Just the daughter

Dear Nanna,

It has almost been a full year since our painful farewell.

Fall is here in New England and as I walk through the trees and look up at the sunlight peeking through the now vibrant leaves, I think of you. I have silent conversations with you in my mind and you tell me to ‘enjoy the nature’ as the wind softly sends leaves falling to my feet.

So much has happened in this time, Nanna. And so many times I have fought to overcome the pain that is in my heart. But I am still hiding from the world. Because I know I will have to do it alone.

I cling to your voice telling me to ‘Be Brave’. It is what keeps me going. It was what kept the smile on my face all these months when I had to face the world.

I smiled through helping Ammi stand on her feet, through breaking my engagement, through allowing myself to get married without you by my side.

Everyone saw me break down only once. It was when Ammi told me to take your blessings from your picture. I couldn’t do it Nanna. I couldn’t bring myself to smile through the reality that you would never exist outside a picture to me. I broke down.

Only when Ammi, her voice breaking and her eyes welling up with tears, told everyone that she had never seen me ‘break down like this’ did I realize how much I have always held myself in. I thought about why I did. And now I realize that I never had to express anything because you were always there to know my feelings from just the tone of my voice. Now I realize that with anyone else, speaking my mind would never help. Because there is no way to put how I feel into a language outside what you and me shared.

I knew we had a connection Nanna. I just didn’t realize how deep it was. We had our fights, our apologies, our battles and our compromises. But underneath all that it was just you and me. You had never loved anyone as much as you loved me. And from the pain that grips my throat almost every single moment, I know that you were my world.

In my mind, everyone just looks like they have their own family, Nanna. And without you, I am just a wanderer who got invited to be part of someone else’s family. After you were gone, I would watch conversations between Ammi and her family thinking of how I was an outsider. I found out the hard way that I would never find someone who would understand my thoughts. It would always be ‘ You are just the daughter. You should think of your mom.’ Or the other version which was ‘You should think of what your Dad went through.’ I stood tall through the ordeal and everyone’s tears. Through everyone’s teary calls. Through the decisions. Through the diagnoses and prognoses. Everything that was forgotten when everyone suddenly started worrying about their sister/brother. And labeled any expression of my pain as something that I should ‘get over’ because apparently ‘it’s not the same/ you are married/ you don’t understand’.

And today, I know I will always stand alone. Because I will always be ‘Just the Daughter’.

Dear Dad,

It has been seven Thursdays since you passed away in my arms. In the last seven weeks, I’ve thought of you, dreamed of you and relived that fateful night countless times in my mind. I don’t know if you can see me or hear me but there are so many things I want to tell you everyday. I hope writing them down here will help me and my belief that you will be able to read them wherever you are, Nanna.

It is December 27th, Nanna. I was supposed to get married today. It has been on my mind for the last two days. All the ceremonies you planned, the outfits you were going to help me pick out, the expensive jewellery you planned to get for me. All of it. I imagine every minute as you must have lovingly planned it in your mind. I found the folder with all the schedules and addresses of the florists, the photographers, the venues, the caterers, the hotels, the guests; in short, just everything you thought of. Every minute detail. And I play it like a movie in my mind. All the details coming together into a beautiful wedding at a grand venue. ‘A wedding to remember’ was what you wanted for your baby girl.

Sometimes I imagine you giving me away, Nanna. I imagine how hard it would have been for you. You always said you saw me as your five year old even when I was five times that and almost as tall as you. I remember smiling when you said you and Ammi would travel together with me to my in-laws’ right after the wedding. I was always your little girl and you couldn’t imagine letting me go all alone.

I imagine the happy times that were supposed to happen Nanna. I imagine the excitement and wedding jitters I was supposed to feel tonight, knowing that I would be getting married tomorrow evening. We went over all the minute details, Nanna. We made sure everyone would be there. We booked everything months in advance and talked about themes and colors and lights and music. Your happiness was infectious and everyone who knew you, knew the reason for your excited smile.

We overlooked one tiny detail, Nanna. We never made sure that you were going to be there. Your little girl lost her wedding planner, her superhero and the man who would reluctantly give her away.

