Saturday, January 09, 2016

A labour of love

My 3rd book, Second Chance at Love, has debuted at #8 on the national best seller list. It is the first time I am on the AC Neilson top ten and as i let the news sink in, i cannot help but think about all that has gone into this book.

SCAL has been a labour of love, in more ways than one.

For the major part the book was written when I had started a new role at work and shifted to our new house. My house is one hr one way from work and I used the time in the tube to write the book. It was a special book from the very start and I poured my heart and soul into it. Bindiya and Samar captivated me, and their love story- it was a story that had permeated into every aspect of my existence. I honestly sat, drank, walked, ate, slept Bindiya and Samar. By the time i finished the very rough first draft I found out that i was pregnant. 

Without sugar coating things, let me just say that the first trimester was horrible. And the only 3-4 month period of my life since i got married when i just could not (and hence did not) write a word.

As the 2nd trimester rolled on things seemed to settle a bit on the pregnancy front, and i began to think of getting the right publisher for this book. Without going into too much detail, and as luck would have it, I then started finding walking to be very uncomfortable. I did not know it then (and would be diagnosed only in week 35, too late for anything to be done) but i had SPD. SPD, in lay man's term is a curse for a pregnant woman becaus eit makes walking extremely hard. The good thing is that there is no residual effect once the baby has been delivered. When it was diagnosed, i was told that my case was so bad that i should have actually been on crutches but there i was undiagnosed and struggling, wondering why i could not even walk a little bit without such great discomfort.  

Needless to add, it was not at all easy and there were times i really struggled with how handicapped i felt. But three good things happened during this time. First and most importantly, work. People at work were uber cool (and i cannot ever thank them enough) and allowed me to work from home most of the time. Had they not let me do this, I really cannot even imagine how i could have continued working given my state. 2nd, friends. They showered me with love and attention. They came and stayed with me, went with me to appointments when sid was away, pressed my feet when they hurt, made food for me, called me, texted me, kept a tab on my pregnancy, looked after me. Sid and I are for ever grateful to them and our home and hearts are always going to be open to them. 

And 3rd, Second Chance at Love. It was then, uncomfortable and home bound, that i went back to my book. I used the evenings after work and weekends to start preparing the synopsis, get in touch with publishers and basically get things moving. In those long, dark days when the 9 months seemed never ending that I used the book to distract myself, to somehow not think about how uncomfortable i actually was.  

Uncomfortable as most pregnancies are, but also unable to walk, I decided i would not let it bog me down and worked hard whenever i got some time on the book during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. I promised my editor that i would send the final MS to her before i went into labour. In fact i had a long list of things that had to be done / bought/ sorted before the baby came and top of it was 'Send Final MS to Harper'.  It was the beginning of July ( my due date was mid July) and i was about to wrap up the final draft. I remember feeling such a loss, almost as if i was bidding good bye to dear friends, friends who will no longer just be mine, but will now go into the world and say hello to many others and in the process belong to world instead of belonging only to me.

I had a 24 hour labour followed by a cat-3 c sec- does not sound great but for me it was a fabulous experience- an experience i can go through a million times in a second. And when the brilliant doctors put my baby in my arms and he looked me directly in the eye, placed a chubby hand on my cheek and smiled (yes! he smiled!) as if he had known me forever, in that one moment, my heart melted, exploded and changed forever.

The issue, however was that i had to go through what is, while fairly common still a major operation. I was still on16 painkillers a day and had a tiny baby to take care of when i went back to my MS to start the edits. I knew i wanted to release the book while i was India on maternity leave, and there was no time to loose.

And so the mammoth editing exercise began. SCAL is a 90k word book and we edited it a good 7-8 times beginning when my baby was about 2 weeks old. I was very clear that my first and outmost priority was the baby. There was no way anything would change that. But yes, i knew given the circumstances and my new set of responsibilities i was ready to work as hard as needed. 
Most of the edits were done through the night, in between feeds and diaper changes, with one hand, as i held my sleeping baby with the other. This is how we discussed strategy, decided which brand partners we could have, how the events should look like etc.

