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I know that relationships, people are fragile. I know it's okay to fail. I know that death is real.

It feels like home to me

It feels like home to me

It feels like I’m all the way back where

I come from

It feels like home to me

It feels like home to me

Feels like I’m all the way back where I belong

I’m on a flight to Zurich. The journey from home, New Delhi, to our holiday destination is nine hours long. I am travelling with mum, who has planned to catch up on her sleep after a meal. I am restless, fidgeting with the headphones and trying to make up my mind about the three movies I can squeeze in during the flight.

It’s not just mum, but within the next half-an-hour, most passengers around me fall asleep. The lights go off and I start my movie marathon.

It’s August 2009. I am young. I don’t know much about death. I know a little about pain. And I think I know a lot about families, but I am wrong about that. I am on my third movie, My Sister’s Keeper.

The Fitzgeralds’ home is just another home, where the parents hope their children can stay away from the phone when on the dinner table, where siblings fight, where parents are tired, and at times argue, and where teens celebrate their prom nights. It’s also a home with its share of secrets.

Kate, the eldest of three siblings (to Jess and Anna), suffers from acute promyelocytic leukaemia. Anna was brought into the world to be her sister’s keeper. She’s a genetic match to Kate and hence can donate compatible organs, to help her alive. Kate is dying, but nobody is allowed to say that because their mother, Sara, is convinced she can protect her child from everything.

When Kate turns 15, she suffers renal failure and Anna, 11, knows that she’ll be asked (by her parents) to donate one of her kidneys, which means that she’ll have to give up a life she’d imagined for herself — no sports, no kids. Anna tells her parents that she doesn’t want to be a donor anymore. She sues them for the rights to her own body. Their father, Brian, understands her viewpoint, but not Sara. The family drags itself to court and their secrets go public. Later, one learns that Anna is only following Kate’s instruction, who no longer wishes to live — a reality that Sara refuses to accept. Anna wants to help Kate and is upset about her decision. Kate dies, with Sara by her side. She leaves behind a memory book, which she’s made over the years. Anna wins the case. Each of them finds a way to move on, to remember what they lost and cherish what they’ve still got.

In that one hour 50 minutes, I find myself on a blue chair in the hospital room with the Fitzgerald family. I am also alone in their kitchen, hiding and pretending to be strong — praying for Kate, fighting for Anna, and getting angry at Sara and then wondering if she’s right, the very next minute. And in between all this, I grow up. I understand why their home feels like mine. It’s real. There are battles to fight. There are tears and giggles. There are picture albums, a testimony to how we stay together, in good times and bad.

I find myself wondering, what are families made of? Love and patience, anger and sacrifice, expectations and demands? Do you ever wonder why we are put together under one roof? Why do we touch each other’s lives? I think about the conversations we never have, just so that a loved one doesn’t get upset. I learn how to say goodbye and honour a life that once touched mine.

As Kate falls in love with a cancer patient, she smiles, valuing whatever little she has in life. Her young lover dies, but Kate is hopeful to meet him in another world. My Sister’s Keeper is then as much about life as about death.

Between 2009 and now, I’ve lost many loved ones. I still don’t know a lot about death and perhaps, I never will. “I’ll never understand why Kate had to die, and we all get to live. There’s no reason for that I guess. That’s just death, nobody understands it,” says Anna.

But here’s what I do know.

I know that relationships and people are fragile. I know it is okay to fail. I know that sometimes loved ones die. I know death is real. Just as life is. We miss them. We move on. I know I am grateful for the eccentric, loving people I call my family. I know I can’t always protect my family.

In the end, Anna says, “Once upon a time I thought I was put on earth to save my sister. And in the end, I couldn’t do it. I realise now that wasn’t the point. The point was I had a sister. She was fantastic. One day I’m sure I’ll see her again. But until then our relationship continues…”


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