Saturday, May 15, 2021

Trigger

It was sometime in August 2018. I was given the bad news that I was going to have a new boss.

Why bad news? Because I had suffered a bad news called (another) boss had just quit a month earlier and I was quite relieved to be left alone.

It was a Good company. Great friends. Wonderful work. Decent monies. But everything was short-lived. I had had the fortune of reporting to two wonderful people in a span of 2 years. They were kind, motivating and most of all, not insecure. Just when I was wondering why things were going so good, # 3 joined-quit and # 4 joined.

#4 turned out to be a ******. Let's call her Bhelpuri. Bloody insecure woman. The first thing she did was cut me off from all the projects I was working on. Removed me from all meetings. Ensured I wasn't given any new assignments. This went on for 2 months. I even had a conversation in November 2018 on this. I was told everything was going good and that I'd be informed of the work I was going to do. "Why was she acting like a ____ ?" you may ask. You see, this is what happens when you hire people who do nothing beyond hugging their laptops 24*7. They don't sing, They don't dance. They don't read. They have no hobbies. They don't run-walk-cycle. All their lives revolve around work. And if you remove the designations from their names, they are a big zero. And hence insecurity creeps in every time they see someone else take the lead in the team. They scream "CC ME IN EVERY MAIL" , "ADD ME TO ALL SLACK GROUPS" in their mails. Yes, in caps. Yes, that's Bhelpuri for you.

You know there is this thing called 'Gut Feel'. I strongly believe in that . Unfortunately or fortunately even before I begin a new job/ assignment, this 'Gut Feel' comes off like a Nandi to tell me whether it'd work out or things would get go awry. In Bhelpuri's case, the moment I heard the name, this Nandi told me she was bad news.

Cut to December 2018. I had decided to quit the company. But you know the famous saying "Sappathi Saapadra Unakke Ivlo naa, Salna saapadra Naa eppadi iruppen'. Ok it is not a famous saying. Goundamani says this to Shopkeeper Sethji in Gentleman. I was not going to let the Sappathi get the better of me, not for the next 6 months at least.

I decided to wait it out until the dreaded Appraisal time and then quit. Why leave 6 months' salary for a stupid Bhelpuri?  I didn't kizhichify anything for the next 6 months. Bhelpuri was all out to make my life more miserable. I was never a jaalra who'd tag along with the team for free lunches & kudis and laugh for these jokes she made. And hence I was now reduced to a near zero, at work. My work was 1/10th of what I was doing all along. I'd vegetate at work from 11-4 pm and then head back home. It was disturbing. I cut short my work hours to 3 hours not wanting to see that wretched Bhelpuri's face. It didn't help much. I'd come back tired, angry even after 3 hours of work. The thought of helplessness was most unpleasant. I think half of the Mumbai Ola and Uber cab drivers had seen me cry on my way back from work. A lot of them were kind enough to say "Sab theek hojayega"(Everything will be alright). Friends and family would say "Quit your job no?" I wish life was so easy to chumma quit and forget about EMIs and their ishtamithra Bandhus.

I'd speak to the husband often about the office scenario and most often, I'd end up with an "Aprom paathukkalam" (We'll resolve it later) on my own, ending the discussion abruptly. One friend was really really helpful and helped me speak to the super bosses at work, on the situation. They were bigger ***** and did nothing.

Anyway, finally, it was Appraisal time in May 2019. Bhelpuri being the Pammi Aunty she is, sent a badly worded message asking for my appraisal form since I hadn't submitted it. She was so waiting to screw me around that. I sent her the resignation letter instead. I was so thankful it was a no-discussion resignation. I have nothing but gratitude to the husband who suggested  I give zero importance to Bhelpuri and thus mail resignation appdiye. I was most relieved and in 10 days I ran out of the company jumping like Jeetendra. Yabba Saami, Podhumda.

I thought everything was over. On 31st May 2019, I had deleted every trace of the company that I was once a part of. I couldn't care less. You know the thing called 'Trigger'. I hadn't experienced it until then. Every time I saw Bhelpuri's name on Linkedin or any social media, I shuddered. There is this nagging feeling that almost puts me to tears seeing / hearing that name. As recent as sometime in March, I met a dear friend who mentioned her name in passing and I felt it. I still get useless advice from well-meaning people like "Don't talk about her, don't think about her" when I mention this Trigger bit. I just nod my head and move on. No, this thing of going to one therapist and all doesn't work for me to get over this Trigger bit. Zero patience to speak to an unknown person who will give me some homework and writing work and all that to get over this. Romba kashtampa. 

One entire post on my blog on the Bhelpuri itself is too much. Enough hogaya . Go back to your vambu whatsapp groups. I shall head to mine.

PS - Thank you for not messaging me on this. Too much effort to listen to your "I didn't know about this ya.. why didn't you tell me?" 

