A woman with a cat

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She lives with Hayati, her cat. This is her parents’ house in Noida’s Sector 19. Both passed away last year.

Sitting in the bedroom, Saumya Mallika Mathur, 26, recalls on a WhatsApp video chat that this is the very room “where I slept with my mother, while she fought her third cancer battle.” At this time last year, both were in the hospital hoping “we would make it through this one too”. Her mother died four months ago; her father died early last year after a prolonged illness.

“I feel Mummy in this room.”

Earlier working in digital marketing, Ms Mathur is on a sabbatical “focusing on grieving and healing while getting used to taking care of myself”.

In the morning she wakes to her cat’s “cute meows” when “it hits me that I can’t ask mummy anymore to feed the cat. I put on the TV and play the prayers she used to listen.”

Being alone, Ms Mathur often skips her meal hours. “Eating alone isn’t a pleasant experience.” She keeps “microwaveable” food around so that she doesn’t have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, for being in the kitchen is a reminder to her of her mother’s passing, she says.

“I don’t know how the day passes, or when the sun sets. I sleep when my eyes are so tired that they shut by themselves, as even trying to close my eyes voluntarily gives me anxiety attacks.”

Ms Mathur does have some friends and relatives but she feels they aren’t emotionally available to her. “Maybe it’s because of Covid that everyone has become so distant.”

Some might imagine her to be extraordinarily strong for dealing with such profound losses at such a young age. But she argues that “being strong means no one will be willing to see you break down. I have lost the comfort that I’ll be looked after.”

As she gets used to a new life, Ms Mathur hopes to find happiness.

On being complemented for her ear danglers, she confirms with a smile that the little things hanging in them indeed are teeny-weeny tea kettles.

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