Since then i have sat up through nights to work on the marketing for the book, cradled my son in my lap as i signed hundreds of books through the night, messaged and spoken to people about the book all the while carrying and looking after my son. I figured that i cannot do much while my baby is awake and instead of catching up on precious sleep while he sleeps, i used that time to work hard on the book. 

And today, seeing the book on the best seller lists makes it all so worthwhile. 

It has been such a long but wonderful journey. Yet so far I have only spoken about what i have done. The whole point of this post is the other people. I cannot begin to thank people who have helped because sooo many have. It has been the most incredible. People mailed, messaged, texted, read the MS for me, helped me during my difficult pregnancy, ordered more books than they needed, told me that they were with me, tried to help in whatever way they could. My publishers have been so incredibly supportive, sometimes i felt SCAL belonged more to the  editing/marketing/ sales teams than to me, so involved they have been. We have had calls over the weekends, late in the nights, exchanged emails at god forsaken hours and people have actually been up till 2 and 3 working on this book. My mother and mother in law have often taken care of the baby so that i could finish that chapter or do that photoshoot or speak to that important person or answer that interview. I remember, in the week leading up to the release, I didnot even sit down for a proper meal. I sat days and nights, working hard, not doing anything much except for baby and book, trying my best to give SCAL the chance that i felt it deserved. 

And today i spoke to a lot of you, and thanked you personally for your help. And most of you were surprised at the amount of gratitude i expressed. See, this is the thing. SCAL is not just a book. It has been a labour of love. A long, difficult, challenging labour of unadulterated love. And you helped me with it and it mattered so much, much more than you would have thought. After reading this post, you might get some idea of why this book means so much to me. 

So, once again, THANK YOU. It has been an incredible experience to write and publish this book :)


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Now i know that

I have been a Mum for 3 months now ( already 3 months? where did the days fly?) and now i know that:

1) Formula is absolutely yummy. It is right up there with tiramisu and maggi
2)You can miss someone who is in the other room
3) post baby you laugh about a hundred times more and smile a million times more per day  than you did pre baby
4) you can clean someone's potty and not stop smiling while doing that
5) wearing heels is a big deal
6) sitting on the top deck of the London bus is a big deal
7) buses actually stop for you without you hailing them when you are with a buggy
8) random people will stop you and ask if they can look at the baby while you beam with pride
9) a little bit of baby vomit on your expensive top is okay
10) a messy room is okay
11) you can survive on little to no sleep
12) the blurry nights of feeding, burping, changing begin to become less so and then ( you crazy deranged, mad woman) you begin to miss them
13) you want the baby to grow up quickly but you want the moments to last just that little bit longer. you desparately cling to the good bits and try hard to stretch time. You know just know that very soon you will think wistfully about these exhausting, tiring days...and you wonder if you can bottle up the feeling of holding your 8 week baby so that you can revisit it later when you wish to.
14) there is nothing that is more beautiful than seeing your baby sleep peacefully ( and then wake up startled by their own fart which will make you double up with laughter- refer point 3)
15) you WILL shed a clandestine tear when you pack away the first set of baby gros
16) you will well up so much more often you did before you had your baby
17) you will be a million times stronger than before; you will be a million times more fragile than before
18) you will wonder what the hell did you do with all that time when there was no little person to keep alive
19) you will dance the silly dance to 'Ao dikhau ande ka fanda' to make the baby gurgle
20) meaningless coos are precious
21) tears of joy exist
22) people look at you differently, with err...more respect when they come to know that you are a Mum
23) you can bond with complete strangers just because you are both parents
24) you will tear up at a party listening to how unwell someone else's baby has been. And you wont be the only Mum tearing up.
25) most Mums will be interested in your birth story
26) you will feel a lot of gratitude
27) you will enjoy the toys as much as the baby will if not more
28) you will know very soon what your baby loves about you (mine cannot get enough of my hair. I am never getting it cut)
29) love can be very simple
30) baby fashion is a bigger industry than women's fashion
31) you can be sick with exhaustion
32) you can have proper melt down just because you are so exhausted
33) the hardest job in the world, is really the hardest job in the world
34) the smiles make it all worth it
35) you will show the baby leaves and sky and trees and houses for the first time (how absolutely precious is that?)
36) you will be able to make him laugh
37) nothing beats having your baby rest his head on your shoulders and go to sleep
38) you will need other new mums (thank God for NCT here in the UK)
39) you will wonder if the baby comes with a return receipt at some point - mostly when you have been up all night and after screaming for hours the baby wants play at 3:30 am- its okay.
40) just when you are about to throw either yourself or the baby out of the window, he will smile and the world will snap back to being rosy
41) a mother's heart is the most wondreous thing in the whole world
42) you can hold some one very very tightly and wonder if you could hold them a little bit tighter without...err...breaking them
43) your baby might just have turned 3 months but you will sit back after dinner and think about when he was 'little'
44) you will be very proud of every stretch mark on your body
45) you will be amazed at what your body can do and you will find great respect for it
46) you will become song writer, music composer and singer - our fav goes something like- shikhu is mummy's baby, mummy's baby, mummy's baby. Shikhu is daddy's baby, daddy's baby, daddy's baby. Tralalala.
47) you will get peed on
48) you will be surprised at how much love your heart can hold
49) you will wish you were a man married to a woman who was ready to have ten more children
50) they are right when they say that motherhood is the hardest thing you will ever do. it is hard and frustrating and exhausting. It is also the best thing in the world. For record, i highly recommend it. Says she before staying up all night with a fidgety 3 month old ;-)

