Saturday, February 28, 2015

Mrs. Dalal from Yemen

One afternoon i met dear Mrs. Dalal, a jovial sexagenarian on a bus ride home from Dubai Internet City in Dubai. It isn't everyday you get to have a cheery chat with a kind old Arab lady with stories to tell.

The bus driver hadn't arrived yet and Mrs. Dalal wondered aloud about when he'd be back. Since there wasn't anyone else in the area designated for ladies, i answered back and mentioned seeing him smoking a cigarette nearby. She seemed to be in a hurry and so decided to go outside and check. I could tell she hadn't traveled by the bus before since she found difficulty in getting the door open. Dubai buses have doors enabled with little circular, touch-sensitive pads where a door handle would normally have been. She looked to me with her raised eyebrows for help and i motioned her to palm the red circle; she did like so, it turned green, and she got off. The driver, to the dismay of Mrs. Dalal couldn't be located and so she returned to her seat by the door.

There are about three to four regular bus models and there are those with a seat for one near the front entrance. These single-seaters can be quite unsafe during sharp turns and roundabouts, or when a bus jerks unexpectedly. I've seen plenty commuters nearly slide right off their seats. Mrs. Dalal seemed to find her seat uncomfortable already without the bus moving even and she grumbled about it too. I thought it best to ask her if she'd like take one of the more safer seats behind where i was. She gladly agreed and took one right next to mine.

Our missing driver finally returned to the wheel, started up the engine and soon enough we were on our way. By then, Mrs. Dalal had already begun to tell me about her room in a hotel nearby, where she was headed and who she was to meet with. She began by asking me how long it would take to Mercato Mall, which was about 20 minutes away by bus. A dear friend was waiting to have lunch at a restaurant and then later pay a visit to the Yemen lady's home. "Where are you from?" she wanted to know. When i told her i was from India she was so thrilled; her grandfather who was originally from India had married a lady from Yemen, thus explains her name.

Most of my female Muslim friends usually wear headscarves that cover just the ears and hair but Mrs. Dalal wore a traditional niqab that only allowed her to express herself with her eyes. It was such a different experience paying complete attention to her lively voice instead of lip-reading while listening at the same time as I was accustomed to before. An everyday experience for so many others around the world, but unfortunately not so for myself.

During our nearly half hour together, we shared our experiences, sorrows of loved ones lost, similarities in modern outlooks, and our love for public transport with its priceless vistas of the city. She showed me pictures of her children and grandchildren scattered across the globe and how she tries to visit them all whenever she can. 

The lady from Yemen also shared how she had battled depression after hearing about the loss of her father from a friend; her family knew she wouldn't take it well and at that time decided it was best not to inform her. It took two years for her to move on from her grief, which is more than my mum did after my elder sister passed away. I told her of how my dear mother could never get over the loss right till her dying day. We consoled each other on our respective losses and that's when Mrs. Dalal pointed out, "Honestly, there's no right and wrong way, everyone deals with loss differently. You've seen death so often (as told to her of my past experiences), so now you handle your emotions far better. It is good to be strong. It does not mean you are emotionless or feel no pain. It's not only better for your own well-being but it's so that nobody ever pities you. Anybody can sympathise, but after that they get tired of your constant grieving and leave you behind. Then you will be all alone, and nobody should be left alone."
Soon enough, her stop got closer and we exchanged numbers, tight embraces and goodbyes before she alighted. From my window I saw my Yemeni friend wave to to me. I waved back just in time before she turned to hug her vibrantly dressed Arab friend who had been waiting patiently for her. Arm-in-arm, they slowly moved towards Mercato Mall while the driver drove away from the bus stand.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

7 Kind Ways to Help a Grieving Friend

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” ― C.S. LewisThe Four Loves

There are many simple and special ways to help a friend and strengthen those bonds. Only you as a friend know him or her best and can tackle it the right way. Here's how you can be a better friend to another who's recently lost someone. 

Things You Don't Do
1. Assume they're already fine
Asking, "How are you? Good?" barely a week after their loss makes you look insensitive. Of course, they're not okay. Try phrasing your sentence to, "Hey there, I know this is hard for you, I'm always here." Of course, if you don't mean it, don't say it. Being fake only makes it worse. Plus, your friend will know.

2. Leave them alone
If this is someone who's really close to you, waiting it out till they're done grieving will only make them realise how little you care. Don't act surprised if your friendship starts to fade away if you've been doing this. If s/he has been there through your stormy times, now's the time to return the favour. Death is not the same as your crush ignoring you.

3. Adding salt to an open wound
You really think a guilt trip is a fun idea? It's not. Badgering about what they didn't do while they had the chance is something their mind is probably already doing. If you've done this, an apology is in order.

Things You Should Do
1. Empathise
Often enough you may not know the right words. It's also possible you're geographically too far to give them a hug. Sending them quotes of strength and hope via email or instant message in the first few weeks is a good idea. Ask him or her about the best memories of the person who passed away and if you're religious, tell them you're praying for their soul. If you've been through a similar experience, sharing how you moved on can help.

2. Distraction
A person grieving may tend to avoid meeting people or going out. This could lead down that slippery slope known to many as depression. If you and your friend are in the same city, take them out to places like a library, a park or a quiet little beach, bring along a small meaningful present. Talk about things they like. Sleepovers are great too because they let you talk about things your friend might not be comfortable sharing when in public. Remember, actions do speak louder than words.

3. Laughter is the best medicine
"When laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases happiness and intimacy. Laughter also triggers healthy physical changes in the body. Humor and laughter strengthen your immune system, boost your energy, diminish pain, and protect you from the damaging effects of stress. Best of all, this priceless medicine is fun, free, and easy to use." [source]

4. Be Honest
No one expects you to be an expert in dealing with this difficult situation and it's okay to admit this to your friend. Let him/her know that you're sorry they have to go through the pain. Specific offers of help are better than those cliche lines of, " I'm here if you need me." and will genuinely make a difference.