Indrani Park

One of the scariest things about living miles away from home is that call or text to tell you that someone you loved won’t be there the next time you make your visit home. When it happens to people around you – you send that message of condolence, and in case of someone you care about, you may actually spend a few minutes thinking about their loss. But nothing prepares you for when you’re on the receiving end.

I got such a text a few days ago. My Mashi, who was only 68, had quietly left us all.

For a woman who was anything but quiet all her life, this came as a shocker. To her sons living in Dubai and unable to travel due to coronavirus related travel restrictions, to her best friend and sister living 20 kilometres away but not able to find a way to get to her owing to the havoc of cyclone Amphan, to me – sitting at my makeshift work station, many oceans away.

Over time I’ve been trying to process the news and remember her. I don’t have a first memory of her, but what I do know is how she made me feel all the years I had the privilege of knowing her. In a family that often commented on my pigmented teenage skin, or perpetual puppy poundage, she was a fierce, protective matriarch always keeping me safe and making sure I felt loved.

And her ways of love were manifold.

The best saree from her home-run business.
The malpoa from the sweet shop around the corner from her house.
The calls, when I lived all by myself in Pune and Delhi.
The ‘good morning’ messages with a purple flower because she remembered it was my favourite colour.
The elaborate party plans when we visited Kolkata during the summer holidays – bringing the whole family together.

I know I am not alone in thinking of her generosity. Anyone whose life she touched, felt that warmth.

I don’t think I will ever forget the resounding boom of her voice as soon as I entered that Indrani Park flat. It will be maddening to step into that house without her bustling around in it, shouting orders and checking to see if everyone was comfortable and well-fed.

As always, when I find myself at a loss of words, I go back to Harry Potter. Ms. Rowling wrote best what I feel now:

“You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us? You think that we don’t recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble?”

We cannot be certain of many things in this mad world, but I am so sure that a little bit of my Mashi is alive in all of us who loved her and we will find her while looking for strength to overcome the grief of this loss.

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