Moy Moy’s gravestone was a very long time coming. Funerals happen instantly in India. In most of the country, most of the year, it’s too hot to wait more than a few hours. But gravestones can take years. One year is the minimum, at least in Dehradun, again because of the weather. If you try and do it too soon, before a monsoon passes, the stone will sink into the ground.
It felt right to wait. Our grief was so heavy in that first year it threatened to sink us as well. One year came and went and still we waited. We couldn’t decide. What should the gravestone look like? What should it say? Which font? Which design? It all felt so important, so portentous.
It was more my thing than Ravi’s. Being accustomed to cremation, he had no experience with graves and no idea about gravestones. I, on the other hand, got a little obsessed.
I traveled a lot in the months after Moy Moy died. To London, Reykjavik, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, New Hampshire. In each city, I visited cemeteries.
The grief of centuries crowded into my mind and heart. Every cemetery was different, yet each one was the same. People trying urgently to make sense of their losses: children, parents, lovers, spouses. I felt tumbled over and torn apart. Every cemetery was a new vista of sadness.
When the pogrom happened in Delhi last month, the part that upset me most was the desecration of the Muslim cemeteries. What harm can dead people do to anyone? Why desecrate the memorials their loved ones have created for them?
Why? Because that is precisely the best way to destroy those left behind. Tell us our loved ones don’t matter, that their lives didn’t mean anything, that they no longer exist even in our memory and you kill what makes us who we are. Moy Moy is my jaan, my life. She helped to make me who I am.
It was nearly two years before we finally settled on the words, the font, the design. In our Christian cemetery, the guy who took charge (ordering the marble from Rajasthan, building the base, putting it all in place) was Muslim while the one who did the engraving and splashing the paint was Hindu. (We loved it.)
As usual, our darling daughter took the lead, bringing communities together in ways they couldn’t have imagined without her. And the end result was her joyful, colourful gravestone: a celebration of Moy Moy, an acknowledgement of all that she was and is and will ever be, our daughter, our sister, our friend. Thanks be to God.