This last week has had some fun times and some sad times.
First the sad. We went to a ceremony at the Crematorium for the final remains, or as the funeral director described it, a final 'slice' of my old friend Nagu Rao, who died last April and whom I wrote about then. Her husband had been waiting for her final remains to be returned from the Coroner before he could perform the necessary Hindu rituals required and make the obligatory journey to India a year after her death. There were four of us attending. The main funeral had been huge, then after the cremation he had divided her ashes. Some he took to South India, where from a small boat with a priest and another in the confluence of two rivers he managed to release those ashes in what seemed like an Indian black comedy variation of 'Three Men in a Boat.' The rest he released into the Taff near Llandaff Cathedral. Nagu saw herself as a Welsh Indian, so this seemed perfectly fitting.
Because we'd been away in Mexico at the time, we had not been able to say our goodbyes, so this time Raj got us fully involved. He recited and chanted Hindu hymns, and ragas that Nagu had composed and sung herself, which she recorded on U Tube. As all religion was equal in her eyes and she loved all things spiritual there were also Catholic pieces.We read pieces about her in English and Welsh and sang a Welsh hymn, 'Calon Lan' (Clean Heart). We sprinkled water from the Ganges, meridian, turmeric, Basmati rice and Freesias onto her casket. When the time to place her casket into the oven, Raj lit the candle, and stood alone looking through the spy hole as Nagu's last remains ignited. He told us that it was forbidden to cry as we were supposed to be joyful that she was on her journey. Where she was going only she and God knows, but as we all fought back our tears, I tried to bring my last memory of her to mind; In the Garth woods, wearing a red hat under a mass of black curly hair, a sari, warm cardigan and boots, giggling and enjoying each moment we were together despite the pain she was always in. I will really miss her.
The good news was our trip up to North Yorkshire to see friends I'd first met 41 years ago. Despite parental misgivings on both sides, Richard, a VSO married his sweetheart, Sasti and brought her home from Indonesia to the north of England to live. The beginning was very tough but she adapted amazingly. She won her mother-in-law's respect by being able to prepare game pie, cook pheasant, rabbit and pigeon for dinner, bake wonderful cakes, and produce two beautiful children. Richard is a teacher with a razor sharp intellect, great knowledge and a very generous heart. We nickname them Masterchef and Mastermind.
Old friends are like precious gems. We can lose their sparkle at any time. Pay them attention. The absence of their light makes our life a lot less interesting and far less fun.