I am writing this on 9th May, 2021. It is two days since my Kakima fell prey to Covid. I am not writing this to get your sympathies because I deserve none. However do spare a thought for my cousins who first had to face the challenges of finding treatment for their parents and then complete the last rites under the duress of a raging pandemic.
Writer Ishiguro said that we write because we want to ask our fellow human beings “This is how life feels to me. Is that how it feels to you?” I am writing to tell my fellow human beings of today and tomorrow that this is how I feel today.
Kakima was my father’s brother’s wife. In Bengali Father’s brother is Kaku and his wife is Kaki. The Maa (mother) is attached to remind us that she is another mother. Hence Kakima. Geographically we have been living apart for a very long time but that did not stop her from feeling proud of every little thing I did. And on those rare occasions when we met, her face glowed with joy and the kind of tenderness that only a mother can have for her child.
She was married very young and like most Bengali women of those days did not get a chance to pursue her own passion. She had two children and did her best to fulfill her domestic responsibilities. I will not tell you what a great mother, sister, friend she was because there are plenty of people more qualified than me to comment on those qualities. What I will tell you is what I, even as a child, found extraordinary in her. At a time when women were mostly expected to spend all their energy in serving their immediate and extended families she made time to pursue her hobbies of dance and music with a great deal of gusto. And in doing so she inspired a generation of young girls to seek an escape outside their monotonous life and develop the talents which would have otherwise gone unnoticed. She must have raised a few eyebrows but she patiently and with determination pursued on.
She has two wonderful children. My cousins unlike me were not tempted by the lights of bigger cities or the adventure of distant lands. They stayed locally alongside their parents. My cousin brother is a photographer who captures the trials and tribulations of the human endeavour with great deal of empathy and skill. My cousin sister runs a community kitchen serving meals to people who are too frail to cook or families who need that help during a period of emergency. She, like her mother, is at the heart of the community. Brother and sister are always there when the family need them.
I was aware that Kakima and Kaku were infected and my cousins were taking care of them at home and they seem to be recovering well. Then suddenly, matters took a turn for the worse and the first words my cousin said were “Kichui korte parlam naa mayer jonyo”. Translated it means “I was not able to do anything for my mother”. His sense of personal failure, inadequacy and helplessness was apparent over the short whatsapp message.
Kakima was young and healthy. The last time I met her was her fifty year wedding anniversary and her level of energy was few cuts above mine. And yet she is amongst hundreds of thousands of healthy people who are falling prey of this virus.
Minds finer than mine and wordsmith more articulate than me have described the institutional failure of the past years and especially the last few months which has brought India to this abyss. Marcus Aurelius’ said that we should not give circumstances the power to rouse anger because they do not care. Standing at this juncture of history the wise man’s words resounds true. We will however express our pain and anger at this untimely loss hoping someone somewhere, someday will care.
Today we just stand in solidarity with my cousins and millions of others who are fighting this war as best that they can with courage and kindness.