In the days leading up to the new year, I chose a word of wisdom for the year: EPHEMERAL.
This guiding word was for me to remember how fleeting our lives are.
Sometimes, it's really hard to reconcile the day-to-day pettiness we engage in with the larger, broader view that life is fleeting and will come to an end for all of us.
But trying to remember the transient nature of it all helps maintain perspective. It helps us be more loving and more gentle, both with ourselves and with others, as we get entangled in the day-to-day-ness of life.
I'm bringing this up today because one of my paternal uncles died. I received the news earlier this morning (it was evening in India where he passed away). He was 71. He was the youngest of five siblings, my dad being the eldest.
Like with many relationships, we had seasons of closeness and seasons of drifting apart. During the years I lived in Bengaluru (Bangalore back then) with my parents, around 2004—2007, meeting with Sekhar Chitappa became an almost weekly routine.
His was a larger-than-life presence. Full of humour and wry observations about everyone and everything around him. A lover of music. Of culture. Of astrology. His curiosity and thirst for knowledge knew no bounds.
He was also a lover of people. Although his temper was legendary too. I was on the receiving end of one of his tirades when I was about 10 years old. I don't even remember what provoked him back then. It's great that now we have a different understanding of emotions and how to manage them in ways that are not hurtful to us and to other people.
The last I met him was more than nine years ago. In December 2014, I reckon. I met him, his wife and their daughter (my cousin) in their lovely home in California.
It was a lovely gathering. They were meeting KrA (my partner) for the first time. Little D hadn't arrived by then. My brother and sister-in-law were there too. Their daughter too hadn't arrived in our lives by then.
It was a fun-filled evening, with food and laughter and family.
Relationships are not perfect. Death, the loss of a loved one, makes us feel, although temporarily, that we ought to make a greater effort to reach out and stay in touch.
Today, I feel that this visit by death simply makes me want to be a better person in my day-to-day life. In the way I show up in my dealings with D and KrA. In the way I show up for myself, in my writing, in life.
If I can look back at the end of each day and assure myself that I did the best I could, treating kindly the people I came across, that alone is enough. Everything else—all the material stuff—is even more transient than I am.
Rest in peace, Chitappa.
Of course I wish I had more moments of fun and laughter with you. Of course I wish family relationships were not fraught with the drama they tend to entail. Of course I wish we had met more often, spent more time together.
But boy! How lucky I am to have been your niece in this lifetime! How lucky I am that our paths crossed as often as they did, just the way they did!
The Gods are surely lucky to now have you in their midst.