Starlight, Star Bright

My mother once took me to the window and pointed to the stars. She told me to find the brightest one. “That’s where Nana is. He is watching over all of us from up there” she said. And that answer was all that I needed to satisfy my curious little mind.


I have always had a special place in my heart for looking through old photos. I believe that looking at someone’s childhood photos and old family portraits can be so telling about the person that they are.

My mother had carefully preserved her black and white photos over the years by neatly sticking them into photo albums. There were endless memories of family getaways up to the mountains in Mussoorie, and summer beach trips in Visakhapatnam. These albums held the different characters that she had dressed up as for her school plays, her proud graduation photos, and endless collections of family photos.

These family photos always gripped my attention because they weren’t like anything that we see today. They were formal posed photos of the entire extended family, majestically sitting together in rows of western suits and traditional saris. I would love to point to different people in these photos and try to match them to the countless stories that my mother and grandmother had shared with me at bedtime.

I often pointed to my grandfather. He was always neatly dressed in a shirt and trousers, and more often than not he was also sporting large sunglasses and standing in beautiful parks. I never really got the chance to know him personally so I would often ask my mother about him. I wanted to know so much about him as the smiling, funny, food-loving, and energetic character that all my relatives would fondly remember him as. At that age I could not comprehend why I had no memories of meeting him in our annual trips to Delhi, yet somehow he was still in all of these photos.


I was extremely lucky to not really know anything about death during my childhood. Nobody particularly present in my life had left within the years that I could remember. So, I guess that’s why when I did experience the loss of loved ones in sudden and multiple instances in 2018, it made me feel confused, angry and lost. How was it possible that some of the people that I had grown up seeing every year in the exact same places would just not be there the next time I visited?

However, over time I found that they were all still very much there with me in my everyday life. My Umeed dance tour made me feel especially close to all of them. When things started feeling surreal with getting accepted into big festivals and prestigious venues, I felt like there had to be some kind of magic happening.

I felt like my great grandmother was there with me when I was nervous during my panel discussion in Chennai. But I was able to find peace in running my hands over her silk sari that I was wearing that day. I felt like my uncle was smiling down at me after every show in the little light that shone down onto the stage everytime I took my final pose. I felt like my grandfather was there congratulating me and encouraging me to go enjoy a big Mathur meal after every show when I would leave the auditorium and see his bright star in the sky.

I like to think that all of them were sitting amongst the stars and planning out my dreams and achievements with God. And holding onto that thought, especially through any difficult times has given me so much peace.

So, every night when I am walking home and I spot the first star twinkling in the sky, I say to myself: “Starlight, star bright, first star I see tonight. Wish I may, wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight.” And if they really are up there, then I tell them something special every time, and for a second I can let myself believe that the stars are the sparkle in their eyes when they smile down at us, and the open night sky is their arms hugging us a little closer.

It’s been two years since Sarvesh Mama became one of these stars. He was everyone’s biggest supporter and pushed everyone to pursue and achieve the craziest of dreams. Mama has his loved ones spread all around the globe, and we can all smile today while remembering him, knowing that he is watching over each one of us to make sure we are chasing those dreams, and cheering us all on with a shining smile.

I never grew up directly amongst my cousins, but everyday I am so grateful for the semester that I spent in London where I got to see his love and selflessness shine through my Aunt and cousin brothers. Despite his boundless successes, his pride was always in his family and today we can all take an extra moment to wave up at his star and assure him that his values of love and selflessness will infinitely sparkle through us.  



1 Comment

  1. Anju Bhadin says:

    Hi Sunena

    Your article has given expression to the emotion which is embedded deeply inside many of us .It is an emotion that is supposed to be tucked away hidden and not spoken about openly in public .
    Grief is personal and cannot be flaunted about least it become an eyesore to the happy and apathetic exsistence around us .

    Glad you bought this taboo out of the closet into mainstream through this article .


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