Look at this pic. My wife. Stunning. My daughter, dressed to an adorably fine pout. This is one of my favorite pictures ever. Because it’s modeled on one of my mom ( Renu Bhatt ) doting on and kissing a 2 year old me. And it fits with the others of my wife holding one or both of our kids. #iamgrateful and #iamthankful for these moments captured. And pleasantly re-shared.
2018 … was not easy. Personally. Professionally. It was a year that shook me to my core.
Upon heavy reflection, specifically the past 6 weeks, I realize it’s no coincidence that it ran in parallel with my stepping back from public, daily, gratitude. So today, on the first day of the year, I want to acknowledge the role I played in defining 2018 (on all of the wrong feet), and I want to set the footing…straight. I’ll start with celebrating two people for whom I have no words.
Mom and Dad.
Not those of blood and birthright. But those of luck and choice. Priya KC Bhatt‘s parents. More powerfully, my parents for the past decade plus.
Today…they were there for me, my sis, and my mom … and to them, they’ll think nothing of it.
How do you explain tonight? New Year’s Eve? For my entire childhood I remember my parents making a go at whatever America threw at us, for us. Halloween. Valentine’s Day. Birthdays. Christmas. Thanksgiving. July 4th. You name it. They absorbed, adopted, acclimated, and served my sister Anu Kiran and I a platter, a feast, of moments. But New Year’s Eve? That was theirs.
They partied and threw down in a way that would make the most velvet of ropes feel inferior.
Until February 4th, 2018. When Dad skipped the line and entered the next venue a bit before Mom (she’s destined to enter that party at some point, some days she’s more eager than others, but we know he’s already paid her way and is merely inside, holding a hightop table, with her drink ready … Gin & Tonic … hell, he probably told the barkeep how to make it). New Year’s Eve was them. Until it wasn’t. Today. It wasn’t. How do you fill that void? You bring two amazing kids along for the ride. And wow. Anaiya and Jaanu …they fill voids. They fill canyons. They’d turn the Grand Canyon into a Nebraskan highway.
But how else do you fill that void? You marry into the Chadha family. And you watch Satinder Chadha and Daljit Chadha step into the most complicated of spaces and bring smiles, fun, love, happiness……they act like they had no other place they’d ever been and no other place they’d want to be.
And actually, there’s no acting. There’s just them.
We’re blessed. I’ve got nothing else to say. We’re blessed. #iamgrateful and #iamthankful for Mom and Dad C and have been from day
1. But even moreso, on days like today, I’m beyond thankful and grateful.#iamspeechless
Daddy went back to the bartender tonight. He asked for some extra ice cubes. “She’s going to be a while” he said.
Happy Birthday, Ba. I had a pretty good week; which means … you’d have had an even better one. There’s something incredible about a grandparent’s love. I witnessed it first-hand with you, and I’m seeing it first-hand with our kids too. All love gets magnified; all missteps get marginalized. It’s not even rose colored glasses … I think it’s parents getting a second chance to look at the kids in their lives and thinking “you know, maybe I would have looked at the world more like this, knowing then what I know now.” It’s something I’m working on experiencing before my second time around. Because of you. Because of them.
We’re taking the kids to Candytopia tomorrow; all for you. For all I know, I know the one thing for sure — Candytopia would’ve been exactly how you’d have wanted to celebrate your birthday with these (or any) little monkeys around. We’ll roll with less rules for that reason, tomorrow. Love you, Ba. For teaching me the word unconditional.
#iamgrateful and #iamthankful for that feeling you gave us, and how unavoidable it is at the best and worst of times — just enveloping love when it’s needed or welcome the most. Hope you and Daddy had a great dinner tonight.
I’m good. I’m truly honestly and undeniably good. But, I wanted to share this because I think it’s the kind of thing that…more folks just need to know, or read, or share. Just because…good doesn’t mean purely good, there’s always an underlying truth.
On four distinct, unique, unrelated moments, I’ve had tears stream down my face. Not a tear. Not a couple of tears. Not the kind of tears that are wiped away with the back of one hand swiftly, or hell, even slowly. Nope. Streams. The kind that form patterns on your face. Where one tear blazes a trail for others to then follow. Drops turn into flow, and it’s the kind of flow so smooth and so steady that even the greatest Nuyoricans would step back and hand you the mic.
