"Is there anyone else who needs to be informed? Goodness, I nearly left out that cousin in Mumbai...and his wife had open-heart surgery last week and I was supposed to call and find out how she was doing, too...."
"Please do come in (who on earth is this, is this my sis-in-law's official colleague, or someone who knew her dad earlier?)....yes...it was all rather unexpected..."
"No, I have not asked my sis in law what she wants to do about the ceremonies (you insensitive person, let her get over crying first), I really can't tell you what will happen, or when..."
"Bedding....do we have enough pillows?"
"Make the list of the various kitchen items that are required...where are the milk coupons? Is there someone to just go and get enough milk to provide coffee for all the visitors?"
"Hello...yes, this is A's sister here....yes, thank you for your condolences (you have been on the phone talking about your own illness for twenty minutes, lady, can you release the line, you seem to have known my brother when he was about sixteen...I do value your reminiscences, but they are upsetting me and I don't want to hear about your "uterus operation" and why it is preventing you from visiting, right now...) I am so glad you called; keep us in your prayers..."
"We DID try and take him to the hospital, and no, he was NOT ill...."
"Hold on, I'll pay the pall-bearers and the pundit, but why is he charging us SO much?"
"Did you get the death certificate? It has to be xeroxed umpteen number of times...."
"That aunt won't eat anything made with onions in it, and the other gentleman wants hot water..."
"Oh, it doesn't matter that so-and-so didn't come to see A. People keep away for different reasons..."
And then everything comes to a complete halt as I see my brother's writing: it says "Funti", which was his own Orrible Pet Name for my daughter, and her telephone number next to it....
The tears fall inside my eyelids, inside my heart. My voice doesn't waver. I don't break down. I am the strong person, I am the one who can cope, the one who can manage, the one in control.
It's necessary also to keep every guest in the house reasonably happy; I don't want any arguments or ill-feeling erupting or even festering quietly.
He just went off, my laughing, sardonic-sense-of-humour brother, he's left us to deal with this mess of how to conduct the death ceremonies, which he had no faith in, with a bunch of relatives he used to laugh at...
Crying inside is tougher than crying outside.