Do you ever get over the death of a parent

Do you ever get over the death of someone you have adored all your life?  Does time really heal?  Does this feeling of emptiness ever disappear?  Do you ever stop missing them and thinking they will come back one day?

He loved his family totally and unconditionally.  We were his world and the centre of his existence.  He took us wherever he went and showed us off to all his friends.  He was very proud of us.  His pride had nothing to do with our achievements – he would have been just as proud if we were simpletons.  He just loved us the way we were.  The love he showed us was so real that even if the whole world had hated us, we would not have felt it because his love made up for it.

He personified the word simple.  He was simple, his needs were simple and his life was simple.  He didn’t believe in complicating his life with unnecessary needs and ambitions.  He was a happy man.  Despite the fact that life had not necessarily been very kind to him he never complained, he made the most of what he had.  He had a smile that lit up the universe.  The list of people who loved and adored him was endless.

He was content with what he had and spent his time doing things he loved most – time with family (or bragging about his family), watching sport, playing games on his phone, reading voraciously and philosophising.  Old age, receding hairline, balding, missing teeth or frailty associated with age never bothered him – he took it all in his stride with a toothless grin.

But the thought of death petrified him because that would mean separation from everything he had held close to his heart all his life.  He would say ‘I don’t want to die because that means being separated from all of you.  If I die, I want to be reborn and I want all of you back in my life – exactly like in this life.’

He fell terminally ill.  We did everything humanly possible to revive him and nurse him back to health.  We showered him with love to try to match the love he had given us all our life.  We were by his side every minute telling him how much we loved him and how much he meant to us.  He listened with a blank look in his eyes.  He wanted to carry on, to live on, to party on with those he loved the most but the disease was relentless.  It got the better of him.  With time, the smile was all but gone.  He went quietly without a fight – to the world beyond.

The rest of us left behind wonder – how could he just give up everything he loved so much and go, just like that?   Did he not ever feel the need to fight, to say to the damned illness ‘I am better than you?’

He went without a fight but we have to fight our grief and continue to live on.  The emptiness, the pain, the grief are all very real.  It is like an integral part of our being has been cruelly severed off forever. There are memories but is that enough to carry on?

They say time heals, but does time really heal?  Do you ever stop wishing and hoping he will come back one day, flash that ‘oh so gorgeous’ smile, take you around everywhere with that look of pride on his face and say ‘I never want to die because I want to be with you forever’?  Do you ever stop thinking ‘I would kill to hug him, kiss him and say appu I love you’?  Do you ever get over the death of someone who is the love of your life?


29 March 2018

KL airport – my heart sinks as I hear appa has had a fall and hurt himself.  I don’t know how to react.  I think of times when the whole household would be awake with excitement until midnight.  My paradise! I feel rather flat when I hear I may have to go to hospital from the airport. Like a God send my friend KK picks me up from the airport.  It is insanely unsettling but strangely I feel no emotion except ‘what next’.  It is a very restless night.

We go to hospital first thing in the morning.  He is visibly shaken and distressed at seeing himself in ICU.  He is more frail than usual, very weak and breathless and even the smallest chores tire him.  Eating and talking make him breathless.  He is reliant on the bed pan.  It is incredibly painful to see someone you love so much, someone who was a fit and able bodied sportsman in this state.  He says repeatedly – I want to go home.  I want to be with my family.  We feel helpless.

They send him out of ICU at 1.30pm.  He is in a bad state – he is convinced he is going to die, that he is never going to leave hospital.  In visible pain, he starts talking about his investments and asks us to take care of everything for amma.  He can’t sit up, can’t walk, can’t talk, just does not want to smile.  He is a mere shadow of the gorgeous man we call appa.  Each of us goes through our own mixed bag of emotions without realising this will be a recurring state.  My only thought is – I don’t want to let this situation to drag us all down.  We need some cheer.


28 March 2018

When you think life is seemingly peaceful and happy, it throws a curve-ball.  Your happy world is shaken and what seemed real is now a thing of the past and illusory.  Your world is under threat.

