One thing that absolutely super duper hyper sucks when you’re an expat is when your friends or family members die. In 17 months, I am at number 5. It’s never pleasant, but being thousands of miles away, several time zones away compounds the pain. To go or not to go? How much would it cost? Why go? Maybe the money given to Lufthansa could be better used if sent to cancer research, Alzheimer research, or Captain Morgan. There is an ounce, or a kilo of guilt, that you weren’t there at the end, and that you may not be there for the funeral. In “normal” times, you would probably hop on a plane and not think twice about it. In “expat” times, everything changes. There is nobody who knew the person here with you, to commiserate and cry together. It’s lonely. It’s sad. It blows big time.
There is an upside. There is always an upside. Or so I am trying to convince myself right now. Less than 10 minutes after I learned that my nanny had died peacefully in her sleep surrounded by her family, our maid K. arrived. It was obvious than I had been crying a lot. A couple of sentences to explain the situation and she quietly went on to sweep the house. Then she came looking for me, looking for ways to console me. I asked her if she would make me tea. She did and she gave me a hug, herself teary eyed. I found a picture of me as a 6 year old with my nanny and showed it to her. She was the only person here I could share it with at that moment.
What followed is a marvel of human spirit. Her English skills are a string of vocabulary words with no grammar. My Kannada consists of about 10 words, half of them related to food. My Hindi is not much better. Yet, speaking in what I think is Hindi since most sentences ended with the sound “hein”, standing in the middle of our living room, she told me about her father’s death, her husband’s death, her mother’s mental illness, her children’s professional goals, being a single mom, and the effects of alcohol on her family. She giggled when I asked her if she had a boyfriend. A young beautiful widow, she has no use for one, as her experiences with men are not the greatest. I wish she knew the comfort one can find in a good husband. I have no idea how I understood what she was saying. It doesn’t matter. Before leaving, she told me to stop crying, that it would bring tension, and then a headache.
Tomorrow I will go to the biggest baddest church I can find in town. I will be surrounded by aunties in sarees. My nanny would have found that funny.