Tania Masi and I both happened to be at Taarangan, my Nani’s house, at the same time. I had just worked out in the home gym, she had just dropped off a cake or something.
We sat in the hall, on a couch surrounded by old and fancy looking Indian art and art-inspired furniture -- this hall has been unchanged for a while now. Nani lives with mama, mami, and my cousin Ranveer, but no one was at home. Nani was out playing cards, mama and mami may have been at the office, and Ranveer was probably at basketball.
I lounged in the hall, laying on my masi, my cheek pressing against the white graphics on her black t-shirt (some stupid joke about ducks). As we were both sharing memes to laugh at, she got a call, so I got up.
Even before her brain signaled the muscles around her mouth to expand to form an O and the sound of her gasp could reach my ears--
Feel your chest tighten up
You know something is wrong
Masi got up without telling me what happened.
“Kapil Mama died,” she was almost telling it to herself more than me.
Kapil mama is not my mother’s brother, but he is the mama of my mother and her siblings. She said she had to go, so I decided I would head out as well. This was not the first time someone in my family had passed.
When I reached home, my mother called me and told me to come to Kapil mama’s house where the family had gathered.
Feel your eyebrows flex and form a slanting line toward the middle of your
This is new
I was much younger when other family members had passed, therefore it was deemed inappropriate for me to go to a funeral. But now:
“Boo boo masi will come to pick you up on her way.”
Before I could even ask her what I should wear, she hung up. I felt a little stupid at this point. A family member had died, and here I was, wondering if I should change my clothes. As I waited for Boo boo masi to come, I thought of Kapil mama. He was short and fair, he had grey hair that almost reached the top of his silver-wired glasses. We hadn’t spoken much but used to get along when I was seven.
I wondered if I should be crying.
art: althea allen
Just as we were reaching the building Boo boo masi realized that this was the first time I would be attending anything like this.
“You’re going to laugh.”
I waited for a punchline. Nothing.
“Don’t do it in front of the family.”
She could tell I was confused and started again, “Something funny always happens at a funeral, but you can’t laugh in front of the family.”
Kapil mama greeted me as I walked into the house.
Feel your eyes almost pop out of their socket
WHAT THE HELL
I entered and turned to my right. I was now looking at the body of a dead relative surrounded by the crying of vaguely familiar faces.
It was then that I realized: I mismatched the face of one mama for the other.
In my defence, I hadn’t seen any of these people in several years. I pursed my lips tight and looked down, finding an escape route while cloaking my laugh as a cough. Something got in my way as I reached the door to the backside of the house, the same black t-shirt I was lying next to just about an hour ago. This time my eyes went straight to the quote written in all white against the black: Happier than a duck with bread.
I looked up at Tania masi. She noticed that I read her shirt, and suddenly realized what she was wearing in the house that somebody just died in.
Our eyes met and widened, I clenched my jaw and pushed everyone aside to hide in the back room.
Inside were my mother, Boo boo masi and their cousin.
“Already?” Boo boo masi asked.
I told her what happened and the room erupted in laughter which was short-lived by the slow creaking of the door behind me. It was masi, we all acknowledged the shirt now.
The funeral continued.