There is a beautiful happy space in my life, my little paradise.  This paradise has nurtured me, shaped me and sustained me.  When all else fell apart in my life, I was nonchalant because I knew that my paradise would be waiting for me.  The thought of this paradise was all I needed to cheer up.

This paradise is now under threat.  It is being rocked so badly, I struggle to cope.  I hope it is just passing clouds.  I hope the paradise will miraculously revive itself ….



Our Kauai trip – The poetry of earth is never dead!

We had heard that Hawaii was beautiful and of all the Hawaiian Islands Kauai was the most spectacularly beautiful.  We decided to do a short five day trip to Kauai from 24 January to 29 January.  This blog captures some of our beautiful memories along the way.

People were right – Kauai, also called the garden isle is a spectacularly beautiful island and a paradise for nature lovers.  The mesmerising beauty and the tranquility makes you introspect and reconnect with your inner self.

Some random tidbits about Kauai before I talk about what we did:

There are stray chickens EVERYWHERE!  Where do they come from and why do people let them wander around when they could eat them?


As with all indigenous cultures, there are many myths and stories associated with this island.  The Dalai Llama considers this island very special to Tibetan Buddhism because their scripture says this is the island where spirits enter and leave the earth.  The spirits enter this world in Anahola and exit in Polihale.  There is an interesting myth related to these locations – the love story of Hiku and Kawelu. Hiku met a beautiful girl named Kawelu, the two fell in love and soon married. Hiku and Kawelu were happy together most of the time but, like all couples, they had arguments.  One day after an argument, Hiku got upset, left Kawelu and returned to the mountains. Heartbroken, Kawelu waited for him in vain.  She killed herself in grief when he didn’t return. When Hiku found out what happened, he deeply regretted what he had done and decided to go to the land of the dead, Polihale, to bring Kawelu back. He descended into the valley of the Waimea Canyon and wandered around Poe until he found Kawelu’s spirit.  He begged her to return.  Kawelu’s spirit came to life and the lovers were reunited.

There is an island called Niihau – a single family has owned the island for more than 150 years and this island remains isolated from the outside world.  Legend has it that Niihau was purchased by the Sinclair family in the 1860s.  The island’s inhabitants — known as Niihauans — were allowed to stay, but access to the island by outsiders (including anyone from another Hawaiian island) was restricted.  To this day, only Niihauans, the Robinsons (the descendants of the Sinclair family), and the occasional invited guest are allowed there.

Mark Zuckerberg has recently bought a 700 acres slice of this paradise.

We flew Hawaiian Airlines from Sydney to Honolulu and then to Kauai.  First things first, a thumbs up to the airline.  The food was good, the service was friendly and it was lovely.  When every other airline is focused on cutting costs, they were very generous.  We even got socks, eye patches and ear muffs!

The couple next to us were incredibly fat and annoying.  The lady complained about crying babies, their parents, toilet queues, the food .. almost everything.  My prayer – God whenever I travel, don’t put me next to whingers.

Anyway …..

There is so much to do – treks, canoeing, snorkeling, scuba diving. It was impossible to cover all this activity but we tried to do our best.  The island is small enough to drive around in a day.  It is inhabited primarily along the coast and the inlands are still untouched and spectacularly beautiful.  While we couldn’t do everything we wanted to do, here is a recount of what we did.

Day one – Na Pali coast

Na Pali is one of the most beautiful and pristine coastlines in the world.  A strenuous foot trail that stretches across 17 rugged kilometres from Ke`e Beach to Kalalau Valley, this stretch is only accessible by foot.  We walked along the extremely challenging terrain many times wondering if we should turn back because it was wet and slippery.  We persisted and came back with filthy shoes, clothes, not to mention sore butts!  We only walked the first seven kilometres and back.  The only way you can walk the entire stretch is if you camp overnight before heading back.  We relaxed at the beautifully relaxing Ke`e Beach after the trek.


