The Dead and the Living

“I think I had a mother once…” – Peter Pan

I feel cheated.

Natural death has disregarded me.

Once again I have lost out.

With innumerable masks resounding with hushed, unspoken and unshed tears of shrieks, I am left in this shambles not knowing what to do? Where to go? Whom to talk to? What to talk about?  Whom to relate with?


The living are tiring.


The living make the dead so complicated….e.g., Sterling Hospital not allowing me or us to take the body from the hospital, simply because their system did not show the money that had been paid through NEFT.

Every minute, the dead were a business for the living.

And what am I doing after that?

For days, my sole objective was to cope with the dead and the living; using a borrowed two-wheeler, running between the hospital and the corporation to secure a death certificate that had my mother’s name on it; which should have been issued within a week of her passing away.

I don’t understand it nor do I have the strength to do so any more. Also, I hate losing my temper and I did lose it twice within a week – once it worked and the other, at home……………………………….

Eventually, in the midst of everything – after 14 days of innumerable trips to the concerned hospital and the municipal corporation; on the 15th  day, at the Births & Deaths Registration Department of the Vadodara Municipal Corporation, it then took me 5 hours, 5 windows, more forms and various proof of identification (including those of the dead), a dozen or so of choicest verbal abuses from my side and 400 bucks to get 1 Death Certificate and 8 attested copies!

And, I was the one who wanted to die!


I am so uncomfortably surrounded by people who are close to me; and I am glad they are doing well.

But, I feel hemmed in by individuals who have land and money and other financial support and enviable backing of their respective families.


Even when she was in the hospital there was a part of me constantly thinking about the expenses – the money – or the lack of it at a personal level. I would have to borrow after a point. How would I then repay this loan? How would these landed people ever understand what or who I am?

I can’t remember when I last saw a lakh of rupees in my bank account, and it makes me over-sensitive. Nobody comprehends that – or maybe they do, but I doubt, as I can count such people on my fingers and will not go beyond five, if I am really lucky there at least!

Grateful for the financial support and also because I care for them a lot, I pussy-footed around members of ‘family’, so that I wouldn’t disturb their sleep. Tried not to ruffle anybody’s feathers. Dutifully sat on the floor and crossed my legs, bit my tongue, pretended not to have heard the random comments and forced myself not to let the agonizing pain of my excruciatingly throbbing knee be reflected on my face.  Endeavoured in all possible ways to keep everybody appeased, but at the end of the day what did I get?

Should I expect some deference somewhere down the line? Is it erroneous of me to do so? Or am not worthy of it?

They still tend to talk down at me; reprimand me…..ruthlessly.

A friend of mine, when she heard about my mother’s demise, had sent a message, “don’t let the living get to you!”

I tried but I failed and the living did get to me.


Suddenly and ironically, after years of neglect, dismissal, ignorance and rejection I have become the ‘man’ of the house!

What do I do about the house? My mother has not left a ‘Will’ or any such indicative deed or document behind. The vultures are out already and the living are trying to find out if I am selling the house? It is not mine to sell or give away. And even if it were – where would I go?

My perpetual question……where IS home?

If I had the strength, I would snort derisively.

The dead have passed on but the living seem to be waiting for me to pass on now.


All and sundry around me were sobbing or exhibiting various signs of grief – even the social kind. Most loved and adored her. The image of the ‘Ma’ is so drilled to flawlessness into our psyche that we cannot think or even comprehend otherwise. We live in a world where we have the sanctified image of a mother from the television serials or what the scriptures state – the ‘Ma’ syndrome. माँ तो आख़िर माँ होती है! Add the age factor to this motherly phenomenon and nobody can beat that illogical logic!

The majority were keeping an eye on me too! Some passing comments thinking that I would not be able to understand or hear what they were saying; talking to my acquaintances and asking them embarrassing questions about my mother and her relationship with me. Something everybody is aware of but law of deniability is applied.

One of my major character flaws is this misplaced sense of duty I have. This failing made me stay back for my mother. I convinced myself that things would become alright and that she would stop manipulating people or at least if I was around I would be able to rectify things. I would be there symbolically if nothing else. So, foolishly, I dedicated nearly 7 to 8 years of my life being ‘symbolic’. I was the only one who stayed back. I agree I was brainless. Hadn’t I learnt enough life lessons of similar vein in the meadows of marriage and family?

I know that she did not care for me. Nor did she ever have a nice or kind word for me.

She snubbed me in front of outsiders; she bad-mouthed me; pitted me against the rest of the so called family members, who incidentally never ever raised a voice in my support.

Till her last conscious breath she remained true to her nature albeit never openly. Two days before she slipped into unconsciousness, I was in the ICCU with her and had reached out to hold her hand. She was awake because she opened her eyes and looked at me and with dismissal reflected crystal clear and pulled her hand away. Oh! Mother!


There is not a single photograph of me in this house with the woman who gave birth to me.

With a lump in my throat and moist eyes, I thank you, for all those magnificent early memories and for that superb food that you stopped cooking for me, mother.

I thank you mother, for the exquisite pickle you would specially prepare for me. And still wonder why you ceased to do so even when you continued for others?

Your absence of any kind words to me, mother, built an inner strength in me, mother – to walk alone, mother. And for that, I thank you, mother.

I thank you for all the stories and allowing me to be part of your illustrious family, mother.

For all those lessons about the power and unity of a family, the importance of remaining true to your ethics and morals, I thank you for those teachings, mother. They came in extremely handy at the time when I began to question and wonder about your intentions, mother.

I thank you for those, mother.

But I miss you, mother, for as someone has said, the heart is a treacherous thing and love is but a fairy tale.


You could never control me, Amma.

But I will remember all the good things about you, Amma.

All the wonderful times I had before you could no longer hide yourself from me, Amma.

These memories will always remain with me, till I die, Amma.

And rest in peace, dear mother – where ever you may be, as they say, Amma.

Wonderful blue skies and chirping birds to you, Amma.

But, the living are just as exhausting as the dead, Amma.


Neither dead nor living,

these days

I am,

sitting here

listening to the silence

flow softly through the door

playing the cacophony of

my memories.

1 Response to “The Dead and the Living”

  1. 1 bolshol
    February 22, 2017 at 3:54 pm

    Very poignant verse. The older I get the more I realize, to each his own. There is no audience out there.

    with aff, m Madhu Mallela

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