when one aims to succeed, the following may normally happen:
– if they do not succeed, they will be disappointed
– if they do not succeed, but see that other people have succeeded, they may become jealous and later on greedy
– if however, one is successful they may easily become proud or egocentric because one can only succeed if others have failed.

4. Another point is you can only produce what you have put in your brain/life but we tend to wish for/expect far better results than what we may have practised.

5. The Gita talks of a better human development and for this to happen your mind has to be under control and of a better quality. Qualities such as disappointment, jealousy, greed, pride and ego are not a good foundation to build upon or develop a better human life. These qualities are developed because we aim, expect, wish for certain things to happen, or some things must happen in our life.

6. What the phrase seems to say is:
– You try your best and hardest (according to your ability/input)
– Do not worry about succeeding (because you will be limiting your ability – which is subject to certain criteria)
– Finally, remain unaffected/unattached to whatever may be the outcome. (This is the highest stage of life i.e Mahatma Gandhi or Mother Teresa level).

***

We thought to share this wisdom here on Father’s Day

Khatto Lot, Recipe

 

Recipe for
“Khatto Lot” (Indian Ugali)

Portuguese traders introduced maize to the Kenyan coastal region in the 19thCentury. Ugali is made from maize flour and is a popular Kenyan dish. This recipe gives ugali a spicy Indian flavour. Try it, a very quick, tasty and satisfying meal.

Ingredients:
Maize Flour one bowl
Chaas (butter milk)
2 & half bowl
Sour & Thick
(If not sour can add lemon juice)
Salt to taste
Turmeric powder very little
Crusher ginger and green chillies
Cumin seeds 1 tsp heaped
(Roasted & Pounded)
One large onion cut into small pieces
Garlic cut into small pieces 2 tbsp

Method:
1- take maize flour, add 2 tbsp oil and mix well.
2 – take chaas in a bowl and mix with all ingredients.
3 – now add maize flour into chaas and mix well.
4 – put above mixture into a sauce and cook stirring continously
5 – when it becomes a bit thick reduce the heat but continue stirring.
6 – now it will become like soft ugali, add 2 tbsp oil and cover the sauce pan leave it on a “Very Low Heat” for 5 minutes.
7 – serve hot with sprinkling fresh coriander leaves
8 – eat with oil and red chilli powder.

Dish prepared by: Savita Rajani
Photo by: Narendra Rajani