PPS - What prompted me to write the post was when I saw singer 'Pradeep' trend on twitter. The song 'Life of Ram' (Tamizh) had released just then. And that was my go-to song on my terrible cab drives back home from work. So apt, So peaceful, So on point. Thank you, Karthik Netha, Govind Vasantha and Pradeep. You have no idea how you have helped me.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Accepting Grief - 2

Trigger Warning: Death, Chinese Virus, Grief

Kindly read '
Accepting Grief' , incase you haven't, earlier.
__________________________________________________
Over the last few days, I have been in the midst of conversations around...


Mother-in-law's...

"I can continue to wear the taali (mangalsutra) right? or am I to remove it now? What about pottu (bindi)? hmm.. I don't think I will wear my pattu (silk) sarees now... What if someone says something?"

"May be if I had practised Reiki and prayed for him on time, we wouldn't have lost my him..."

(referring to her husband) "I asked Appa who this actor on TV was, just yesterday... or was it the day before?" 

(referring to her husband) "He had mentioned his will a fortnight ago.. May be he knew..."

Husband's...

"Yesterday I opened dad's draw and saw some documents / papers and told myself, "I should ask Appa about these..." and later realised "Appa dhaan inime vara maattare.." (Dad won't be back ever again).

"....When I met Appa and held his hand on Sunday (the day before he passed away), I saw a tear drop in his eyes and asked him if he was crying because he never does. He brushed it off. But I sensed he was relieved seeing me, after being in the isolation ward for 3 days with no visitors. Now it feels like he was almost waiting for his son to see him before he decided to leave..."

"I missed informing him that he became a great grandfather once again a few days ago...I should've...cha!"

"The doctor's certificate mentions 8 am. May be he passed away in his sleep..."
____________________________________________

18th April 2021:

Bumped into a resident of the building the other day in the elevator who asked "How is dad?" and we had to tell him he'd passed away. The husband tells me he was the same guy who was doing his daily walk around the building that night and saw my f-i-l struggle to get into the car. The moment the husband said this, it brought back scenes of the night when we admitted my father-in-law in the hospital. So vividly. My f-i-l struggling to walk down the little ramp at our building, trying to get into the car, the drive to the hospital, he being taken in the wheelchair in the hospital and me waving bye to him.
And I ended up crying uncontrollably. Even now, as I write this.

We've all hardly slept over the last one week... One wakes up in the middle of the night to see if the other ones at home are doing ok (Read: alive). Apparently I woke up the other night, agitated, screaming "I am unwell unwell!" The husband checked for fever and calmed me down. I have zero recollection of this.

And there are times when we find ourselves laughing - when the m-i-l , watching Naattammai, tells us emphatically that Khushbu is married to Saratkumar... or when she asks if Jayalalithaa , Sivaji Ganesan are alive. Yes, that #GandhiSetthuttara moment only.

Growing up in the midst a huge joint family in Madras, I remember the house teeming with people every time there was death in the family. A month of nonstop visitors, never ending kaapi rounds, food for a crowd of 20-30 folks every day and rituals. The 13th day ceremony had a Sorpozhivi of sorts, where a learned person would talk about the soul that departed.

I don't know whether it's a blessing being confined to the four walls not having visitors pouring in, or it's a disadvantage to just have 3 people discuss the same thing repeatedly to console each other, for a week now.  Eyes well up every time we discuss my father-in-law. 

Just a week ago on Monday, the 12th of April 2021, the husband sat his mother down to say "Amma, oru bad news... Appa poittaru...". The lady who believed her husband was chilling next door for over a week, to be isolated from her, was just told she was not going to be able to meet him... ever again. For the first time in 19 years, I saw both my husband and his mother break down. It was heart-wrenching. I keep going back to this godawful Monday morning and wonder what was going in my mother-in-law's mind hearing this. Did she process the information?  Was she given time to process the information? She is yet to come to terms with the fact that her partner of 61 years is no more. It is not easy and it's never going to be easy.

But I can say one thing. Her unflinching faith in her family and extended family and friends to standby her forever, is what keeps her going. More than the trust, I'd say it's the kallankabadamilladha warmth she exudes and love for people and conversations is what has given her strength and comfort. And I sincerely hope it continues to be that way.

Thank you again, to all of you and to our family and friends for being with us virtually, all through this week. ❤️

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Accepting Grief

 Trigger Warning : Death, Chinese Virus, Grief

12th April 2021

We were both woken up by the loud ringtone of the husband's phone at 7:30 on a Monday morning.

"Ok.. ok..theek hai...ok", he said to the voice on the other side. 

He said to me, "Apparently Appa's breathing failed and they're trying to revive him..." the nurse called. 

8:30 am - One more call. One more "Ok ok ok..." from the husband.

"Poyittaaram..(He's no more)" husband gestured and later mentioned to me. 

6th April 2021

The husband's mother was back home after a 5-day hospitalisation after having tested positive earlier, for the Chinese Virus, sometimes called Covid 19. 

