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One Year Ago...

This day one year ago, one of my neighbours passed away after a short illness.  This death shocked our neighbourhood.  This woman, whom I have called 'Indu Kapoor' for the sake of discretion, as it's not her real name, was mourned by everyone in our locality, as having been a perfect wife, mother and daughter in law.  I often thought that if Indu had taken more care of herself instead of giving everything to others, she might still be alive today.  It was such a shocking waste of a life.  A few months after her death, I  published a  post on my main blog about her, as  her tragic death at the young age of 42 shocked me terribly.  I'm reproducing that blog post here:

We learn many things from the people we meet in our daily lives. I’m thinking particularly of a neighbour of mine, Mrs. Indu Kapoor (not her real name!) whom I’ve encountered during recent years. Although four years younger than me, I had originally thought her to be several years older. Why? Well, her style and demeanour has always been that of a woman much older than her years. Another reason for that would probably be because her children were reaching the school leaving/college going stage when my eldest was reaching middle school. Being Punjabi, I’ve never seen her in anything but the shalwar suit, except on special occasions like weddings when she’s worn the sari. It is possible to wear Indian dresses and be extremely fashionable and modern, but the style of Indu’s dress has always been traditional, if not downright conservative. Full sleeves, high necks, not an inch of gratuitous skin on show. Dignity personified! Her hair always braided down the back in the style which is de rigeur for women of my mother in law’s (MIL) generation but is seen less and less in the women of today. The deep auburn of her long, henna treated hair gave away the fact ,in a diplomatic way, that had she not coloured it, it would be completely grey. Because, henna turns grey hair red.

Indu’s elderly mother in law (MIL) passed away about eighteen months back. My own MIL had got along very well with that old lady and visited her regularly. So both our families can be classed as ‘family friends’. We are always there for each other in case of need. Some three years back, when my MIL was ill, Indu dropped in to see her. In those days, my MIL was suffering from depression and had a negative frame of mind and a helpless disposition. As she tended to be rather bad-tempered and I, rather busy (with four young children including a pre-schooler) I wasn’t exactly sitting by her side all day. The normally mild-mannered Indu was indignant. I came to know this when my next door neighbour, Mrs. Asha Singh, called me from over the garden wall for a quick chat. Now I should mention here that Asha Singh is much closer to our family, having been in and out of our house every day of the week for the last twenty years.

Indu Kapoor had a conversation with Asha Singh in which she declared herself ‘shocked and disgusted’ by the ‘neglect’ with which I and my sister in law Tapasya treated our MIL. She said that the poor woman was getting no attention or help and had not had her hair washed in weeks. She, Indu Kapoor, was planning to come tomorrow at the same time to wash ‘poor Aunty’s hair’. Asha Singh, knowing our family circumstances very well, advised Indu to avoid interfering in family matters in which she didn’t know quite as much as she though she did. She reminded Indu Kapoor that Gael had four young children and that Tapasya worked full time. She informed Indu that Aunty saw the doctor regularly, was given all necessary medication, had a daily bath and was given regular meals and clean clothes every day. If she hadn’t asked to have her hair washed, how might her busy daughter in laws guess she needed that help when she didn’t usually need it?

Now Indu was worried. How could keep her commitment to come and wash Aunty’s hair now, without being seen as interfering? Asha had the perfect answer!

I don’t know how my MIL felt when, the next day, instead of of being ministered to by the humble and submissive Indu, she found herself being confronted by a burly ayah (nursemaid) who washed, brushed and scrubbed her to perfection, without any wastage of time whatsoever. I only know that she has had absolutely no problem washing her hair ever since. And no complaints about it either!

Early this year, it was the first death anniversary of Indu’s MIL. We were all invited to lunch in honour of the occasion. Indu had cooked a huge lunch for about a hundred people and had prepared many dishes. I remember her pressing me to eat pickles which I tried to decline. As a patient of hypertension (high blood pressure) I have to avoid such foods. Indu would have none of this. Pickles were a must with Punjabi food, she insisted. She was such a sweet and solicitous hostess, I didn’t have the heart to refuse. But the irony! Indu passed away less than a month later of a hypertension related ailment.

It’s such a tragedy. This woman was only 42. She was looking forward to the graduation and marriages of her two grown up children over the next couple of years. Her whole family is still in shock, months later. It’s so heartbreaking to see their bewilderment and sadness. I often observe the lonely figure of her husband, going for his evening walk all by himself.

What is there to learn from all this? Nothing, maybe. Except that as well as taking care of others, we should take care of ourselves too... as we say in Ireland, may God be good to her……..


  1. I have said many times that you are a very patient woman. I really mean that.

    A very well written story.

    Nuts in May

  2. I've been worried about you giving too much and not taking care of yourself. Could you please write a post about that? I assume blogging is one way you do it?

    Bless you!

  3. Such a tragedy. But as long as we remember the persons who passed away they will never be dead in our hearts. Big hug!

  4. Indu is a good reminder that life should be a balance of helping others and helping ourselves.

    Growing up and living in Middle America- land 'o the Bible belt, I've seen many women who carry themselves in such a way as to say that taking time for themselves would be a violation of their service to others. As though their lack of caring for themselves is a badge of "honor" that they don't have time because they take so much time for others.

    Thank you for the post that reminds me it's both looking outward to personally know and care for people (as Asha did), as well as personally knowing and caring for myself.

    BTW- just realized your Irish! LK and I travelled around the southern part last summer. Fabulous place and equally fabulous people. :)

  5. wow that was so well written darl! Thanks for sroppin by my blog the other day again darl! Hope ur well!

  6. G, it would be a good idea if you could also share some things that some of your neighbours might have learnt from you! I really cannot say whether I have learnt anything from my neighbours except what not to do!

  7. I recall this story... Which means I've known you for a year, what a gift... :)))

  8. what a sad loss...

    I enjoyed the story about the hairwashing though. She sure got the job done!

  9. That is so great of you to write this in remembrance of her. My best friends bother in law passed away the other day, I also knew him, and thought he was such a great guy. He lost his life to cancer, so sad, and SO shocking. He was way too young to die.
    Anyway, I'm really enjoying your blog. I'm now a follower, and also following you on twitter.


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