PS Ignore the typos and grammar errors- i have not slept for 3 hours straight since i went into labour three months ago.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

To my ginger haired anaesthetist

My birth plan began with a (fairly long) list of things i was petrified of. Of these two were related to the epidural- one was that i would have to wait for hours to get it (London hospitals are infamous for this) and the other was that it would not work well ( more than a fair share of girls i know have howled in pain in spite of the epidural ).

When i finally requested an epidural, my midwife (god bless her, she was an angel from the heavens above and reinstated my belief that while giving birth if you have a decent midwife, you really really do not need anyone else) breathed out in relief.
' Thank God, finally!' she mumbled in her Dutch accent.

Keeping in mind how notorious the anaesthetists are in getting to the patients, i had mentally prepared myself to deal with the pain for at least another two hours before help came.

So when I saw her first about 10 minutes after i requested an epidural, the winds picked up, white pigeons arrived in hundreds and musicians appeared.

The lady who the midwife introduced as the anaesthetist  was tall and broad but not in an unfeminine way. Good looking ( though not in the traditional way), with a pixie like face and round black eyes, she moved around with the ease of someone who knows her work very well. I found myself relaxing instantly. It was a few minutes later, as she explained how the epidural worked ( i knew all of it ofcourse, muhahaha) that i noticed it. Her hair was ginger. So my anaesthetist is a ginger haired lady with a pixie like face, i thought to myself.And even as another contraction hit me, i found myself smiling.

She administered the epidural in the midst of jokes and easy banter. And it worked like an absolute dream. I thanked her profusely and mentally crossed off one thing i was fearful of from my list.

The little incident i want to talk about did not happen in the labour room- i met my anaesthetist again, in the OT this time, as they prepped me for my c-section.

( When about 10 minutes earlier a serious faced doctor had pulled his chair close to me and mumbled ' I am really sorry, i have bad news. I do not think a normal birth is an option for us now, we will, sadly, have to do a c-section' I had to bite the inside of my cheeks to not start grinning with unbridled joy. I desperately wanted a c-sec and had I not been under an epidural, i would have broken into an impromptu bhangra. Instead i nodded my head sadly, and then , under the amazed gaze of the doctor, asked my Mum to hand me my makeup bag. One has to worry about the pics with the new baby, no matter what after all.)

