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A moment that changed me: Should I laugh or cry? When I scattered my grandmother’s ashes, I did both

In October 2019, I was in India, standing by the dusty banks of the Ganges on a quest to spread my grandmother’s ashes. She hadn’t lived in the country for the last 50 years and hadn’t even set foot in it for a decade at least. My parents had never lived there and neither had my brother and I. This wasn’t a homecoming. It was a chore borne from her final request: to perform her last rites in the place she had barely clung on to. It was a strange holiday.

At 25, I had already experienced my fair share of goodbyes. The deceased were second cousins, granduncles, grandparents, even school classmates, and the ritual was always the same. We would visit their home to see the coffin and hear the wails of the surrounding mourners before heading to the local crematorium in Hounslow, west London. Regardless of the weather outside, the lofty chapel always felt grey and chilly. Close family members would weep through the eulogies while I looked on and blinked. The curtains would then close dramatically in front of the coffin, marking a symbolic departure to another world.

Read the feature in the Guardian.

[This piece was published on 22/05/24]

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