January 2, 2013

Farewell Aunty Sarda

And so it is. Aunty Sarda has left us. About 90 mins after ushering the new year, she took her last breath and was no more.

I had been watching the countdown on TV and had just dozed off for the night when the call from Swana came. I didn’t get to the phone in time, but I saw there was a message in WhatsApp to all the cousins about her departure and then I got on the phone with Swana.

Apparently it was quick and painless. At about 1am, Lita had noticed her breathing getting even harder and Swana and Ma only had a few minutes with her before she took her last gasps, opened her eyes and that was it.

I wouldn’t have been of much help if I had gone over, a doctor from the hospice had to be notified first to certify the death, before Swana could make a police report and call the undertaker so a lot of waiting around involved.

Instead I posted the following on FB before spending 2 hours crying myself to sleep, knowing it was going to be a long day ahead. FB message:

“Goodbye my classy, freakingly tidy, kind, generous, fiercely independent, softie of an aunt. Of all people, you didn’t deserve to go out this way, but the only consolation is that you weren’t in too much pain at the end. Thank you for being a part of our lives, I know you’ll be watching us from up there, ready to give us ‘one kick’ if we step out of line. Love you Aunty Sarda…”

Aunty Sarda had already briefed the undertaker on her preferences a few months ago so he knew what to do when the time came. I got to Membina just before the body arrived, they did a good job of the embalming, she looked pretty.

Word had already got out to all the relatives and friends and the Radhakrishnans were the first to arrive, followed by a steady stream throughout the day. Nick brought the kids over and they took part in the ritual of placing flowers in the coffin. I think they understood Nani had gone to heaven but they kept asking why she was in a ‘bathtub’.
I drafted the obituary and together with Kavi and Kaelash, we went out to place the order with ST Classifieds and then had lunch at Serangoon, where we needed to pick up incense and saris for offerings.

We joked that she held on to complete 2012, she was anal that way. She even chose a nice time and easy date to remember. 1.30 am, 1st Jan 2013. A lot of 13s in there, and the date added up to the no.8, just like her birthday 1st March 1939 which is a 1/3.

Swana, Kevin and Kaelash took turns for the overnight vigil to make sure the oil lamp didn’t extinguish. More people came on the second day, including a bunch of Chitties from KL. It was the first day of school, but we decided to let the girls ponteng.
Aunty Sarda was definitely well-loved and a lot of people came to pay their respects and many more who were there in spirit but couldn’t’ make it due to the short notice of Hindu funerals. Of all days, it was also Mummy’s 60th birthday but celebrations will have to wait.
The funeral was held yesterday, with the rites performed at Membina at 4pm, before departing for cremation at Mandai Hall 4 at 5pm. Me and Nick hitched a ride with Nya Nya to and fro. 
During the final rites, because she was single, a stalk of banana was inserted into her coffin to signify a groom and she was ‘married off’. One of Papa’s friends, Pophatbhai Patel had to step in as ‘uncle’ to marry her off, as there no elderly male uncles around.

Some of the aunts who had been sobbing the last couple of days were surprisingly quiet as the coffin entered the incinerator. In fact the whole viewing gallery was quite quiet, which I think Aunty Sarda would have preferred.

On the way back, I was peckish and Nya Nya kindly stopped at Upper Thomson so I could pick up some ladu, papadams and prata. There was a vegetarian buffet waiting at Membina and before you know it, everything is over. Tomorrow we go to leave her ashes at sea...

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