Krishna Janmasthami 2016

Today is Krishna Janmasthami. It is an annual celebration of the birth of the Hindu deity “Krishna”. It is typically celebrated by fasting, worshipping Krishna and staying up until midnight to offer prayers, sweets , flowers and fruits at a special time when he is believed to have been born. Growing up in India, I looked forward to this festival because mom would make various mouth-watering delicacies all day. We’d be forbidden to eat any of it until all the prayers were offered at night. Then we would gorge to our heart’s content.

Last year I was in Bangalore for this festival. I remember dressing up these boys of mine in their little Krishna outfits. They gladly wore them and even allowed for some pictures to be taken.

Janmasthami 2015

Janmasthami 2015

That was last year. See this year these boys have turned into extremely strong-willed toddlers, whose first response to anything I suggest is a resounding and final “NO”. None of my skills in persuasion, blackmailing with chocolate, or threatening them with adverse consequences seemed to have helped. The older boy even said it was OK if he doesn’t get chocolate today…..So I guess I gave up. I made peace with them running around in some super-hero t-shirt of their choice instead. 😊

On this day, it’s hard not to think of my Zoey’s undying love and devotion for her little Krishna. So this year, I decided to prepare a few delicacies that I made in the Zoey-era of my life. I made the traditional aval-payasam (made with milk, clarified butter, rice, sugar and nuts) , idli (steamed rice pancakes), and some chakuli (fried savory snack made with rice, lentils and butter). No I didn’t do this alone. I couldn’t especially with these two toddlers around. My kid’s nanny helped me immensely. (And yes I feel blessed to have that kind of support in my life).

Making chakuli, instantly took me back to 2012. That was the last time it was prepared in my residence. It has taken me four years to get out of my grief and make this particular snack for these boys. It used to be Zoey’s favorite. I remember so clearly making it with Zoey and Zoey’s Domi (grandma) in August 2012. We were so oblivious of the storm that was going to come and turn our lives upside down. (She got diagnosed on 1st September 2012). My baby girl loved festivals. She loved the fuss of making mouth-watering savouries and sweets , the dressing up in traditional Indian clothes, the dancing to festival music etc. Ah…. How I miss that girl and that life.

So coming back to this new life of mine, yes I cooked a lot of food today. I feel thankful that my kids didn’t refuse immediately and seemed to enjoy them just like my Zoey did. I’m grateful that we were able to celebrate this festival in the sanctity of our new home. Yes I miss her. I miss her immensely, but I choose to be thankful for the remaining blessings in my life.

And Zoey, my beautiful little baby girl, Happy Krishna Janmasthami to you as well. I know, I don’t need to wish you as you are with HIM enjoying this day and having a blast. Love you to moon and back as always.

  Janmasthami 2016


Janmasthami 2016

Zoey Kanna

Today is Krishna Janmastami. It is an annual celebration of the birth of the Hindu deity “Krishna”.

As I prepare for this festival my thoughts go back to my one and only one, Krishna-loving baby girl. I went back and read and re-read my older articles on my blog about her love for him. To say I miss her is a gross understatement of how I feel. It’s like breathing, it never ceases. She is always on my mind and in my heart.

( https://withoutmyzoey.wordpress.com/2013/10/
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/suman-ganesh/profound-conversations-with-my-5-year-old-baby-girl_b_4763811.html?ir=India&adsSiteOverride=in )

I remember calling her “Zoey Kanna” right from the beginning. In south India, the pet name “Kanna” is typically given to little baby boys, but for me she was my boy, my girl, my everything. The lullabies I sang to her at night always started and ended with Zoey Kanna. It’s funny how she would order me around, “Mom sing the Zoey Kanna song for me!”. Every single night without fail. Even today, I as put little baby Hari to sleep I can’t help but sing the same words. Maybe that was her plan from the beginning. Get me used to singing these songs so they’d fit right with these boys.
Today as I dress these two boys in their Krishna costumes I can’t help but wonder at this divine circle of life. While I miss my girl with everything I have, I see these two cuties in their Krishna outfits, playing with each other and it just melts my heart. I can only imagine my first born eating butter and playing with her little friend, as she smiles down on her poor mom. Miss you my “Kanna”. Love you to the moon and back , as always.

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Profound conversations with my 5 year old baby girl.

As a recently bereaved mom, one of my fears is that, as the years go by, the memories of my baby girl may begin to fade. I hope to remember everything about my baby ….her likes , her dislikes, her cute mannerisms, her know-it-all attitude, her saying “I love you too mom” ….just to name a few things. But I know it’s only a matter of time. New memories will take the place of old ones and the old ones will tend to fade. So writing has become very important for me. If it’s all written down somewhere with all the nitty-gritty details, I know I can read it for years to come and know that her memories are intact.

