The Mother Who Failed to Mourn

Trial by Error | The Aarushi Files

The Mother Who Failed to Mourn

Illustration: Akshita Monga/Arré


few weeks ago in Delhi, I met a friend whose elderly uncle had recently died. They lived together with other family members in a small railway colony flat. For days and weeks, family, friends, and neighbours gathered, lingered, some even moved in for a while. A few strangers turned up too. Food was produced on the hour. Endless cups of tea were served. And the mourning? That was sometimes loud, sometimes silent, but always performed among others. My friend, who was very close to her uncle, went on to say, “To ask to be alone with your grief is unheard of. You are literally surrounded every second of the day.”

My friend’s uncle’s death turned out to be a drama serial complete with many interesting characters who appeared on the set uninvited: a hated cousin turned up and talked incessantly of the journey of the departed soul; aunties looked sympathetic but cattily checked out the attire of the others present; a long-lost college friend appeared to colonise the only spare room and bathroom. Adding a dramatic background score to the event were the “Professional Mourners” – a few people nobody knew but who looked vaguely familiar from a million other community funerals, the do-gooder slash busybody types who turn up, take charge, manage three cell phones, make endless arrangements, hug everyone, smile philosophically, share endless tragic anecdotes about other deaths, and basically, just won’t go home until they are literally shown the door. And the weight of their collective expectations sat heavily on my friend and her family.