In the first of a two-part piece, Satty, student journalist, reflects movingly on the funeral, following Indian practice, of her mother-
My world cracked the day my mother died. Amrit is my eldest sister and Simrit my middle sister, both knew she did not have long, but because of my mental illnesses they thought it was best not to tell me. Was it the right decision for them to take away my time with her, I will never know now, it is too late. I got the call and the rest is blurred. I can not remember who took me to Slough, all I remember is rushing to see her before the undertakers took her.
I made it just in time.
Next day again is a blur. I remember people coming to console us. If that is what you can call it. In our culture when someone dies it is up to the family to feed the guests. This I struggled with a lot. For me I was grieving and all I wanted to do was cry and be left alone. That was not going to happen any day soon. I decided to do two things to help me cope with this situation. One was to make a memory album with pictures from everyone and the second was a condolence book. It kept me busy and the most important thing was it kept my mouth shut, as I have a tendency to argue and disagree with my family.
This time I had to keep my mouth closed. This whole process had to be utterly and totally perfect. I did not know any of the traditions that go with an Indian funeral and because my mum was a great grandmother the ceremony had to be a grand affair.
I did my very best to do as I was told, be a good girl but I have to say I was bursting to tell everyone to go do one and leave us to grieve as a family.I am the youngest in the family and was not used to being included in main decisions, this was a time I had to force myself to be included in what was happening.
Simrit the middle sister moved in with my parents when my mum had her stroke. She cared for her and did everything. There was no way I could of done it, I struggled every time I went over to see my mum lying in her hospital bed in her bedroom. So many thoughts went through my mind every time.
Before the funeral the women of the family have to go and wash the body andOMGOSH that was jaw droppingly hard. I was so stiff excuse the pun. My anxiety was at def con 5 and I was ready to explode. I had to keep so much held in. So I did the only thing that I could. Pray that I could be strong like my sisters.I remember getting into my brother’s car and he offered me a strawberry chewing gum and since then it is the only chewing gum I have.
The day finally came to say our final goodbye. Nothing prepares you for that final stage. I do not think anyone slept, I remember most of us were up until the early hours writing our speeches. I helped my nieces Reah and Alisha to mould their thoughts onto paper. Finally I felt useful.
At 8.00am the Naam Simran began which is a prayer. They bought my mum home for everyone to pay their final respects, this is called Antim Dharshan. People laid food and flowers all around my mother for her last journey.
She looked so peaceful but cold, having all the colourful petals around her made her skin fill with colour. My mum never smiled when she was alive, but at that very moment she could not of looked any happier.
Time was ticking and as usual we were running late, I swear it is a Indian trait. The men took hold of her white coffin and walked out into the sunshine, gently placed her in the most stunning white carriage with two regal white horses. I went over to the horses and had a little word in their ears.
These magnificent creatures listened to my whisper and trotted gently to the Gudwara. They we ate and paid our respects. The whole feel of the funeralcompared to my brother’s was polar opposite. My brother had so much to live for whilst my mother had lived and seen the world change and her family grow.Where did the time go? – all of a sudden we were at Slough crematorium. I was standing at the side with my sister and nieces. There were so many people and funny thing is most of them did not know my mum had three daughters. I stood at the pulpit with my remembrance speech knowing these people did not have a clue who I was. I did not care and nor did it matter to me. I said my peace.
Before I knew it all my family had gone behind the big red curtains, I sat forged to the bench, crumbling, crying and inconsolable.
She was GONE.
Some people came up to me, I have no idea what they were saying I just wanted out. We all cramped into cars and headed back to the Gudwara for the Bhog ceremony. Everyone was to eat. We placed the condolences book and the photograph album at the edge of a table for everyone to see and write.
There was no time.
No time to grieve.
No time to reflect.
No time to mourn.
Before I knew it we were back home. Everyone was here. The family together which was a rare occasion. There was laughter and smiles and a quiet completeness. It was such a weird feeling being in her home. The house was alive but mum was not there. If she was I know she would of been so proud of her family.