On January 12th, 1975, Karabi Sarbadhikary and Subrata Mitra went to see a Hindu priest.
Before the actual Hindu marriage ceremony, a couple asks a priest to consult their Vedic astrology (the alignment of the heavenly bodies) to, among other things, select the proper time for the wedding. For Hindus, this is an important and serious part of the marriage process.
So Karabi and Subrata sat across from the priest as he read aloud his Vedic determinations. As Subrata listened, he stole a glance at his bride-to-be to see how she was taking it all in.
But he wasn’t quite sure what to make of her expression.
It seemed like she was listening, but she looked as if she might have been somewhere else. Curious, he leaned forward a little to get a clearer view of her face. As he did though, he saw a small wire hanging from her ear. The wire went down her side and behind her to a small Walkman radio.
As the priest was checking in on the stars and planets to determine their marital future, Karabi was checking in on how the Indian cricket team was doing. Yes, it’s a serious part of the marriage process, but nothing gets in the way of cricket.
They’re not entirely sure if the priest saw any of this, but he did declare an inconvenient 1 AM as the ‘auspicious’ time for the ceremony.
After getting married, mom moved to the U.S. with dad, and I’ll just summarize it by saying IT WAS THE SEVENTIES, MAN.
A few years later, I came along.
Mom had several jobs over the years, most recently for Texas A&M’s nursing group and the Houston Symphony. But mom was an artist. I remember when I was much younger, she made t-shirts for friends and tried starting a business. Later on, she would take several art classes and create some of the most stunning pieces of art I’ve seen.
But her canvas wasn’t just paper. For over a decade, she transformed my parent’s backyard into a magnificent garden. I remember going with her to nurseries where she would point at a random plant and tell me where it came from and exactly how much shade and water it needed. She’d often help our neighbor with his garden, and he’d call her his gardening buddy. This wasn’t just a hobby, mom had developed a craft, a passion, and she was truly amazing at it.
In late April of 2017, a week before her granddaughter, Amiya, was born, mom was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in her bile ducts. It’s a rare cancer and is typically impossible to diagnose until it’s too late.
In the beginning, she fought it and fought it hard. In fact, she surprised the doctors with how well she responded with chemotherapy. She tended to her garden and showed Amiya a few gardening tips.
Unfortunately, terminal cancer doesn't offer any happy endings.
“I fought the good fight,” she told my wife, Farrah.
Though she had little energy to speak, she found a way to say goodbye to each of us individually. With the last bit of strength she had, she slid off the bed (my dad and I trying to pull her up as we were confused what was going on) to get on her knees to pray. Amiya came around the corner, thought she knew exactly what grandma was doing, and started playing peekaboo. And as my mom prayed, she played peekaboo right back. Mom was very religious but nothing would get in the way of playing one last time with her granddaughter.
On the next day, June 24th, 2019, a chaplain came to see mom.
She held her hand, listened, and cracked all the jokes I wasn’t able to.
We already knew mom was ready. She had said so. I don’t know what all the chaplain said, but I’m eternally grateful for helping her find the last bit of peace she was looking for.
Later that evening, mom passed away.
One June 25th, a flower that mom had given her gardening buddy to plant bloomed in his backyard.
Mom loved to garden and really wanted to teach Amiya the skill and art of it. There's a wonderful Houston-based organization, Urban Harvest, that teaches people of all ages the love of gardening across their many community gardens. If you'd like to contribute in memorial of Karabi Mitra, it would be greatly appreciated.