I couldn’t get married without you Nanna.  I want you there. I want to see your excited smile when your daughter looks like the ‘prettiest bride ever’ in the sarees you help pick out. I want to see your confused expression at all the latest music I pick out for the playlist. I want to see you laugh at my little panic attacks about my hair, my nails, my makeup, and everything else. I want to see your grim reluctance to let me go away. I want to share every laugh, every fear, every complaint with you. And I want you to be there to hear them all and pat me on the back with that loving expression I know was reserved only for me. Like it always was.

I wish you were here.

Moving On

I looked around at the white walls of the room as I took down the last few pictures I had so painstakingly put up two long years ago. It seemed so bare now. So strange and uninviting. No more my comfort space. Nothing to remind me of the happy memories I’ve had. Just four white walls enclosing a space.

I was moving to a new apartment. It was an expensive affair. It was everything I wanted and more. The excitement I had felt for weeks slowly melted away as I looked at all the pictures I had taken down and remembered every moment they had captured in my life. All the people who were smiling with me in the pictures, who had now welcomed so many changes into their lives that they were no longer the same carefree girls and boys that they had been. They were now all professionals, working men and married women.

I remembered someone’s words – ‘You either move on or watch others come and go.’ It seemed so true. I looked down at one picture of three sleepy college girls on their bikes and laughed as I remembered the pains we had taken to have that picture taken at 6 AM one morning. Two of those three sleepy girls now had started families of their own, busy trying to balance their lives. Another picture catches my attention. This time it’s of a young man lovingly holding his infant daughter. A New Jersey transit train ticket, a niagara falls postcard, a movie ticket from a theatre in India and a heart shaped note all had stories to tell. I listened as they told me the story of a girl and her experiences through the last three years. They also reminded me that so many things have changed with all the characters in the story. As I listened, I realized that the only thing that remained is the girl and her memories.

Time Marches On

I was about to dig into a slice of my cousin’s birthday cake when I was unceremoinuously dragged away from it. ‘You have to see this!’, my father said. I weakly protested the forced abandonment of the fat slice of butterscotch cake sitting on my plate. As I walked in step with him, I saw people stream out from other parties of that evening in the hotel and walk with us toward the lobby. I wondered if there was something special happening that night – perhaps a show put on for us?

We reached the source of the commotion. A television. Showing what my 16 year old mind could only comprehend as scenes from a movie. The screen showed people running. in the thousands. Something wasn’t right. Surely this movie wasn’t that great. Why are we watching this? It was then that the tiny ‘BBC’ logo caught my eye. This was for real. I watched on in awe as a plane smashed into a tall building. As the building crumbled like it was made of paper, another plane flew straight into the identical building next to it.

The entire lobby was silent while screams of the people on screen echoed. I looked up at my father to see the expression on his face. It was a mixture of shock and amazement. I looked back at the tv and wondered why the pilots of two planes got so hopelessly lost that they rammed their planes into buildings.I watched on as the panicked reporters tried to relay information to us. ‘Hijacked’..’terrorists’…’attack’…’world trade center’ were a few words that I caught.

I looked up at my father and asked, ‘Can I finish my dinner?’ Realizing that I wouldn’t truly understand the enormity of the situation, he let me get back to my cake.

In the days that followed, I read about the attack in vivid detail. I began to ask questions. I was told – ‘Oh these terrorists are crazy. They know nothing better than to attack innocent people.’ I nodded. I slowly realized that it didn’t end there. News trickled in about people losing jobs. ‘9/11’, they said. ‘It has ruined our lives’, they said. ‘We don’t know what to do’. I felt sorry for the people who had lost their lives then and the people who were losing their livelihood now. I wondered what one terrorist group could want with so many innocent people. ‘It is just crazy’, I was told. I nodded.

Nine years later, people had picked up the pieces and continued on, though no one had forgotten or forgiven the horrors of 9/11. Then one day, the news channels came alive. ‘Breaking news’, they screamed. ‘He is dead!’ There were pictures of people rejoicing at the death of the ‘Most Wanted’ man. I watched the celebrations for sometime. Reporters were falling over themselves to capture the emotions of everyone around. Once again the country joined together to receive the news of death. This time they were celebrating. I picked up the phone. ‘Did you hear?’ ‘Yes’, came my father’s voice on the other side, ‘I just did.’ ‘So what do you think?’, I asked him. ‘Let’s hope this war has finally ended.’ I caught some of what was being said on tv. ‘Frayed relations’…’intelligence’…’operation’….’justice’… ‘celebration’ were interspersed with happy faces singing.

