Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station. This is part of our Young Voices Series. We are always looking for more writing from YOU! Make sure you follow us on instagram at @GirlPowerYouAreEnough and on Facebook here.
By Reyann Shah
We have always called her “Moti Mummy” and for as long as I can remember I’ve known exactly why. “Moti” is the feminine word in our language for “big” or old”.
Hearing my grandmother referred to as “Moti Mummy” always did well to remind me that she was the eldest woman in our family’s house in India. It garnered a certain amount of respect in that way. But it also had a way of making me giggle when I heard it. It’s the dumb humor that comes with alliteration. It was fun to say and it made me smile.
Hearing it from Mama today didn’t have the same funny effect that it usually did.
At 10:48 AM:
“Moti Mummy is very sick right now. She wants to leave and not go on anymore.”
At 5:20 PM:
“Moti Mummy passed away.”
As terrible as the initial news was, I had what at the time I thought was the benefit of simply reading the former in a text message. I didn’t have to bear the pain of seeing Mama’s crying face as the horrible news sank into both of our hearts. But it’s interesting. Upon getting home from work, I endured the latter in person with no keyboard or smartphone screen to protect me from seeing the pain in Mama’s eyes, and yet I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The reason was simple. With seeing Mama’s crying face, it was the opportunity to hold her in my arms that followed.
It was the opportunity to let her emotions pour out onto me without a shield or a boundary in sight. It was one of the very first truly authentic moments between us.
“I never got to be as close to her as I wanted to be,” I told others-through my tears- about my grandmother for most of today.
And that is the undeniable truth. Although Moti Mummy may have lived all the way in Gujarat, I traveled there quite a few times during my 18 years. Moreover, our family’s patient and resilient millennials on her side of the world managed to teach her how to use a phone, and her and Mama talked every other night for God knows how many hours at a time.
To put it simply, there was no excuse for me to not reach out to her all these years. It was an opportunity to really establish a relationship with her. It was an opportunity to maybe even listen to some of her stories and be the “baba” she always deserved.
“I really fucked up,” I told myself for most of today.
But that’s the thing about opportunities. There are just so many of them. Opportunities are inherently infinite in nature. We place exorbitant amounts of shame onto ourselves on the occasions that we fail to seize them. We allow ourselves to feel so defeated by that failure that we fail to see the millions of new opportunities that lie ahead.
Perhaps most importantly, we ignore the lesson in our failure that will teach us how to seize a sizeable amount of those new opportunities moving forward.
In my failure I have learned to give a little bit of myself to everyone around me, especially those in my family who deserve me the most.
In my failure I have seized the opportunity to become a safe place for my mother’s emotions to flow into in her time of need.
In my failure I can begin to acknowledge the wisdom of my late grandmother, as the eldest and wisest woman in the house simply had to have known how much her grandson loved her- even though he may not have known it.
And ultimately, in my failure it appears I have found great deal of clarity and success.
That is the wonderful thing about pain. Pain leads to growth. Pain is what led to where I am right now in this moment. I am a comfortable man in an entirely different way than I have ever been up to this point in my journey.
And funnily enough, Moti Mummy’s name just brought a smile to my face, just as it always has, and just as it always will.
Rey Shah is a sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin. His primary writing interest is music of the independent persuasion, but he is also frequents writing about the relationship between music and popular culture as well as providing unusual yet endearing takes on the countless social and political issues of the modern age. Perhaps most clearly however, he’s definitely been told he’s beyond his years a few too many times for his own good.