In the OT, while i joked and laughed, i was at some level extremely petrified- it was after all the first time i was in an OT that was not my father's. As the anaesthetist, who made a huge game out of the whole process, topped my epidural, I began to shake- a common side effect of such high doses of epidural. The shaking, though of no trouble on its own, made me extremely nervous and at one point i told my anaesthetist that i did not think i could breathe.

'Darling' she said smiling ' you just took in a large breath to say that'

As things began to happen, whilst i remained fairly calm and continued my salvo of really bad jokes, i found myself clinging to Sid's hand literally for dear life. I told him in very clear terms that he was not allowed to let go of my hand even for a second. Poor Sid, a little white faced because, well, he had never before held his wife's hand as the doctors cut her open to deliver his child, nodded  his head. And we chatted as the team of doctors worked, almost like we were in a cafe, chatting over cups of steaming coffee (only we were not). We spoke mostly about my third book; i told him about the characters and the rattled off pretty much the first chapter word for word from memory.

And then my baby was born.

A hearty scream that warmed the cockles of my heart reached me and one of the doctors pulled down the curtain and presented to me , with great flourish, a red/ purple weird little thing that I guessed was my baby.

They took him away to clean him and i felt Sid's hand pull away from mine.
'No! You cannot go!' i shouted. Not because i did not want him to go see our son, but simply because i was so sure that the world would end if Sid were to leave my hand. In my head it was non- negotiable. No, he could not leave my hand.

So Sid stood there, holding my hand, craning his neck to look at our just born son who was with my midwife.

Thats when the anaesthetist spoke up.
'Sid' she said ' why don't you go and have a look at your son. I will hold her hand'
Sid looked questioningly at me and i reluctantly nodded my head. I was already in Mother India mode and thought that our son was, after all, with strangers at the moment and needed atleast one of us close to him.

And so my anaesthetic came around to me, bent low, used one hand to hold both of mine tightly and then to my surprise, placed her cheek next to mine, almost pulling me in a firm embrace.

We stayed like that, cheek to cheek, the Indian patient lying on the table and the ginger haired anaesthetist bent low next to her for a good 7-8 minutes. She spoke to me the whole while, telling me what the surgeon was doing and that all was going as per plan and that i was doing really well. Her soothing voice and firm embrace put together helped my breathing normalise, and while the shaking continued, it did not feel as scary as before.

It was only when Sid returned that she literally 'handed' me over to my husband.

'The worst is past, brave, beautiful girl' she mumbled letting go of my hand referring to the fact that the operation was almost done.

I looked up and saw that my tears from when i had seen my pink/ purple baby for the firs time had stained her cheeks too.

'Thank you' was all that i could trust myself to mouth silently, so overwhelmed was i by her kindness.

In return, i got a thumbs up sign and a cheerful smile that made her eyes twinkle.

So, dear ginger haired anaesthetist, ( you are probably right now in your scrubs helping another scared Mum) every time I am going to think about the birth, and if the last three weeks are anything to go by - its going to be often, i am going to send a silent, heart felt thank-you your way. Almost 3 weeks since the operation, and i find myself still too overwhelmed by your kindness to really say anything more.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

The Positives of being Pregnant

A friend, a new mum, told me once that the best thing about her pregnancy was that it was now over and that she had her baby in her arms. And i will have to completely agree. If i were to be honest, pregnancy is hard work, it is more difficult than you would imagine. And no, just because everyone around you has been pregnant, it does not mean that it is easy! Women don't do it because it is easy, they do it in spite of how tough it can be! It is very taxing on the mum's body and no one apart from you, the pregnant mum-to-be, will truly get what you are going through. Let me doff my hat right now to women who do this more than once- well done to them!

Some people do have a very easy pregnancy and for your sake, i really hope you will be one of them. I personally did not really fall in love with being pregnant but this post is not about that. It is , instead about what can be good during the tough 40 weeks. There is very little material about the good in being pregnant and i want to write about the positive and fun stuff. Here are few of the things i liked:

1) You get more attention than you have probably ever gotten before. Friends, family, husband- they will all be extra nice to you!