And so, we were very sure his father who had tested positive after a few days, would also be discharged in 5 days. In fact we were planning for their home quarantine , post their discharge, at around the 12th of April 2021.

8th April 2021

My father-in-law tested positive that Wednesday night . Having gone thru' the drill of sending bulk messages to friends and colleagues in search of a hospital bed earlier for my mother-in-law on the 30th of March 2021, we repeated the same, a week later.

Formatted Messages / Calls to all friends and colleagues to help us with a hospital bed for an Octogenarian were sent / made. Thanks to some kind folks who we have had the fortune of working with, we managed to find a hospital and get him admitted at 2 am. 

How do you tell someone they've contracted this deadly virus and that they'd need to leave asap for the hospital? 

"UngaLukku Adhu Vanduthu... "

"Haan...Ennadhu?"

Adhudanpa.. Corona vandudutthu" - The husband told his father way past midnight informing him that he'd need to pack and leave for the hospital.
"Do you want to carry your hearing aid / pallu set (Dental set)?"

"No I will take just my comb" he replied. He got ready combing his hair straight, packing a set of clothes. The long ride to the hospital went with discussing vetti stuff on the rare sight of empty Bombay roads at 1 am.

At the hospital the Duty Doctor explained treatment protocol and we admitted my father in law at 2 am. Back home, husband and I were exhausted but we slept early morning, with a lot of hope that he'd be back in just 5 days. And that one did the right thing admitting him on time.

9th-11th April

The next few days went with regular updates from the hospital and the nurses that a certain uncle ji was progressing well. And that he had Khichdi and his oxygen levels were ok. On Sunday the 11th of April 2021, the husband decided to visit his father just to reassure him that we were around and that since it was a Covid ward we couldn't visit him regularly. Husband came back later that evening, mildly worried but still hopeful of his father's quick recovery and planning his discharge, home quarantine etc.

And in less than 12 hours, we were informed of his passing, by the doctor.
****************************************************************************

My father-in-law was a simple, no-nonsense, unassuming, Independent person. He'd probably have an answer if Thillu Mullu Rajini were to ask him "Sindhu Bhairavi Raagatha Sivaranjani Ragathoda Mix Panni, Ataana Ragatha Arokkanathula Pidichi...Thodaila Aadhi Thaalam potta kidaikara Raagam Kalyaniya Kaambodhiya Karagara Priyava Shanmuga Priyava illa Sripriya va?"

A man with an amazing memory and love for Carnatic music, he had an enviable Carnatic music cassette collection and was the in-house encyclopaedia for all things Carnatic. Who needed google when we had him know all ragams and thaaLams on his finger tips?

My first memory / discussion with him was when we both watched some Malaysia Kalai Nigazchi on Suntv early 2000s featuring all Tamizh film actors. Actor Ajith was conspicuously absent in the star-studded event featuring Rajini, Vijayakanth, Kamal etc. I asked f-i-l if he knew why Ajith was absent.  "IT Raid-a irukkum!" f-i-l adichivittufyed.  Not kidding, the following week's Kumudam / Vigadan carried Kisu Kisu of IT raids at Ajith's and hence his absence. Now in hindsight, I think we missed an opportunity to host a cleaner version 'Valai Pechu' then, featuring my fil. He would've made an amazing host for all things Kollywood.

As I write this, my father-in-law is probably watching Sembaruthi on Indra TV in Heaven, eating his favourite Vadai and Aviyal watching his family here reminisce the good times they shared with him - Be it his grandkids talking about their trips to  Mother Dairy or his son talking about how he managed to keep a copy of every Govt. document / bill copy ever safe, or his loving wife wondering why he didn't eat the Vadai she made for him last month. And smiling to himself, he's probably gone back to watching the next soap opera after Sembarutti.

13th April 2021 - Today

It's been an overwhelming 2 days. We have been flooded with calls and messages of support and strength, from family, friends and acquaintances from across. We are eternally grateful for the support that's been pouring from across. Nothing but gratitude for all the gestures of affection.

Every time after a long call with a friend, I end up crying. The very thought of seeing the husband and mother-in-law coping with this loss in their own way is often overwhelming, emotionally tiring.

The husband's close knit family of 5, including his mother, are on video calls regularly, just chatting about general stuff and to reassure one another they're always there for each other, no matter what.

The discussions at home between the husband, mother-in-law and I have often been around the mindless Tamizh soap operas (Sembarutthi fans anyone?) on mil's Jayam Ravi fandom (I resign from this family) or how pretty my nighties are. Lulz.

Husband and I often remind ourselves what the other person needs to do if one of us show symptoms of Chinese virus. "The worst is over..." he reminds and reassures me almost on an hourly basis. Sometimes I just wish I could be like him. My ever optimistic, always-looking-into-the-better-brighter-side-of-things, husband.

He has, after all, taken after his mother. So we'd should be alright. We will be.
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PS - I don't get "How old was he?" "Did you see his face/ body?" questions.