Death of a sister in a distant land

Afsan Chowdhury
Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017
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Kolkata is next door but many days away. One can’t go there even if a beloved cousin sister dies suddenly. The grief is so sharp because she was younger than I was at only 58 years. We always think the younger will follow us to the grave but it often happens that we mourn their passing away all too frequently.


In our age and time, families are slowly drifting away to form new combinations and old blood lines are fading away. She was the last generation of cousins that shall grieve the way I and my cousins in Dhaka are mourning her. Our children will not know their second third cousins as well as we did, not to mention those in another land as new family formations rise.

We are I realize the transition generation, growing up in separate countries and time zones but whose parents lived in one families and held by that previous past.  Space and time are both splitting families.


Such understandings don’t make the pain of losing a younger cousin sister less. In fact, there had been an error and the call from Kolkata from her older sister was misheard. Everyone thought that her mother- my mother’s sister- had passed away but it was the youngest sister.  A call came from another cousin who lives in Canada correcting my Facebook post. When I heard the news I howled in real pain. It couldn’t be I screamed but it happens.


I remember hearing that Mishuk Munier had died along with Tareque Masud in Dhaka while I was in Toronto. It’s so perplexing to understand an early death of a younger one. It’s not just about the death but the braking of the life cycle. How my aunt, her mother is feeling I don’t know if this is how I am feeling.


“No Facebook, talk to me“


She had become widowed very recently after her husband had passed away from a long suffering illness.  “Why don’t you keep in touch on the Facebook? “ I had asked when I called her to condole.


“I hate all that facebooking. I only like face to face inter-action. You call me when you are free and we will talk.” I never did call and that is my last conversation with her.


I had met her last year after almost 25 years. She was away with her family as her husband worked in different parts of the world. I had stood in front of the Kolkata door and she couldn’t recognize me. We have changed with time but so many things don’t. In minutes we are cousins again, siblings, the older and the younger one, her “Bhaiya” call sounding so familiar after all these years.  The total comfort of her company was a reminder of what means to know someone from childhood. Now she is gone and part of my childhood is also gone with her life.


We would sit and talk in the room where her mother was.  I met a niece, a grown up lady but to me my cousin’s child. “I want to take her to Dhaka in a suitcase.”  Perhaps I was trying to build a chain but there were too few feeble links to connect.


My khala had health issues and she would sit next to the window in her chair and talk to her assembled family. She would grumble, “I have lived long enough. Why doesn’t God take me away? “


And my sister would say, “That’s because you scold God all the time. How will he take you up?”


My cousin never scolded or complained. She went through much grief and pain but she never told anyone how she felt. Her smile never left her, her face was never heavy with anxiety or frustration, she just lived on. And she never scolded God.  Perhaps that’s why God felt her company would be nice to have and asked her upstairs.

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