Return flights, that call and life thereafter

Saying goodbye is always unpleasant.

The mind and body entangle themselves in an incredulous manner. The heart aches.

The 5 odd hours before the flight, the day to return to wherever it is now ‘home’. That entire day is dredged with “take care—call when you reach— save more—we are getting old” conversations. I spot Amma’s eye from the corner sofa. Tears roll as she continues to watch Zee TV. Appa makes funny comments to hide his sadness.

Final pit stop—airport. The carry-on is overweight. Amma stuffed 3 silver lamps and two saris for Diwali.

I spot two pairs of hands vigorously waving goodbye from the other side of the glass door. Guilt-struck.

What have I done…

On the flight, everything smells like masala. It reminds me of home; another scotch please. Two movies, awful dinner and an equally awful toilet trip later, I can breathe.

I will see them soon. I will.

It’s dull in NYC. Taxi! Central Park? Miss—the cab line starts here. Oh sorry. I forgot.

Facebook, emails, pictures of the 450 clicks in the last few days;

Can you drive via RFK?

Hello Amma, yeah flight was ok. They served the same tasteless paneer. Bags, all ok. The pickle bottle seems ok too. Love you both.

Life slowly settles. Two weeks, one month, 5, 7, it goes on. There are many calls in between.

The most dreaded call still waits in line.

The cell rings. At work, I pack all my stuff.  On the street, make innumerable calls. Yes, Air India, earliest flight to Bombay? Non-stop yes; hello yes, I am on my way, do we have cash (Rupees) at home?

Yes, hello, I’m trying to be there as soon as possible.

The body, Please stop calling him that, he is still Appa, … is in the morgue. Two days!


What’s App messages, fly through various groups. So sorry, yes, he was unwell. Thanks.

Amma speaks multiple times, in multiple tones of sadness. Body numb; mind number. Tickets booked.

What will I tell the priest?

I will be out of office because of a family emergency; delivery guy at the doorstep; can’t eat.

Darkness has an uncanny method of opening all the lids to the secret jars in which you store your fears, thoughts and emotions.

Sleep, you have to sleep. Get some rest.

Faces, photographs, last conversation, voices, all fight each other to claim the first spot in my head. None struggle; they all make it.

Hello, I need to reschedule my appointment date for Dr. Lockh. Hello, American Express? I need to put a travel notification on my card.

Uber is here. Vacation? Not this time.

Hello Uncle, yes I’m aware. I will talk to him.

What will I tell the priest?


Air India check in, how many bags Ma’am? Carry on only, short trip?

Can you keep my bag in that cabin beta? Where are you going? Married? Kids?

Accha, my husband needs to sit this side, pain in the left hand. Theplas?

Veg/non-veg Ma’am!  Ma’am?

Hmm, sorry, can I get a drink please? Scotch neat.

No food?  You’ll get acidity.

Veg, veg is fine.

Beta, can you show me how to watch this movie?

“We are serving dinner, please be seated and do not use the toilets”.

Can you shift? Toilet beta.

Tasteless paneer, bettered with scotch. Can I get another glass?

How will I manage everything?


There are 12 Hindi movies on the list. One about a father- daughter relationship, father has a constipation problem; can’t watch.

Welcome to Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International airport.

Hello, I’m outside terminal 2 Darshanbhai.

Sorry didi, how did this happen? How many days will you stay?

Can we stop at the ATM?


As the building gates open, so do those of my memories here.

People everywhere; strangers- acquaintances create a buzz I don’t want to listen to; heart pounds.

Amma, family, extended family, neighbors—a haunting get-together this time.


How are you? Ok.

I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut 20 times that has 52 existing wounds.

Ask the driver to come here by 6 am. The body will be here by then. STOP calling him that.

What will I tell the priest?

Nightfall conceals many uncertainties, yet reveals an ultimate finality.

Early morning; more people, same lines over and over, yeah he was unwell, he wanted water in the night, and then…


He is here. On a bamboo stretcher, he rests. The priest is here.

I will perform all the final rites.

You are a woman. We cannot allow this. No uncles, brothers?

No, and I want to do it.

OK, but this is going to be very difficult.

Looking into the eyes of a lifeless being brings out the life inside you. Innumerable conversations with him; apologies—requests—prayers—questions. Empty stares, his and mine; which one is emptier.

Let’s begin the rites.

Ram naam…. His ashes are everywhere, and he…is nowhere.

Farewell Appa.


Where are you in the US? No kids? You mustn’t delay.  GC?  Why are you not crying?

When will you take Amma with you? This is so unfortunate.

We have to plan the next 14 days.  You have to arrange this.

All rituals are over.

Amma is watching Zee TV. I see her teary eyes from the corner sofa. No funny comments today.

45 days have passed. All arrangements have been made for Amma at home, and for her to visit the US.


Darshanbhai takes my bag.

Carry on only? Yes.  Only a pair of hands wave behind the glass doors at the airport terminal.

Guilt shatters my soul into a million pieces. What have I done…

On the flight, feel empty.

I watch that movie. One more scotch please. Tasteless paneer.

Welcome to JFK.

Yeah Amma everything was ok. Take care; yes it is cold, no snow yet. See you soon.

A few weeks later, life is settli…No- Nothing is the same ever again.

Jyothi Shetty is a guest writer at The Brown Desi. In her optimum habitat, she would concoct meals and tales all day. She hopes to build a 'wordcatcher' and wishes to be buried in a book.