Day two – Hindu Monastery – Wailua Falls – Waimea Canyon – Kalalau Lookout

Hindu Monastery

The Iraivan temple is located right next to the Wailua river.  Set in an incredibly picturesque location, this temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva.  There is a spatika (crystal) lingam.  Nataraja, Ganesha and Shanmuga are the main deities.  Not too far from the temple we visited a rudraksha farm owned by the temple.  The location, ambience and the general vibe of the temple make it a ‘must visit’ place – solace for the soul!


Wailua Falls

The backdrop for many movies and shows, the Wailua falls is very beautiful.  The standout memories – the fertile red soil along the way, the spectacular sights and the beautiful birds.

Waimea Canyon

Also called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, the Waimea Canyons are rugged and majestic.  A deeply spiritual place that makes you feel truly insignificant.  So magnificent, so mighty, so mysterious, so overwhelming, so scary, so moving … words cannot describe how I felt at this place.  I particularly enjoyed the spectacular light show put on by nature – the shadows added beauty and depth to the beauty of the canyons.  Don’t miss the mangoes and rambutans sold at the parking lot!


Kalalau Lookout

Kalalau Lookout is also the highest point in Kauai by road, at 4,000 feet. It offers one of the greatest views of Kauai with the valley and the backdrop of the Na Pali coastline.  We were told the views were spectacular on a sunny day but we just caught glimpses of what could have been on a rather cloudy day.

Day three – Helicopter ride – Ferntree Grotto

Helicopter ride

We debated a lot whether we should do the helicopter tour as we weren’t sure the experience would warrant the price tag.  For anyone having the same dilemma JUST DO IT!!  It was the best thing we did in Kauai.  A helicopter tour is perhaps the best way to see the island of Kauai. As I’ve already mentioned, the island is most inhabited along the coast making most of the island is inaccessible by land.  The only way to see these areas is from the air.

Our helicopter tour lasted just about an hour.  Flying around the island we saw the stunning Na Pali coast (and an odd dancing whale), Jurassic Park Falls, the Hanapepe Valley, Waimea Canyon, the Hanalei Valley and many other beautiful waterfalls.

To describe how I felt is incredibly difficult –  I moved alongside the clouds, flew with the birds, looked down at the stunning views – the red brown mountains, the lush vegetation along the coast, the waterfalls that were everywhere, the crystal clear ocean and told myself with a lump in my throat ‘There must be a God’!  I wondered if the creator up there would feel a sense of indulgent pride at this vision!

Ferntree Grotto

This is a one-and-a-half-hour trip.  The two mile river journey in an open air boat offers lovely views.  It was very calming and relaxing.  On the boat, we heard songs and stories of ancient Hawaii. In addition, the crew teach you to do the hula – even the most reluctant and hesitant dancers got into the act during At the Fern Grotto landing, we enjoyed a short nature walk through the rainforest where our guides showed us the plants and shrubs that were important to their lives.  We then proceeded to the lush Fern Grotto.

The Fern Grotto is a geological wonder of Kauai. Ferns grow upside down from the roof of the grotto, which was formed millions of years ago. Native Hawaiian plants and colorful exotic tropical plants provide a rain-forest atmosphere.  The whole area is so fertile, lush and beautiful.  You wonder if there are more beautiful spots on this earth.

Day 4 – relaxing day on the beach

A quiet day walking along the coast relaxing and reflecting with a certain amount of despair at having to leave all this beauty behind to get back to work!

We saw this cute little baby seal sunbathing on the coast.  The local volunteers told us that the mum seal looked after the baby for a short time after which she went back into the ocean for her own survival.  The baby was now fending for herself – she had survived but not without some scars.  Poor baby!  Why can’t human parents let go like the other creatures do?

Einstein is so right – “Joy in looking and comprehending is nature’s most beautiful gift”.

Fate or Free will ….

Have you ever found yourself thinking ……

  • ‘Why me? What did I do to deserve this?’
  • ‘Why do these things happen? It is just so cruel’
  • ‘Oh he didn’t deserve this end. He was such a good man.’
  • ‘Life is so unpredictable. Why do kids who have a whole life ahead of them die tragically when an aged person with no will to live continues to and suffers the indignity of old age.’