‘So, did you finish your dinner?’ asked my father.

I smiled. ‘I just did.’

And life goes on.


I learnt that what goes around comes around. If you do something good to someone, you will get it back. I am not sure if it’s true but the feeling of immense happiness that I’ve got was rewarding enough.

I learnt that if you really want to judge the situation you’re in, ask a non biased, just outsider. The further you get from the emotional feelings attached to it, the clearer things will be. emotions cloud judgement. Always.

I learnt that every cloud has a silver lining. Every night precedes a beautiful day. and that Tomorrow Always Comes. You just need to sit out the night.

I learnt that Time is the greatest Healer. Giving people time will help situations and soothe minds.

I learnt that today’s biggest problems will be things that I will laugh at tomorrow. And I believe this because I laugh at things that caused many sleepless nights yesterday.

I learnt that you will never consciously do something wrong unless you are confident about it. Every thing else is a mistake. And if you have confidently done something that was wrong, you will do everything in your will to save the situation and rectify your fault.

I learnt that Silence is a precious thing; a gift that few people have. I have learnt that it requires far more strength to be silent than to castigate.

I learnt that everyone has negatives. You, me, everyone. The important thing is to have enough respect for some one’s positives to overlook their negatives.

I learnt that you have to fight for what you want; there will always be someone/something in your path. You have to show that you really want it and deserve it.

I learnt that you give it everything when you have nothing to lose. and nothing on your mind to keep you from reaching out that extra inch.

I learnt that to love is a great feeling; very often grossly misunderstood and confused with infatuation. And that the best examples of love can be seen within one’s own family. This I learned from a 9Th grade friend – only to understand it a decade later.

I learnt that even when everything seems so perfect something can go wrong. And it is in pulling through that, that we derive our inner strength.

I learnt that one’s biggest strength is oneself – because I am the only person who completely knows me.

I learnt that the best way to deal with problems is to take them head on. This I learned from my uncle.

I learnt that it is not always possible to be completely truthful to everyone. But it is important for the people who care for you to know you honestly.

I learnt that I should be warm and affectionate so I can have lots of friends in my life. And that I should also be independent enough to move on when we drift apart.

I learnt that even when we drift apart what really counts is that we support each other in times of need.

I learnt that sometimes I am better alone than in bad company, however difficult it is to get out of it.

I learnt that college days were good fun. But that each phase in life will have its own golden moments. And we should enjoy them without thinking of the ones that passed us by.

I learnt that music helps. Whatever my mood is…I just have to find the right song. :)

I learnt that first impressions can be hopelessly wrong. As can be second and third impressions.

I learnt never to judge a person. sometimes circumstances and emotions are to blame.

I have learnt that the lessons of life are best learned from experience. And the people who would understand this best are the ones who have experienced.

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

I have considered this method of expression for quite sometime now, though I’ve never really got down to it. Somehow, to me, it doesn’t have the same appeal as an old leather bound journal.

I am also yet to get used to the fact that my opinions and views can be read by someone else.

I’m sitting in front of a computer, finishing up the last traces of my work for this week while ideas and memories are running through my mind. This is my Today. I am a Programmer – a computer person. For those of you who are not computer people and do not spend a major part of your waking hours in front of a computer, I might seem pretty boring. I know all the ugly pictures that popped into your head. I’ve been in your shoes. :)

Until recently I’ve been a student – finishing up my 20 year unbroken stint with education with a Masters Degree in (…no prizes for guessing) Computer Science. I’ve traveled a long way, emotionally, mentally and physically to get here. I am not the only one. There have been others before me and there always will be. But one of the things that set me apart from them is that it’s my blog you’re reading right now. That was my yesterday.

Tomorrow, I hope to learn from my mistakes. I won’t be perfect. There will be other mistakes to commit, other times to panic and spend moments of extreme anxiety before heaving a thankful sigh of relief, other days to strike incredulous bargains with faith and days when I’ll have a hand on my shoulder saying “It’s all going to be okay.”

I’ve led a very interesting life so far – complete with all the elements of human emotion. I have told myself that I would want to change bits and pieces of my past. But when I look back on it now, I realize that it is that past which makes a person what the person is. I think I’ve turned out well as a result of all that has ever happened to me and I’m sure if you know me, you’d agree. ;)