Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Strange are the ways of the human mind!

I’ve always considered myself to be a level headed person and so I’ve been a little embarrassed to talk about my reaction to the totally unexpected news that my mother had passed away.

I rushed to kochin from kottayam early morning when my brother informed me that amma was hospitalized in the small hours if the morning with a chest pain. He assured me that the doc said it’s not really serious. Since she had had a heart attack ten years earlier (after which she’d been perfectly ok), I thought I wont wait for further development. She might need me to look after her.

She was in the IC unit when I saw her. She looked pale but was cheerful as usual.

‘Any pain, amma?’ I asked.

‘In the chest, but doc says it’s only muscular’

‘I’ll go home and get your lunch’, I told her when the sister told my brothers and me that our time’s up and we have to leave the IC unit.

“What do u want amma?’ I asked.

‘I’ve no appetite’, she said. ‘Anything’d do.’

“Shall get you your favourite stuff and kanji’, I told her.

‘OK’, she said smiling.

As we were about to go she asked, ‘Cant one of you stay with me? ’

‘What for ammachi?’ asked the chirpy sister. ‘So many of us are hear to look after you. They’ll be outside. We’ll call them whenever you want to see them. They’ve taken a by stander’s room”.

‘OK”, said amma shaking her head in agreement and smiling at all of us.

That’s the last I saw her alive. Looking back, I feel she knew her end was near – and the pain was bad. Just like her to take it all smiling.

I went home-prepared kanji, bitter gourd thoran and tomato chutney – all her favourite and, with my brother, came back to the hospital. The visiting time was 5 o clock.

“Amma’ll really enjoy this hot kanji and her favourite dishes.’

‘We’ll make her eat it straightaway”, said my brother.

“Yes’, I said as we entered the hospital compound.

My younger brother and our friend were standing outside the hospital entrance from where they could see the gate. They didn’t move as we walked towards them. They faces were unsmiling. Even these unusual signals sent no message to me for amma’s death simply did not figure in my scheme of things then.

We approached them and my brother looked at us and said ‘she’s gone’

‘Where?’ I asked perplexed.

‘Amma died 15 minutes ago.” (Those were not days of cell phone).

I heard him. I felt nothing but a great worry took hold of me. What am I to do with the kanji and curries I’d brought? Who’s going to eat it? Oh my God, that was a real problem, I thought.

I could think of nothing else. The kanji I carried for amma was really troubling me.

Nothing else seemed important at that moment.

I remember raising the kit with the tiffin carrier in it and asking, ‘What will I do with this kanji?’

Our friend quietly took it from my hand. My brother stretched out his hands and gripped me above my elbows. He told me later I was swaying but I don’t remember feeling giddy or sick.

I still feel foolish when I think of my concern with the kanji. Today I realize that it was the way my mind protected itself from the impact of the shock – by deflecting itself to matters trivial till it was ready to absorb the shock.


  1. Tears are rolling down my cheeks as I write this.
    So well written and I can totally understand your emotions. My grandfather died 5 years ago but I was actually humming a tune from the time I heard the news of his death, till I saw him. I pray for his soul to this day.


  2. That was a very touching and sensitive narration! I could see you, helpless, dazed with the tiffin carrier, wondering what to do with the Kanji.

    I am reminded of a scene from a movie in 'Paris, I Love you' (Paris,Je T'Aime). In one of the several movies that constituted the above, an injured black man is attended to by a black paramedic girl. Both are immigrants from Africa. She had ordered two cups of coffee; just to take the man's mind off the pain. As the coffee arrives, the man falls back dead. The last heart rending scene is the girl holding coffee in her trembling hands and tears falling down her cheeks.

    In my case, I remember my mother dying, her last moments as she drew in breath and her eyes focussed on emptiness...

  3. I can so empathize with you.
    My first thought was to buy a white saree for her to wear for the funeral, getting flowers...and then when I saw my brother, I just collapsed into his arms.

  4. That was a touching piece- poignant indeed.
    I guess you are right, the natural mechanism of the mind to deflect the shock.
    Many years ago, in 1980, when my mother's sister passed away ( I was her favourite and she liked me as much as her children if not more), I rushed to Madras where she was. And her daughter Sujatha who was 13 years then cried to me ," enne kanaku padippikan ini arrum illa". ( I have no one around any more to give lessons in maths).
    I was a bit perplexed by her point and lament of the loss.

  5. Yes, the mind has ways to protect itself. I was away here when I got that dreaded call about my Dad passing away. I remember crying to my sister on the phone saying "How will I make garlic infused curries for him now?" He used to love garlic in everything you see and I always had this plan to surprise him with a garlic preparation when I get on my own. Later on I had wondered why it was the first thing that came to my mind. This post touched my heart.

  6. Touching post.Heart felt condolences.

    God was kind to your mother and yourself.She had a peaceful death,amidst her loved ones.And for you,it was good you could be there.

    It is true that there is nothing better than death; but only for the one who has died. Death for the departed is "homecoming" and "a time to rejoice." But for the surviving family, death means oblivion and profound heartbreak.

    The mind doesn't have the protective mechanisms,not always,and not to all people.People react in many different ways to losses like this.Many are shocked,and some go in to severe psychological problems.All depends,if you were mentally prepared for the news,at least in the remotest of thoughts.

    "Because God,in His infinite wisdom,
    puts the solution in our hands.
    And because it is only in His physical absence
    that the place he occupies in our souls is
    Because although God sends us the message
    it is our task to decipher it"

  7. Dear Miss KT
    Needless to stay, it'd take a lot of courage to write about such a painful event, poingnat indeed.
    God bless you
    May your mum rest in peace.

  8. Funny how these kind of little things stick out so much in the pockets of memory that we develop around tragic events.
    My deep condolences, these are probably many years late, but still as heartfelt as if it had occurred yesterday.


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