That’s my face. But my face and my tearducts are a mere preview, a trailer. of the thoughts and memories. I’m rocking your polo right now. I got angry when something wasn’t in its right place earlier today. I got angry because it wasn’t. I then got mad at myself for being you. I then got sad because there was no (practical or physical) you.
I ate eggplant and mushrooms almost as a rejection of your palate. I struggled at work, really hard today, because I felt like there were objective truths that weren’t being acknowledged. And I found myself having a handful of very productive, unvarnished and fully honest conversations with people that were representative of your spirit (it’s not about me, it’s not about the idea, it’s about your contribution to the bigger, collective idea, that’s what will make the world move forward.)
And then…mom…your wife. 45 minutes between wrapping up dinner with Anu Kiran and Drinda Kay and closing her iPad and heading up to bed with your granddaughter (who still misses you so publicly and so potently), posted this pic.
And it’s just Monday. And this photo, just says it all.
And you know, it all just sucks. But we’ll also, just keep moving forward. That’s, just life. And I’m good. Just, good. I’m good. #iamgrateful and #iamthankful for this polo. I’m going to sleep in it tonight. Just…because.
I miss you and I love you, and … we’ll keep just doing our best to honor you.
PS – Make that five times. Once while writing this.
12 days since my Daddy left the physical world. Hinduism is incredibly ritualistic. I’ll leave it at that. But in essence, our family is using the next few days as a way to help my father’s soul find peace as it rises to the universal soul, while also slowly bringing an end to the mourning period at which point the family is supposed to more formally transition back to normal life. Yeah. Thanks for the roadmap, Hinduism.
What I do love about the way we celebrate someone’s death is one key point: danam, which literally translates to gift or offering, but in the context of mourning and death rituals, it more spiritually means charity.
Our family will travel to a local school for children facing physical and mental difficulties, and bring them a fun, healthy and indulgent lunch. 200 kids. My father spent his life serving people (family, friends, the community at large). For all the pujas, prayers, moments of silence, and fantastically colorful and sense overwhelming procedures, this is the single greatest thing we are doing to honor Daddy’s legacy and soul.
This is the single greatest thing we can do to help him achieve universality (though he’s done more, with plenty leftover, to cover his journey and credit a world with what he has left over).
That’s the 12.T
That’s my wife.
She turns 40 today.
You’ve heard me write, over and over again, that Daddy said out loud and often, that Priya is the single greatest thing to happen to me and to our family. He knew his sh*t.
Today’s her birthday. A big milestone birthday. On the day that the celebration of my Daddy’s life moves from the inauspicious (mourning) toward the more auspicious (celebratory), I don’t find it to be any coincidence that we’re sharing this day with Priya’s 40th.
She’s spent the past two weeks dealing with two kids, bouts of the flu, kids with nightmares, kids with 4am fevers, all while facing an incredibly demanding stretch at work, all while mourning and grieving for her Daddy too. And she’s done it with grace, dignity, huge smiles, and without missing a beat.
She spoke at an impromptu religious ceremony held by our community in South Jersey (what an amazing extended family, those friends we’ve known for 50 years in South Jersey) and carried the full thoughts and weight of our family on her shoulders, and delivered the kind of thank you that my Daddy would have raved about for years.
She made him proud. As she always did. This is the woman whose vows to me during our legal ceremony 7+ years ago anchored in her promise that we will always be there for our family (collective). We didn’t know how soon or how often. But she’s never wavered.
The way she has handled the past 12 days is evidence and validation of Daddy’s earliest words to me about her: she’s the best thing.12 days.40 years.12|40.
Priya, you and Daddy are bonded together in eternity, in service and in the most celebratory and auspicious of ways. I smile wide today for that reason.Hey, best thing. Happy Birthday. You make all life and love possible.
My sis is my guardian angel. She always did everything at home, for my family, for our parents, so I could run off and explore the world. For 17 years, splitting time with my mom, she was the primary daily caretaker of my bedridden ba (grandmother).
While I was off being a kid and a teenager, my sis went from 11yo to grownup overnight. With a daily list of responsibilities that filled the day, and reset at midnight. It wasn’t until she was approaching 30, when my ba passed away, that she was able to focus on herself. But at that point, life was in full swing.
My sis never had a childhood and she never had the chance to truly focus on herself later in life.