There are fatalists who live by the belief that everything in life is preordained. And then there are those who rubbish the theory of fate and believe in their capacity to shape their destiny.

Most cultures in some way acknowledge or subscribe to the inevitability of Fate.

Followers of Ajivika, a contemporary philosophy to Buddhism and Jainism believed that a cycle of reincarnation of the soul was determined by Niyati (destiny or fate). Niyati was believed to be a precise and non-personal cosmic principle that was completely independent of the person’s actions. Ajivika’s absolutely and totally believed in Fatalism.

Hinduism believes in a combination of fate and free will. Fate is one of the fundamental tenets of the religion. The religion believes that the moment of our birth, the family into which we are born, the trials we will face in this life, all are created by Samskara (the result of Karma). Despite being largely fatalistic and feeling that they are chained to the fruits of their actions, Hindus also believe that it is possible to shape destiny. There is an ancient Sanskrit sloka supposedly authored by Kalidasa (although this is debated in literary circles), that roughly translates to:

Yesterday is nothing but a dream and tomorrow is merely a vision.
Today well-lived, makes yesterday a dream of happiness and tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well therefore to this day – such is the salutation to the ever-new dawn!

Buddhism believes that life and its events are not controlled by an external force but by their previous karma. Buddhists use the term destiny to explain the cause for events. Destiny they believe is the direct result of an individual’s karma from his/her previous lives. The belief is that Karma (both wholesome and unwholesome) may be accumulated.

Ancient Romans and Greeks believed in Moirai. The Moirai were the three goddesses of fate who personified the inevitable destiny of man that could just not be changed. Goddess Klotho, the Spinner, spun the thread of life. Goddess Lakhesis, the opportioner, who measured the thread of life and Goddess Aisa, the leveller cut it short. Zeus, the God of fate was their leader.

Fate and predestination, Qadar is a major premise of Islam, one of the six articles of faith. The general faith is that that God wrote the divine destiny in the Preserved Tablet – all that has happened, will happen, which will come to pass, has been written. However, human acts also affect what is stated in the Tablet.

In Christianity, the Bible teaches that Man was created with the capacity to make moral choices and that has responsibility for all these choices. There are some verses indicate the belief that God does have a plan, but humans do have some control over their own direction.

Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

And then there is the theory of Determinism. Fatalism implies the existence of a conscious omniscient force that personally plans the course of events in the past, present and future, none of which can be altered. Determinism believes that human actions affect the future but that human action is itself determined by a causal chain of prior events. Their view does not accentuate a “submission” to fate or destiny. Determinists, holding a more generic view, believe that each event is caused by recent prior events and also by such far-extending and unbroken events as those going back in time to the universe’s very origins.  Determinism does not believe that the course of fate is controlled by an unseen power.

There is a famous proverb in Tamil ‘விதியை மதியால் வெல்லலாம்’ or ‘fate can be conquered by intellect’. I’ve always questioned the truth of this proverb. At a superficial level, this may be true but is it really? Events and incidents that contradict this proverb are many. My friend aged forty five died of a massive cardiac arrest last week with no prior warning or indication. Despite being young, fit and healthy, she didn’t wake up from her sleep. The end was as simple as that – no warning signs whatsoever. Nothing she did could have intervened with destiny.

The whole idea of Fatalism just does not seem remotely plausible in my mind. Personally, the existence of an omniscient force that holds the remote control to our lives is a bit too farfetched for me. What this also does is encourages a resignation to destiny and acceptance of fate. It dissuades effort.  Determinism is a little bit more acceptable as it places greater value on individual effort and action – it is aligned with the popular theory of Karma that is more palatable as a concept.

