Inner Lion

The past week has been strange. When I think about it, my mind says it was a blur. Whilst my weary body says that it felt like a hundred days. How is it even possible for a week to feel so long and drain you in every sense? I wonder at how time continuously chooses to surprise and confuse us. Death has a way of putting things into perspective for us, making us view our life, our thoughts and our actions more mindfully.

Yesterday was the funeral of my great-uncle; he’d been unwell for the past 9 years but the last few months really took its toll on him. Especially the last week of his life. I’ve never seen life leave someone’s body before or been in the same room as it happening. It’s an experience that both fascinates yet disturbs you. It’s something I won’t forget in a hurry.

There we were, all around his deathbed in the hospital. Disinfectant stinging our nostrils, our tears dripping from our eyelashes and our hands trying to comfort him. Although he couldn’t see us, hear us or breathe properly, he knew that we were there. He felt our presence and was surrounded by love, despite his rapidly declining state. Don’t get me wrong, he left this world with dignity and gave Death a good thrashing until he crossed the threshold and entered a world where we could not go.

Twenty minutes before Β he passed away, I held his cold, dry hand in mind as I said goodbye to him. I felt the blisters on his hands against the smoothness of my skin as I prayed for him to be at peace and without pain. That’s all I wanted from the minute I heard that he had 24 – 72 hours left to live. I wanted to say goodbye properly and for him to be without pain.

Yesterday at the gurudwara, I saw many members of my family and old family friends whom I hadn’t seen in over a decade. An old lady hobbled over to me, smiled and held out her arms to me, as she said: “Oh there you are. I thought I’d never see you again.”

At first I thought she’d mistaken me for another person but turns out she hadn’t. To be honest, the moment she gave me a hug I felt a strong sense of love, care and sincerity: I could feel how much she had missed me. She was my uncle’s godmother and hadn’t seen me since I was a small child. We spoke, hugged and she stayed with me for the whole day. After langar, she got up to leave and said goodbye to everyone. When I got up to say goodbye to her, she smiled, held my hand and said: “When you were little, you had a shine. So chatty, so happy” she affectionately touched my cheeks and with a sad look in her eyes said: “Be happy. Be my old Chayya again.”

Major throwback

I nearly cried. I wanted to cry and whenever her words float into my head, I do cry. I’m crying having just written what she said because I didn’t realise how much I had changed. It makes me cry because I think: “What has happened to me? What have I turned into?”

Back in the day I was a fierce child; my favourite words were: “No!” and “kutha” (Punjabi derogatory word) and I sounded like a small, brown, female version of Del Boy. In my heart and mind’s eye, I was a 6ft fierce lion with a lush mane who was not afraid of anything or anyone.

I fast forward to now; obviously everyone changes with time it’s normal. But what got to me was the fact that she’d remembered my shine. To lose one’s shine is poignant; you can never really get it back. Not with the same lustre. It’s made me think and re-evaluate things; particularly the way I view myself. Many of us are quite harsh and hard on ourselves – I am and I admit to that. I am a perfectionist, meticulous and a hard worker – if something’s not quite right I won’t stop until it is. The death of my great-uncle and the words of my uncle’s godmother have hit my very being and put so many things into perspective.

Why should I be so harsh and unkind to myself when I am in a world where there are people who will do that for free? I think my inner lion’s reappearance is well overdue, grown up, dying to get out and to be reintroduced into my adult life.



12 thoughts on “Inner Lion

  1. Excellent post, Chayya! Thank you so much for calling my attention to it on Twitter! I’m very sorry about the loss of your great-uncle. When we lose someone we love to death, it certainly does have a way of making us look at our own lives. Your wonderful post here carries such a powerful message. Why are we so hard on ourselves? What’s happened to us over the years? What have we become, and are we who we really want to be? Have we lost the beautiful “shine” that we once had? I couldn’t agree more with what you so eloquently said: “To lose one’s shine is poignant; you can never really get it back. Not with the same lustre.” – We can’t get back what we’ve already lost, but we can all certainly work harder at polishing up what “shine” we have left. Thank you for this excellent reminder!


    • Thank you for your lovely comment, it’s brought tears to my eyes. All of the comments on Inner Lion have.
      And I love what you’ve said: “polish up the shine we have left.” I will definitely start doing that, thank you πŸ™‚


  2. Hey, I’m sorry for your loss. This is a great post though, really spot on. Family, man, it’s everything. Great post and brilliantly articulated, especially at a difficult time. I feel inspired. By the way, LOVED THIS LINE ‘I sounded like a small, brown, female version of Del Boy.’ LOVED IT! πŸ™‚


    • Thanks Kris, I’m happy you enjoyed reading it and feel inspired afterwards. Agreed: family really is everything whether we like it or not.
      Haha! Well, I am a true South Londoner through and through, though my Del Boy drawl only makes an appearance when I’m super comfortable around people I know! πŸ™‚


  3. When you are at a hospital and you look around, sadly where it concerns very old people, it then dawns on one that life is maybe a lie and that the only truth is death….who knows. Sorry to hear about the sad loss. Doesn’t matter how one is related, a loss is felt and things are never the same..

    We shouldn’t be too harsh on ourselves, our lives and thinking is different when we are young, yes we have that shine, we all do, because we don’t have the wider knowledge of life. As we grow up, we become more exposed to life’s surroundings and also obtain more responsibility, which in itself consumes our time and impacts our mode of thinking.
    So maybe the shine may have be hidden (note NOT GONE) somewhere deep, it is up to you to re-discover it and bring it back to the surface.

    Start enjoying the little things to re-discover that shine…even if it’s doing something for 10’s the little things that lead to the bigger and better.


    • Thanks for this beautiful comment, it’s made me cry (but in a good, emotional way). And yes, maybe the shine is hidden and I just need to nurture it to bring it up back to the surface.
      I think his death came at time where I’m feeling a bit unsure, lost and uncertain about a lot of things so it did make me re-evaluate a lot of things.
      I will do what you’ve suggested, thank you πŸ™‚


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  5. This is my first visit to your blog. This post is beautiful. I’m very sorry for your loss.

    The piece about your shine – and how we get to where we get – so very true. I look at the joy my kids have at the most simple things in life and wonder why I don’t appreciate things like that. It’s natural to lose some of the shine that is the innocent, natural excitement that comes with youth. But I’m starting to think that much of what might be the key to being happy – in an ongoing sort of way – is holding onto the joy in the present in the way kids do: puddle jumping; getting dessert; playing with playdoh; watching Frozen for the 17th time etc… – I think the shine comes in part from that. It’s figuring out how to translate that into adult time. Then: Shine on!

    So glad I visited.


    • Louise, thank you for this beautiful comment. It really touched me and I am so happy to hear that you enjoyed reading this post.
      I always find that the most difficult posts are the ones that are treasured.
      Spot on: children have the right idea about enjoying the present. It’s something I’ve been trying to do – difficult as I tend to plan ahead and worry a lot – but I realise that it takes a LOT of stress off my mind.
      Indeed, we must all shine πŸ™‚ take care and I’ll definitely have a read of your blog too.


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