That’s what my Daddy wanted for her more than anything. For her to take that step back, find out how amazing she is, achieve her fullest potential as one of the sincerest and purest and most loving people the world has ever known. They had that discussion in December before my parents left for India, and even in January he was telling her “2018 is your year.”
The power of love, with family and with friends, puts the world’s most powerful force (love) against the most delicate of subjects (human feelings). What my Daddy and my Mumma have always wanted for my sister is what they believe is best for her. It didn’t always work for both sides. For all the mutual want, she never had the space or the opportunity or the impetus to create that space for herself when the world wouldn’t give it to her.
As we search for our “why” around all of this mess, Anu Kiran, I have found one that gives me peace.
Daddy wanted to give you space in a way nobody else in the world could.
The single thing that will make him the happiest (not would, but will, as this is not a past tense appreciation) is reading your note below, and watching you move forward with that torch firmly in hand.
#iamgrateful and #iamthankful for the power and selflessness that the most powerful father/daughter bond I have known for my lifetime, has created.
My arms are sore. We lifted my Daddy up 10 times yesterday. Some were small transfers. Some were lengthier. Including down seven flights of stairs. As we carried Daddy out the front door of his dream house in Ahmedabad, I heard a rustling.
A light rain. A light sprinkle. Extremely odd. Because it never rains in Southern California, or in Ahmedabad in February.
As we descended the stairs the sprinkles, the “chhatna” as we call it, stayed light and steady. At each flight’s midpoint, the stairs turn at a landing, with a waist high level wall and an open window to the courtyard. At each turn you’d be able to peek out the open window and see the pavement and roadway slowly getting clean. Raindrop pointillism. Like how light rain freshens up the driest concrete, the dustiest sidewalks, and makes all grass look fresh and new. No puddles. No accumulation. Just a light sprinkle to freshen up the ground. Then we got downstairs. We had to carry Daddy outside briefly to get him into the garage where the ceremony would begin. During that quick turn the rain…stopped. Not a drop of exaggeration. It sprinkled just enough to freshen up the ground and clean up the world for my Daddy. Who did that for everything he owned and interacted with. Clean. Precise. Fresh. Presentable. Mother Nature did that for him when he couldn’t do it for himself.
I found the timing beautiful. I’m not religious and barely spiritual, though there’s something hopeful about believing in the magical as possible, just not relying on it.
But as I spoke to my Daddy’s eldest cousin, who I sat with for 90 minutes to hear stories going back to toddlerhood, he mentioned this idea of the “Ami chhatna”. An auspicious sprinkle, that happens just as did for my Daddy, for the loftiest of souls. As his rises to universality (and to become a star) it has been beautiful to watch the outpouring of support for our family and in memory of how he loved and in recognition of how he will continue to influence them in the future. But I know my Daddy. And I know how loved he is. So I expected all of that outpouring.
I was humbled though when the skies, literally opened up, with their own outpouring. Perfectly delivered. Freshening his path to the crematorium. And clearing his path to whatever is next for him.
#iamgrateful and #iamthankful for the support and symbolism. He never let anyone make a big deal about him while he was here. Happy he gave the human, material and spiritual world a reprieve as he leaves us. Love you, Daddy. You’ve earned all of this and More.
Also, does this dude look 77? The pic was taken just a few months ago just after that birthday. v
Yesterday, our Dad became a star. There’s still a lifetime of things to say, but here is step 1… Today I fly to India to join the strongest person I know, my mom, and a community of friends and family, to help the world say goodbye to his body. His light. His love. His spirit. His crappy jokes. His absolute moral perfection and purity.
Those will live on forever. Envelop us from moment-to-moment. Protect us. Remind us. Break us but only momentarily. Because his strength and resilience are also with us forever.
#iamgrateful and #iamthankful to have called you Daddy for 42 years, and now, to close my eyes, or to look at the sky, or to look at your grandkids, and be reminded and fully inspired to do the same.
I will see your body soon. I will do my best to live in a way that makes you proud and is worthy of your legacy. See you soon, Daddy. You’d be proud and brought to tears if you heard Anaiya explain her love for you, and, how she knows you’ll always be with us. I’ll whisper it in your ear when I see you.
Also, go Eagles. You earned this Super Bowl run with a near lifetime of dedicated fandom.
Thank you all for your love and support. It’s a testament to the person he will always be and the person my mom is. Send love. Send strength.
Shed no tears. Channel that emotion deeply and powerfully toward the people you love.