2) The pregnancy glow- some get it and some don't, but those who do, you will look so much better than you did before getting pregnant in which case, just take a LOT of pictures ;). No matter how miserable i actually felt, the glow was absolutely unmistakable and at times very misleading. I remember an appointment with my GP who listened to all my complaints about how miserable i had been feeling, paused, thought and then said ' but, you are glowing!'

3) The baby kicks- difficult to describe the feeling- you have to experience it to know it and at some stage in your pregnancy the baby will indeed become so big that the kicks will begin to hurt and you will transition from 'awww' to 'O.U.C.H' very quickly. They, will however remain incredibly special and will somehow become your way of communicating with the baby.

4) In a place like london where people keep to themselves, random people will come and talk to you, ask after the baby and just be really, really nice. I had people stop their cars to let me cross the road, let me go ahead in queue, at one point a restaurant actually got me food in the waiting area because i was pregnant. Also, once, as i waddled along the road, a man slowed down his car, rolled down his windows and shouted a 'congratulations for the babbyyyy'.  This delivery guy once sat down and spoke to my bump for a good 5 minutes while i stared disbelieving.

On the flip side, I also once had a little girl throw a massive (and loud!) tantrum in the bus because she wanted to see my bump and i refused to pull up my dress to show it to her. ;/

5) You are welcomed into the world's biggest club that you never knew existed- the parents club.

6) You will bond with your bump and your baby in your own special way. I don't know if 'super-bonded' is a word or no, but that is exactly how i was with my bump. I was confident that he listened to me, he did things i asked him to do and stopped doing things when i wanted him to stop. I was also oddly very very very very confident that my baby would never let anything really bad happen to me and that was the main reason why i was so relaxed before  (and about) the birth. And it worked- i had an easy birth that was actually the best experience of my life! During my labour and delivery i experienced more kindness from strangers than i have ever before in my life. There are atleast 3 different people, all strangers i will probably never meet again, of whom i cannot think of without tearing up with gratitude.

7) There is something really special about sharing the baby's kicks with the husband, the parents and close friends. I will never forget the expression on a friend's face when she felt my baby kick. It was the first time she had touched a pregnant belly and of course the first time felt a foetus kick. The shock, surprise and excitement on her face was absolutely precious.

8) A LOT of people will tell you how beautiful you are looking.  :) I am not a fan of the pregnant body, but if you are lucky with the hormones, be ready to oddly, inspite of putting x kilos, feeling truly beautiful!

9) At some point in time you will plead with your husband to help you with the nail paint on your toes not really expecting him to. But he will sit patiently and do your nails.

10) You will have to just ask and the husband will lather cream on your legs simply because you are too huge to do it on your own

11) At some point in time, your husband will , without being asked, bend down and put your shoes on for you and then tie the laces.
And from then onwards, you will begin to wait at the shoe rack for the husband to come and put on your shoes for you.

12) You will be secretly very very very pleased at how huge your bump will become towards the end of your pregnancy. Pleased and proud. I know silly and difficult to imagine, but it will happen to you.

13) You will find yourself talking to your baby very often. And they will be delightful conversations.

14) Tantrums are acceptable. I remember i was once crying for no reason and Sid was being indulgent. Then i started crying harder because i was getting tired of crying and then i started crying even harder because i wanted to keep crying but i knew i would soon get too tired to cry. Sid had the wisdom to turn around and laugh else i would have hit him.

