Some People Just Need Some Guts

As much as the death of my grandma wounded me, it was also the time that I realised I was going to have to grow a pair if I was to survive.

September just gone is a time that will be forever etched into my mind. It was when my grandma died.

I remember someone from sixth form reception coming to get me. Taking me to this little side room. My mum and sister were in there. My mum told me “Grandma died this morning.”

I didn’t know what she was saying. I just didn’t. I’m not going to stretch the details of how I felt too far, because I felt the same way that most people feel when they hear that a family member is dead. It wouldn’t sink in until after the funeral.

I had the option of going home on that day. As much as it would have been beneficial to just go home and forget about school for the day, I didn’t want to be lonely. So I hung around. I kind of regretted it when it hit me like a truck at breaktime. But past that, here’s what happened on that day that made me realise I was going to have to grow a pair.

We went over to my grandma’s house, where my uncle and aunt and cousin all still live. But it wasn’t just them there. Pretty much half the street was there. I’m half Indian, you see. And my grandma had a lot of friends at the Gudwara. So they all decided that they were going to come round too. There’s ten or twenty people in my grandma’s living room. Some of them had known her since forever, some had only met her just passing in the street. Some she’d probably just waved at a few times. I for one didn’t recognise any of them, and the fact that they all felt they had to be in my grandma’s house just hours after her death really made me mad. Here’s why.

First of all, I don’t care what culture I’m from, we’re all still human, and no one gave them the right to be sitting in my grandma’s house even though I’ll bet they couldn’t even remember her name. Her name was Kiran, by the way. Second of all, they were talking about her in the past tense, in front of us, her family, when she hadn’t even been dead for a day. Really? Really really? They were a bunch of old Indian women, in their 60s or 70s, but I don’t care. I could have punched them all. I wasn’t at all happy. And lastly, I know I’ve already kind of touched on it but the sheer fact that not only were they there on the actual day she died, but they came the day after as well. It just seemed so rude, who invited them? No one. They just heard it in the grapevine and thought “Oh, we won’t be intruding on anyone’s grief if we go and sit there for ages then go back the day after. Let’s go.”

Honestly, if I hadn’t felt so wounded, I would have told them to fuck off. In most cultures, you’re allowed to tell people to bugger off when a family member is recently deceased and you just want to be left alone with your family to get back to your old self. Why my aunt and uncle didn’t do this, I’ll never know. It’s just in India (do correct me if I’m wrong) there’s a lot of emphasis on very traditional family values and maintaining healthy relationships with others. There’s also a lot of emphasis on respect. So if I had gotten up and told them to just fuck off because I couldn’t deal with it, I would have almost definitely been told off in some way and lectured about respect. Social hierarchy is very strict – the younger you are, the lower you are in society. Traditionally. But as a person, I’m progressive, and since I’ve lived in England for seventeen years, all I can think is that I shouldn’t have to respect someone because they’re older than me and that I should be allowed to tell someone to fuck off if a family member dies and I’d rather not listen to them talk about someone they never really knew.

I guess my aunt and uncle didn’t do this because they had an über-traditional upbringing, so if you didn’t respect your elders, you would literally be bitch-slapped to hell. You definitely didn’t tell your neighbours to bugger off or else they’d spread shit about you. It was all about a good reputation. Well, isn’t it better just to not have a reputation at all? I’m talking about what would happen if the neighbours would just accept that you want to be left alone, you didn’t ask them to come over and that when you’re ready you will definitely ask them over. There. No reputation. See?

What I’m saying is that in this day and age, we are all entitled to privacy. What’s not okay is for people to start coming over the minute they hear that someone’s died in your family, and what I definitely don’t like is how quickly the news seemed to spread. I mean, I told one or two of my friends, but they weren’t going to come round to my grandma’s house and start chatting about someone they didn’t even know. I just don’t get how all of her Gudwara friends heard about it in under a day. It’s bad enough that news spreads that quickly, but then you get people actually coming into my grandma’s house too. Why couldn’t they just wait to be invited? You always call first to ask if it’s okay to come over, especially after someone’s died, because after a traumatic event like that, people are very emotionally raw and tempers can become very frayed very quickly. It’s also normally better not to even ask to come over on the first day after someone’s died, unless they really want you to, because it’s better to give them space first. Then if they want you, they’ll call, right? And you just take it from there, nice and slow.

It seems like a very simplistic logic to me, but maybe that’s just me. Maybe I’m just too progressive for my roots. I don’t know. But however you look at it, we all have a right to be left alone, and sometimes it’s better just to keep zipped. The neighbours might have had the best intentions and I was overreacting. I’ll probably never know. But sometimes, you need to just step up and ask to be left alone, because trust me, it’s okay to be angry at unwanted attention.

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