As I process all this information, I realise that I am left with more questions than answers.  In an effort to add some colour to this discussion in my headspace, I write this imaginary conversation between the Supreme Power and I in Tamil!  Needless to say, this is written tongue in cheek and I don’t profess to be a scholar of merit.  So I apologise upfront for possible errors : )

புவியிலே யாவுமே சமம் எனில்
ஈசனே ஏன் இந்த பேதம்
விண்ணின் உச்சத்தில் சிலர்
அதள பாதாளத்தில் பலர்

வாசம் வீசும் வண்ண மலர்கள்
எத்தனை எத்தனை வகைகள்
தெய்வ சன்னதி அடைந்தன சில
மண்ணில் வீழ்ந்து மடிந்தன பல

கொஞ்சிக் கொஞ்சி கதைகள்
பேசும் பஞ்சவர்ண கிளிகள்
மனம் போல் பறந்தன சில – கூட்டில்
அடைபட்டு தவித்தன பல

மணை மக்கள் செல்வத்துடன்
சுகமாய் வாழ்வோர் சிலர்
வறுமை வெறுமை வேதனையே 
சகித்து மாண்டோர் பலர்

அடுக்கடுக்காய் வினவிய எனைக்கண்டு
நயமாக நகைத்தான் ஈசன்
பிள்ளாய் நீ அறிந்ததோ மிகச்சில
அறியாததோ பற்பல

The floating village of Tonle Sap

There is a small floating village in Cambodia.   Inhabited by mostly Vietnamese migrants, this is a fascinating little village!

The village is on the backwaters of the Tonle Sap lake.  People in this village live on their boats in the middle of the lake.  The only mode of transport is by boat.   So, how do they build houses in the middle of the lake?  They all have tiny wooden houses that they take on a motor boat to the centre of the lake.  They carry bamboo stilts on boats and stick them into the ground to stabilise their wooden houses and make them stationary.

Men casting their fishing nets around the village, women cooking on their boats, children rowing back from school, vendors selling their ware on their boats, people doing their laundry and generally doing everything we would at home but on a boat in the middle of the lake – it was an awesome sight.  They seem to have most things they need to have for a living – including a little floating school and a floating church all within a kilometres radius.

We were told that the backwaters that they lived on would recede in the dry season, the lake would become cultivable land.  We were also told that they cultivated rice in the dry season and that the rice from these paddy fields was very tasty as the land was very fertile.  Well that’s interesting I said to my guide but what happens to the floating village?  The response was – “some of these people set up little huts in the dry area and cultivate and others move deeper into the lake where there is water and continue to live on the floating village.”

As we went on our motor boat through this village, I felt like I was in a dream world.  Hundreds of questions crossed my mind.

  • How do these people earn a living?
  • How do the kids learn?
  • When the waters recede and people stay back to cultivate, what happens to their children’s education?  The floating school floats away!
  • How do they get fresh water to cook and clean?
  • What happens when they have health issues and need medical care?
  • Where do they buy their grocery, spices, etc.?
  • What happens if it rains?
  • Do they have electricity?

The questions were endless.  I didn’t ask my guide all of these questions.  I thought every tourist he accompanies would probably ask the same questions and I didn’t want to torture him with typical tourist questions.  I tried to learn through observing.

The answer is really simple.  Like we have our definition of living standards, they have their own.  You just can’t compare the two.  Some work 9 to 5 each day, come back and watch TV to relax, go to the gym to get a physical work out, take a few weeks off each year to travel and our lives revolve primarily around the children, their education and their future.

The people in the floating villages live in perfect harmony with nature and in an environment where everything is spontaneous.  Their needs are frugal and their expectations are minimal.  They have no aspirations to travel or conquer the world.  They are satisfied to earn enough to eat and sustain themselves.  They work when they have to and rest when they can, their physical work out is what they do day to day (row, fish and cultivate), their children are taught the art of survival – that’s far more important than formal schooling.  Creature comforts are unheard of.   In fact, I don’t think I saw a television or heard a radio anywhere in the village!

