When you save a life, you save the world

Aditi Raychoudhury. My father readied for cremation as I bid my last goodbye. 2019 . Watercolors and Goauche.
Aditi Raychoudhury. My father readied for cremation as I bid my last goodbye. 2019 . Watercolors and Goauche.

Dear Baba,

Its been eight years since we lost you and not a day goes by when I don’t think of you. Like most children, there are so many special memories boundd with a parent – but what ties all our memories together is your unbridled and overwhelming kindness – an overarching trait that everyone best remembers you for.

You raised your voice only once with each of your children – Amber, Pratiti and me. When we got married you embraced our spouses as your own. It’s a pity that my sister-in-law and our children missed out on creating those loving memories with you.

Every time I raise my voice and more, I reflect on how can I be just a tiny bit more like you? How can I transcend my impatience, anger, intolerance and transform those emotions into a stream of kindness like you did? When Ma became too ill to take care of herself you took care of her. Unlike so many men of your generation, you were never too squeamish to change our soiled nappies or wipe her soiled bottom. No act of care was beneath you. You and Ma had not met till your wedding day, yet it is the best marriage that I know of.

While Ma toiled away to raise us, you were that gentle cloud that protected us from the heat of anger. Every weekend you took us to the market and kept us out of Ma’s hair, because you knew she needed a break from being a parent. You understood, that like Satyajit Ray’s protagonist Charulata, she needed to be her own woman – in her case, that meant continuing her long daily riyaaz on the sitar. She never had to ask that of you. In fact, no one ever had to ask what they needed from you – such was your empathy.

Once when my cocky teenage self had asked you “Baba, why do you keep helping others, even though you know that they will never pay you back?” You said, ever so gently, “I know. I know that they won’t pay me back, but the day we lose our humanity, we cease to be human.” Its something I have never forgotten. While I am not you, and can never be you, extending random acts of kindness is something I try to do to honor you.

How surreal to live in a time when I feel relieved that you went out like a candle that was extinguished in a sudden whiff of wind. We had spoken with you just the night before to plan our trip to Alaska in the Fall. The next call from Kolkata the following morning was of your passing – a massive heart attack.

But, we could at least get on a plane within a day of you passing away and perform your last rites. Today I feel a deep dark ocean of sadness for every person who has lost a loved one to COVID. I can think of almost no greater tragedy than to have to grieve in isolation without being able to participate in the rites that every religion has in place to bring closure. All of you, who have lost someone during this pandemic, please know that I am thinking of you, just as I am thinking of my father today and everyday. As I am pummeled with news of COVID deaths in India from friends and family, I implore anyone who has been reading this to donate to https://affirm.giveindia.org – a COVID relief fundraiser organized by Aniruddh and other southasians at Affirm. No amount is too small.

“When you save a life, you save the world”. Thank you!

Pandemic Thanksgiving

Aditi Raychoudhury. You are missing. November, 2020. Watercolor and Gouache.

Aditi Raychoudhury. You are missing (Detail). November, 2020. Watercolor and Gouache.
Aditi Raychoudhury. You are missing (Detail). November, 2020. Watercolor and Gouache.

Aditi Raychoudhury. You are missing (Detail). November, 2020. Watercolor and Gouache.
Aditi Raychoudhury. You are missing (Detail). November, 2020. Watercolor and Gouache.

Aditi Raychoudhury. You are missing (Detail). November, 2020. Watercolor and Gouache.

Aditi Raychoudhury. You are missing (Detail). November, 2020. Watercolor and Gouache.

Aditi Raychoudhury. You are missing (Detail). November, 2020. Watercolor and Gouache.
Aditi Raychoudhury. You are missing (Detail). November, 2020. Watercolor and Gouache.

Having lost my mother to cancer at 26, and my father to a heart attack 16 years later, I am no stranger to losing those we hold dear. While I still miss them after all these years, I was able to hug them and kiss them as I said my final goodbye.. a privilege that so many families across the world have not had as their loved one fell victim to this deadly virus. I can’t imagine the heartbreak of not being able to hold your loved one and say that final good bye.

As you struggle through this festival dedicated to gratitude and love of family, I can’t say that you will stop missing those you have lost. But as the years go by, may that empty chair that you are can barely look at through your tears today, fill up with love and cherished memories that you share with generations around the table, just like I share the memories of the grandparents my daughter couldn’t meet.

Much love to all Americans during this difficult Thanksgiving. Cherish love, and have a safe Thanksgiving.

“Pictures on the nightstand, TV’s in the den,
Your house is waiting, your house is waiting,
For you to walk in, for you to walk in,
But you are missing, you’re missing..”

~ Bruce Springsteen

Embrace Isolation

I wanted to present an intimate portrait of a family during COVID19 and focus on that insidious killer, which no amount of handwashing or masks can destroy from ripping away our deep rooted need for human contact.

As we all shelter in place and wrestle against our distraught children, snippy spouses, simmering cabin fever and colossal uncertainty, I see spring’s riotous explosion of colors – it’s beauty, a ferocious and radical act of defiance against death and despair. It reminds me that our lives, too, will blossom back in technicolor, if we can seize little pleasures and completely embrace isolation.

Like the image? Would appreciate it if you show your support by voting on https://community.amplifier.org/art/embrace-isolation/ and sharing the same message through your networks. Voting ends on May 8th. Many thanks!

~Aditi