15) People will help. Towards the beginning of y 3rd trimester, my husband had to go away for 10 nights and i knew that for once, i could not, just could not be alone. My mum had broken her hand and could not come so i turned to friends. And boy, did they help! They came with packed suitcases and (bless them) even little gifts and made sure i did not have to stay alone a single night. Similarly, because i had been feeling so rubbish, I did not want to take on the burden of throwing a baby shower. Friends jumped in. One got Sid to convince me to just say yes to the event, she said she will take care of EVERYTHING else. Her Mum (bless her) even made 2 different types of snacks for the shower. Another friend completely took over the food, another drinks, another cooked more stuff, another two took over the decoration...they showered me with so much of love and affection that i know i will forever be indebted to them all! Not only that, friends who are like family for us expats, will call/ message/ drop in to ask after you. Infact closer to my due atleast 3 of my friends had at one point or the other ( I was 4 days over due) put me on an HOURLY watch! Spread across the world, they were in touch each day towards the end and given how difficult pregnancy can get at that point in time, it really meant so much!

16) Pregnancy will bring you closer to some people (and possibly take you away from some people too)- I finally understood what my Mum (and mother in law) had gone through to bring me (and my husband) into the world and it made to look up at them with greater respect. My sil, who is a doctor, was in continuos contact from the beginning to the end, each day asking after me. It was nice and sweet and incredibly special to have these three women as support even if they were in a country hundreds of miles away.

17) Closer to your due date, every one in the house will drop everything and rush to your side even if you as much as groan. You might find yourself faking a groan just to see their reaction.

18) Closer to your due date, you will be inundated with messages from all and sundry with the same question- 'kutch hua?' and you will go mad telling everybody ki kutch nahi hua! Enjoy that attention too, its really the last time in a very long time that you will get that much attention for once the baby comes, it is all about him/ her and rightly so!

19)And when labour starts, it is actually fun to finally be able to send the 'Its happening!' message.

20) And last, though you will not, you cannot, feel the sort of love you will feel for your baby once he/she is in your arms, you will still be hit with waves of love for the heaving, squirming bump that are more powerful than anything you have experienced yet. And then the baby actually arrives. And you understand, for the first time ever in your life, what love truly is.

While i cannot tell you that pregnancy is easy, that would be a lie, and i am very very glad mine is behind me, I can tell you without any doubt that  in the end, it will all be worth it.

It WILL all be worth it!


Saturday, July 18, 2015

A tiny little incident...

A tiny little incident. I wanted to buy an Oreo Milkshake from Ed's but I wanted to share it with Mum who is visiting from India. So i asked for a spare plastic container with a straw.

The waiter who was serving me was a kind looking young man with an easy smile and heavily tattooed arms. We had a brief chat about the tattoos and then he asked me to sit as i waited for the shake to arrive- an offer i took up gratefully. He then came to me a few minutes later and asked me if i wanted some water. I politely said no.

Soon my order was ready.

He came to me with the shake and the spare container. I smiled as i took them from him.

'Thank you' i said, about to leave.

'No problem' he said and then paused and then asked smiling ' Are you happy?'

I smiled.

'Yes, i am ' i said.

He smiled widely, a warm, genuine smile.

'I am happy that you are happy' he said simply, meaning it, before he about turned and got back to some other customer.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Random update post

Since it has been ages since i wrote here, lets do a random post:

  • London is sunny and stunning these days. Lucknow has and will always remain home for me, but London is finally becoming a close second. After half a decade here, i have finally begun to fall in love with most things London and i think i can safely say that now i get the British sense of humour.
  • Apart from making peace with the British sense of humour, I finally have a decent relationship with British television - there are a few programmes that i now actually look forward to watching and it is so refreshing!
  • Talking about the weather, you will not believe how much the whole city changes when the Sun comes out.
  • I have been doing up my house these last few months and it can be SO stressful. Matching the grey to the green. Arrgghh! I dont think i will ever be done, but miracles of miracles, if i ever am done, i will share pictures on the blog for sure.
  • I am about to complete 5 years in the corporate world and of that i have worked in India for only 6 months. Almost zero experience of working in  India- i find it so weird to believe that, given that ALL my education was in India.
  • I am, of course, juggling a gazillion things, but then what is new in that and i would not want it any other way. Busy bee yet again with a seriously wide variety of projects lined up for this year.
  • I am working quite hard on my third book and i have to say it is my favourite book so far...I can barely not think about the main characters- I am so besotted with them. Someone very wise once told me that pieces of art have their own destiny as well, you can only do so much and then you have to let them go and find their own destinies. i think it is very true about books, particularly if you are not one of those authors who are going around buying spots in book stores and best seller lists. Keep your best wishes coming, i really need them.
  • It has been six months since i went to India last, and i miss it terribly. The next trip planned is a Diwali trip - for the first time in my life it will be more than a year without a trip to India. Meh.
  • These days I have been listening to a lot of Beethoven and Mozart and (surprisingly) I love it! Give it a try if you have not already.
More later sometime :)