These days I find myself trying to recollect our conversations with her during those last 12 weeks of her life.Yes those memories tend to bring tears to my eyes …….However I have a ton of happy memories of her from the time.
Unlike most DIPG patients, my Zoey was able to speak and express herself very well, up until the night she slipped into a coma. We were so blessed to hear her sweet voice till the end. Following is my recollection of some conversations with her during those last few weeks. These left a profound and ever-lasting effect on everyone at home and I am sure we will talk about it for years to come.

1. Mommy, why did I get this boo-boo

Zoey was only 5 years old when she was diagnosed with the worst pediatric brain cancer there is ( DIPG). We couldn’t tell her she had cancer and that she was not going to live very long ….also because I never believed that was the case. But we had to tell her something that made some sense to her. So we told her she had a boo-boo in her brain that was causing her to see double. We told her we will take her to the hospital everyday for her super Zoey ( radiation) sessions and that boo-boo had no chance against our super Zoey. I think she bought it in the beginning. Then in a week she realized that this wasn’t the kind of boo-boo that would go away in a day or two. She asked me a question that broke my heart into a million pieces. She asked why she got the this boo-boo? I was so angry at the time, and was asking this question several times a day …why my beautiful, compassionate and full-of-life child ? How was I going to answer her ?
Well I composed myself and said that she was very special and God ( her little Krishna ) was going to see her through it. I also lied to her saying that I have the same brain boo-boo and I see triple ( and not double) most times. She smiled at me and gave me a hug. I think she felt relieved that she wasn’t alone. I can’t imagine what else was going on in her tiny brain. I can only hope that we did everything possible to alleviate her fears and apprehensions.

2. Soccer ball a.k.a Anay will be born on November 1.

I believe sometime in October out of the blue she mentioned she was eager to play with soccer ball when he decided to make his appearance. Well I remember saying that I hope he is not in a hurry and anytime after November 8 (37 weeks gestation) would be great. To that my baby replied ” no mom, he will come out after Halloween on November 1″. Well it seems like the two of them had it all planned from the beginning…he was the first baby at the hospital for the month of November ( born on November 1). We were glad that he at least waited for hurricane Sandy to be over. So her prediction came true…. Who knew? Coincidence or something else … I wonder.

3.Bring it on, bring it on, bring down you boo-boo

There was a Hindi Bollywood movie song that Zoey and I would love to sing and dance to. She quickly replaced the chorus lines with the words “bring down you boo-boo”. After her diagnosis we decided to not send her to school, and instead spend every minute we got with her. So she and I would spend countless hours on the family-room couch playing scrabble, reading, watching movies, singing various songs, but this one song stuck till the end. A few days before she passed away she called all of us (her maternal and paternal grandparents, her aunt and uncle, Karthik and I ) to our room. She insisted everyone sit in a circle and sing this song together. She ensured everyone of us sang the song over and over again. If she caught my mom crying …she would shout out “Domi is not singing …please sing Domi..”. Such was her undying spirit. I think it was her telling us that even though her fight was coming to end, we should still continue our war on childhood cancer.

4. Anay, when you grow up let’s sing, dance and play all we want.

Oh , my Zoey was just the best big sister in the whole wide world. She loved Anay from the minute we told her about him about 6 months into the pregnancy. She named him candy-cane in the beginning, and then she named him soccer-ball because of how round my tummy looked as my pregnancy progressed. In her last week she held him on her lap, and told us “I love Anay too much.” Then she looked at him and promised him that when he grows up, they would sing, dance and play together. I am grateful that she shared this with us and we had the insight to actually record it. Attached here is a picture of her and her soccer ball a few days before she passed.
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5. Mom, I want to go back into your tummy.
One evening out of the blue, she expressed her interest to go back into my tummy. I was surprised ! I told her it was very dark inside and there wasn’t enough room to even stretch properly. But she insisted again, how she would go back if she could. I wonder what was her thought process at the time ? If I could, I would my baby girl ….anything to protect you and keep you safe.

6. Krishna is calling me ……can I go dad?
Most of you that have been following this blog, are already aware of Zoey’s devotion and spiritual inclination/obsession with little Krishna. The last week of Zoey’s life, she and her dad were inseparable. She would spend hours with him either on our bed or on the couch. Her dad was her best buddy. “Go east go west, my daddy is the best” and I have to agree with you, Zoey, your daddy is the best. He is the best daddy there ever can be. So sometime during that last week, she got up from sleep one morning, smiling cheek-to-cheek. Her dad was right next to her when she woke up. When asked about her dream, she said she had a secret to share with her daddy. But she insisted her secret not be shared with me, her mama. Then she told Karthik, how little Krishna came in her dream asked her to join him to steal butter. (For those not familiar with Krishna stories, he is supposed to have been a very playful and naughty little boy who would just loved butter). Her daddy being the best daddy that he is, told her to go and have fun with her little friend above. I believe this was my little girl preparing us for what was to come in a few days. She knew her mom wouldn’t be able to handle this conversation, so she chose her Dada to share her last secret. I am amazed at how death manifested itself for her. I have read that most people are scared to leave this physical world, but not my girl, she was excited to go play in the heavens above. We were truly blessed to have such a pious soul amongst us. Again I consider this the ultimate blessing she gave us, as her last parting gift.