Their primary occupation is fishing.  They catch enough to feed their families and sell the rest to buy other things they need.  They have minimal possessions.  They don’t aspire to buy cars or expensive clothing.  The children go to school in the day and work with their parents for the rest of the day.  They have learnt what can supplement their income.  They breed crocodiles for leather.  They make bags, baskets to sell in the markets.  They breed snakes and scorpions to make novelty wine and sell them to tourists (incidentally, they believe that rice wine flavoured with snake and scorpions improve virility … natural Viagra)!!!  They are happy, hard working and content.

Yes they don’t know much about the outer world; they are totally inwardly focused and will never see the wider world.  So what?  You don’t miss what you don’t know!!  The lure of this kind of idyllic existence is pretty strong but would I be able to do it long term – I don’t know!  For starters, I am vegetarian 🙂

Dum Dum Dum …

 A friend of mine mentioned in passing that in her younger days in Bangalore, she learnt compositions of Bharati in his original musical score from a close associate of Bharati.  Not many know that Bharati was a vageyakkarara (or someone who composed music to his poetry) My curiosity was aroused and I wanted to know more.

 She said to me, ‘Ana, it is so interesting to hear about the context of each song and how they came into existence.’  She went on to tell me this story.

 Chellammal, Bharati’s wife had this routine of cleaning his writing desk religiously every morning.  She would clean his desk, fill up his pen with ink and leave the pen on his desk with some writing paper.  After all she knew that her husband’s writing was the key to their livelihood!

 On one such day, when Bharati sat at his desk to write, their servant was pounding rice in the mortar and with each stroke created the noise ‘dum’.  So as she continuously pounded the sound of ‘dum dum dum dum’ resonated in the house making it very noisy.  His wife was very annoyed with the servant and admonished her for not allowing him to concentrate on his writing.  She asked her to stop pounding and to leave the house immediately.  The servant left.

 When Chellaammal went to apologise to Bharati, she found some writing on the piece of paper that she had left for him.  The writing on the paper read:

 manathil uruthi ven’dum’
vaakkinile inimai ven’dum’
ninaivu nalladhu ven’dum’
nerunggina porul kai pada ven’dum’

மனதில்  உறுதி வேண்’டும்’
வாக்கினிலே இனிமை வேண்’டும்’
நினைவு நல்லது வேண்’டும்’
நெருங்கின பொருள் கை பட வேண்’டும்’

 kanavu meippada ven’dum’
kai vasamaavadhu viraivil ven’dum’
Dhanamum inbamum ven’dum’
tharaniyile perumai ven’dum’
கனவு மெய்ப்பட வேண்’டும்’
கை வசமாவது விரைவில் வேண்’டும்’
தனமும் இன்பமும் வேண்’டும்’
தரணியிலே பெருமை வேண்’டும்’

kan thirandhida ven’dum’
kaariyathil uruthi ven’dum’
pen viduthalai ven’dum’
periya kadavul kaakka ven’dum’
கண் திறந்திட வேண்’டும்’
காரியத்தில் உறுதி வேண்’டும்’
பெண் விடுதலை வேண்’டும்’
பெரிய கடவுள் காக்க வேண்’டும்’

 mann payanura ven’dum’
vaanagam inggu thenpada ven’dum’
unmai nindrida ven’dum’
Om Om Om
மண் பயனுற வேண்டும்
வாணகம் இங்கு தென்பட வேண்டும்
உண்மை நின்றிட வேண்டும்
ஓம் ஓம் ஓம்


Let my thought be firm and resolute
Let my words be sweet and gentle
Let my thoughts be noble
Let me attain what is close to hand
Let my dreams come to life
Let them come to fruition quickly and in time
Let me be prosperous and content
Let me attain name and fame
Let the eyes always be aware
Let me be determined in achieving my goals
Let there be freedom for women
Let the Great Lord protect us all
Let the earth be fertile
Let the heavens open up to us
Let Truth always prevail
Om Om Om

When his wife was dreading that he would not be able to focus, he had used the ‘sandam’ or sound created by the pounding, to write perhaps one of the most inspirational and beautiful pieces of poetry Tamil language has ever seen!  Genius and class as they say is inborn and permanent!