I knew I would experience death in India. In a country so gripped by poverty, disease, illness and heartbreak I knew the experience of death would be inevitable. I just didn’t realise my experience would be so close to home and I certainly didn’t think it would strike twice in one day.
As soon as I heard the message come through on my phone, I knew it was mum. No Indian would be up that early sending text messages! My heart was racing before I’d even rolled out of bed and by the time I had read the message asking what time would be a good time to call I was covered in sweat. The moments between texting my mother back and her ringing felt like an eternity. Was it Grandma? Was it my niece or one of my brothers?
I soon learned that it was my grandmother. She had passed away during the night. I am not one of those ‘strong’ people when it comes to death and despite her being old and having led an amazing life, I sobbed like a child and desperately wanted to be beamed back to Australia to be with my family. I felt and still do feel tremendous guilt at not being able to say a proper goodbye to my much loved grandmother and be with my family in this time of grieving.
Nevertheless, I decided it would be pointless skipping class and went to the morning’s first lecture in hope of a distraction. Whilst waiting for the teacher to arrive I noticed an unusual amount of gossip and whispering taking place within the class. “Ssshhh don’t tell Kristen” someone whispered too loudly.
“Don’t tell me what?” I questioned.
A group of girls spun around and stared at me blankly. In the background someone mumbled the words “suicide” and the name of my friend, the ‘popular girl’ who I have often blogged about.
“What?” I demanded, going into an almost instant shock. Somewhere along the lines someone confirmed for me that yes my friend had indeed killed herself the night before.
The next few moments were a blur. I literally felt like I had stepped into a cartoon. My reaction to the news of my friend’s suicide was as foreign to me as the Punjabi language that was buzzing around the room. My head started to spin and all the noise around me went dull. I gasped for air, as though I was being choked. I was in complete and utter shock. Then the inconsolable tears came. I cried for a long time.
As anyone does when they lose someone to suicide, I have gone over and over in my head why such a talented, seemingly happy, popular girl would take her own life. I went over our last few conversations looking for hints but I could only come up with guilt. Guilt at not having been a better friend, guilt for not knowing that she was in trouble and guilt at rejecting her last dinner invitation by telling her I was too busy.
I have since found out that my friend poisoned herself after a supposed fight with her mother. I refuse to believe this to be the single cause. A single fight does not cause someone to take their own life and her own mother simply adored and worshipped her. I am not holding my breath waiting for the truth as it rarely emerges in places like India.
My friend’s death magnified the pain and grief I felt for my grandmothers death, I hope they both rest in peace or in my own belief be blessed with a good reincarnation. Goodbye and much love, Grandma and Tanu.