Love you my Zozo…. As usual to the moon and back, to the moon and back.
Your loving mama

Zoey and her proud dad.

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Hey Krishna Hey Krishna

Hey Krishna , Hey Krishna, Hey Krishna re
Hey Krishna , Hey Krishna , Krishna bolo re.

The YouTube link to the song: ( it’s in Hindi, there is a version of this in English as well which I couldn’t find online. I will add it when I find it)

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ZY3hckZx0yQ&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DZY3hckZx0yQ

Little did I know this song would change my world and my life altogether. For those who aren’t familiar with this song, it’s a song from a mythological children’s film called Krishna And Kans. The movie is about a little boy ( incarnation of Hindu God Vishnu ), who uses his mystical and supernatural powers to fight evil and save people from an evil king called Kans.

I had always known my baby as an intelligent, charming, and spirited little girl. I had seen the defiant side of her, oh so many times ! Especially when it came to meal times ….she never ever seemed to have time to eat, there were always games to be played, books to be read, TV to be watched or her just wanting her mom to feed her …. Just because she said so. But I have to say nothing could prepare me for the spiritual side of my daughter that we witnessed between September and November last year.

She got diagnosed with the worst pediatric brain cancer there is. Yes the worst there is. DIPG steals the child of all the motor skills one at a time , while leaving the child’s cognitive abilities intact. All along the child is aware of the changes happening the body, but doesn’t understand why it is happening. Imagine a child not able to play and run outside, not able to eat his favorite foods, not able to go to school, not able to see, not able to talk, express his or her feelings in words , not able to cry, smile , laugh or move any part of the face and finally not able to breathe. Imagine this happening slowly over a period of weeks or months.
So when I say it is the worst pediatric cancer there is, I mean it. Of course it has a zero percent survival rate , but what it does to the child is nothing but pure torture of the worst kind.

So when I first heard about this insidious monster, I prayed and prayed that my baby girl not suffer and somehow be miraculously healed from it. We all prayed and told her to pray to her god and how he takes care of things when we cannot. Her grandparents had already introduced her to the various stories revolving around Hindu gods like krishna and rama etc. She seemed to take a keen interest in knowing more about a little boy who could fight evil with his goodness and supernatural powers. She saw videos of little krishna online and was hooked onto this boy. I think she related to him. She was also fighting the boo-boo in her brain with her super natural powers. Every morning she would wake up , jump out of our bed, rush to her room where she had a small Krishna idol. She would pretend to wake up him from sleep , talk to him, insist on offering some almonds and butter, and then go down for some breakfast that her grandma would have made with all her love. While having breakfast , she would dance to the song mentioned above.
Then I’d pack her some of favorite snacks and she would be all ready to go for her radiation session at the hospital. Her daddy told her that she had to wear a mask ( the mask used to keep the head in place during radiation) to fight her boo-boo just like all other super heroes do. Every morning she would wake up and go for her “Super Zoey” session. This was our morning routine for 6 weeks from mid September to October end last year.

Even after returning from her radiation session she would be cheerful, happy and full of life. We would play games, play scrabble, make fresh juice using the juicer, read books together etc. She had so much fun ordering her mom and grandparents around at home. We thought radiation would tire her out, but not my super Zoey. She also prayed to God, every single day to take that boo-boo away. Her conviction that God would take care of her was so strong, that it amazed me sometimes. One evening on the way back from an evening of Halloween fun with friend’s family, she sensed her dad was trying to hide his tears. She told her dad “daddy, don’t be angry with God, he did not give me this boo-boo, he is the one who will take it away”. This was coming from our 5-year-old ….. I truly believe her undying faith is what spared her of the usual devastating symptoms. She was almost normal till the end and I will be eternally grateful to her Krishna for that.

It will be 11 months this 25th since we said goodbye to our sweet baby and every time I hear the “hey krishna” song I think of her dancing with her favorite Krishna.
In her own way my girl taught to us never to lose faith and believe in miracles. She fought DIPG with faith and hope like no other 5-year-old i know. I thank you Zoey for coming into our lives and spreading cheer, love and joy for the 5 years, 5 months and 2 weeks that you gave us. We miss you, but know that we will see you someday… Till then you dance away up there with your little Krishna by your side. Love you forever.
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