Friday, November 07, 2014


Written in a train in India:

I am in a train that will whisk me to Delhi. In a couple of hours I will be on a plane heading back to London.
Back to grey, bleak London.

The noise and the chaos and the love and the affection- all left behind.

I came to India looking forward to two things and dreading a third.

The two things I came for were Diwali and the launch of my second book.

What fate held in store for Nani (my maternal grandmother)- that I was dreading.

Diwali happened. The book was launched not once but twice.

And we lost Nani.                                                                                  

All in a matter of a few days.
The thorn lies next to the rose. The rose lies next to the thorn. And such is life...

To go up on stage and laugh and joke and talk about my book when all I could think about was Nani’s death was one of the toughest things I have ever had to do. But I did it, not only because it was the professional thing to do, but also, as cliché as it may sound, I felt that was what she would have wanted.

Nani is gone now, never to return. The finality of it all is difficult to come to terms with but we have the satisfaction of knowing that she lived a long and happy life (she was 92 when she passed away).  She died in the same room she had been brought into as a brand new bride a gazillion years back. A red bindi, a symbol of a married Hindu woman adorned her forehead when she breathed her last.

Her demise has made me think a lot about death. At some level I feel convinced that it does not all end when we die; that there is a great, fun adventure awaiting us on the other side of life; that Nani is thoroughly enjoying hers and chuckling to herself as I type this.

I also feel that I now have someone up there, next to God who will listen to me when He is too busy sorting out the rest of the world. That image gives me a lot of courage.

I know Nani spoke often about my books. She was very proud that I write and very touched that I had thanked her in my first book.  But what Nani liked most was to have a full house. A house that burst at the seems with her 7 kids, 14 grand children and 7 great grandchildren.

At her memorial service as I stared at the hundreds of people who came to pay their respects, I realised that Nani had done it once more. All of us (most of us, atleast) were there, under the same roof, together. My uncles, aunts, cousins and parents bid her her final goodbye with a lot of dignity and respect and as a mother, I know she must have been very proud.

My cousin made a montage of sorts for Nani that day. We switched off the lights and huddled into a darkened room to watch it. Image after image of Nani appreared on the screen. Nani looking stronger than I remembered,  younger than i could have imagined, more serious than she was in her last few months. 
Images that contained bits of a life now gone forever, preserved in those (now priceless) pictures. When we switched on the lights, there was not a dry eye in the room.

Today in the train, as it chugs to Delhi Railway Station, sitting next to me is a thin, wrinkled , yet oddly robust looking retired Army officer. He says he is 94. I have been helping him with whatever it is that I can- simple things really- opening the food packets, helping him walk, simply talking to him etc.

A few minutes back completely out of the blue, he turned around, folded his hands and with a warm, kind smile blessed me and told me that he is very grateful for my help.

‘No, No’ I said hastily ‘ its my pleasure. And really, to be honest, I am helping you for very selfish reasons. I have four grandparents , all of them your age. If I help you, maybe someone will help them when they need help’

And then I stopped short, as another unexpected wave of grief hit me.

‘Not four anymore’ a soft voice inside my head said to me reminding me yet again of the void that Nani has left behind in many lives.

In Nani's honour, putting up a pic of us together a few months back. This is the first time in almost a decade that I have shared a picture of myself on the blog.

Rest in peace, Nani, and come back to us as you promised me multiple times the last time we met. I wait patiently to meet you again in a few decades.