What to do?


“Slabo ghanuorum manga studa?”


“Yes.” I replied.


“Slamo slabo gabo? Hanga jango tango hunga.” she asked.


I nodded my head.


For the past few days, the house had been receiving visits from old Aunties who come and hug my mother and lament the loss of my dad like as though my dad was their husband. And then they turn to me and say, “You know, you’re the man of the house now. Your dad’s no more and slabo goniuga shanduro garsti hango junga mango beacon gnafsdtoti family shayur mango tunga gonga. ”


And when conversations like that happens, I usually zone out, pretend they’re talking gibberish, imagine they’re some Star Wars characters with weird tentacles and arms and extra heads speaking some foreign language and conversations like the one above happens.



I only come back to reality when they change the topic. ‘So, how’s studies?”


And then, there are those who come and say that infamous dialogue, “What to do? He’s gone. It’s fate.” And they sigh and pretend they’re sad and they stare at the floor for a good 5 minutes and then look up and say, “Can I have a glass of water?”


What to do? The most famous dialogue of all. Almost every Indian says it.


“What to do? Only the One Above knows it.”


Their pet cat dies and they lament, “What to do? God knows.”


Their Chapathis didn’t turn out well, “What to do? God only knows..”


They forgot and wore their Punjabi suits inside out, “What to do? My eyesights are poor. Only God knows..”


That dialogue, is so famous and so ancient, that every Punjabi knows it. I don’t know which genius came up with it but it’s like a compulsory tradition for someone to say it. Every Punjabi goes through it atleast once in their life time (and also utters it).


I can imagine the old ladies a few feet away outside the entrance to my house, just before calling out to my mum, speaking in Punjabi, planning,  “So.. what do we tell her?”


“Tell her what?” the second old lady says.


“How to make her feel better?”


“Don’t worry, just do as I say. My grand mother did this, my mother did this and now my sisters do it too.”


The both of them walk in, greet my mum, hug her and say, “What to do? Life’s like this.”


Gee.. thanks for making my mum feel like shit old lady.


I don’t want people coming to me, clueless and telling me, “What to do?” because if someone does that, I start feeling like shit because, guess what? I’m clueless as well. I want people to come to me and tell me, “Hey, here’s what you can do.” And they have this blue print paper of plans (like the ones engineers and architects have with them). They start being professional and enthusiastic, brimming with energy and life.


“You can do this, and that. And probably this as well and then take over India, and then Pakistan, move your army to Sri Lanka, from there send a psychic mind control wave and then you can take over the world.”


I want those kind of “What to do’s”.


Sure, I don’t mind if someone comes and tells me, “What to do?” But it should also end with something to do.


For example, “What to do? Life is like that. But you know what, probably you can do this and that. And this as well and that. And then slowly move your army south, take over Rome, and then Pompey and then move to Calicut. From there, make allies with Genghis Khan and then you take over the world.”


Or, if one is absolutely clueless, you can always take the shorter route. The easier one.


“I’m sorry for your loss. I hope you’re fine. Life’s like that. But we must stay strong.”


I love those kind of words of condolences. Not “What to do? Life is short.”


You’re asking me, what to do! What can I do if life is short man?


But again, I have this problem where I don’t exactly know what to say when someone tells words of condolences.


Like the other day, an Aunty said, “Sukhbir, I’m sorry for your loss.”


I was confused on what to reply. Should I say, “Thanks Aunty?” But if I said thanks, it sounds weird. It’s like telling someone, “Hey thanks for being sad for me and that my dad’s dead.”


Or do I say, “No worries.”? But if I say that, it sounds like I don’t give a shit my dad passed away.


So I was confused. I didn’t know what to say. And I did what I could only do.


“It’s okay.”


That was the only best reply I could come up with. What to do? I’m like this only.


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