Another year comes to a close. It is once again time to take stock of the last 365 days and build a mental balance sheet. As is the tendency of us human beings who, irrespective of our culture, have come up with creative ways to keep time – it inevitably follows that we take stock of the time that has passed at each significant milestone.
Last year for me, in a nutshell, was a year over which I had little control. Events happened around me and all I could do was go with the flow.
The first two paragraphs were written on New Year’s Eve. A week into the year, and I am still looking for the right words to explain the bittersweet year that 2019 was.
How do you even begin to explain a year where you experienced sorrow and joy in equal measure?
I guess you start at the beginning.
The year began on a note of hope, anticipation and good news. My niece had found her life partner. Both families were overjoyed that two wonderful people had found each other and the new year began with everyone looking towards a great future for the two of them.
A month into the new year, my niece’s father developed a severe infection and after battling for three weeks, we lost him. The family mourned the loss of a husband, a father, a brother, a friend. For me, above all of this, he was a companion of my childhood and formative years, and I learnt a lot from him. Moreover, he fully supported my sister’s decision to give me a second chance at life by donating her kidney. Standing by my husband, he was a rock while we both went through one of the most challenging phases of our lives.
I rushed back home with my husband to be by my sister’s side.
The days that followed will forever be etched in my memory. My sister married into a family that stayed in the same apartment complex as us. Growing up, we were all one big group of friends first. We were bound by my sister’s marriage as relatives much later in life.
As one family, we prepared to pay homage to my brother-in-law and bid him farewell while holding his memories in our hearts. We laughed, we cried, we relived a lifetime of memories and tried to hold on to the best of those memories like a soothing balm for our aching souls.
A day after I arrived there, my sister took me aside and in the middle of all the chaos, handed over the privilege of giving away her daughter in marriage to me. While I inwardly seethed at the cultures and customs of our society that force women in my sister’s positions to take a back seat in the most significant moment of their child’s life, I was also keenly aware of the responsibility passed to me and my husband.
From that point on, our entire focus until my niece got married in September was around the wedding. We both took advice from our elders on wedding rituals, what to expect, what is expected of us. We did not want to let down my sister due to lack of preparation on our part. Me and my husband agreed on one thing. We were not subject matter experts, hence the safest way forward was to follow the leader, the priest who would facilitate the rituals and guide us what we had to do when. We followed his instructions to the letter.
The life-changing moment for both of us was when we performed my niece’s “kanyadaan”. In that moment, waves upon waves of emotions washed over us. We keenly felt the absence of my brother-in-law, while at the same time taking in the significance of the ritual we were performing on his and my sister’s behalf.
Tears freely flowed as emotions reached overwhelming levels. We had done our duty, without a misstep. The priest spoke to both of us after the wedding and appreciated the sincerity with which we followed every instruction without question. We had delivered on our promise and I felt a sense of a big weight that I didn’t even know I was carrying all these months slip away from my shoulders.
It was a momentous year up until the end. We celebrated my niece’s first Diwali together. I poured all my love into homemade sweets and as a family, we all came together to ensure she had a super special Diwali.
On her birthday, which incidentally falls on Christmas Eve, after months of planning and keeping a big secret from his wife, my niece’s husband arranged for my sister to be there for her daughter’s birthday. We all came together to give her the surprise, and I was once again struck by how the Universe, God or whatever super power you believe in works in such mysterious ways, to bring so many emotions to us in a single year!
It has definitely been a whirlwind of emotions and a journey . But on the way, I picked up a few more lessons:
- The Universe has the power to shock, surprise, awe and spread joy – sometimes all at the same time.
- Cherish every moment with those on this journey of life with you, while they are still with you.
- We all have a role to play in our life. The fortunate ones get to know what that is within their lifetime.
- Things that happen around you over which you have little or no control can be powerful enough to change you forever.
- The biggest of honours can find their way to you in the most unexpected of ways.
Here’s to another year of living, loving and experiencing that biggest mystery of humankind – life itself!