Monday November 27, 2017   |   K S Narendran

Grieving, mourning, and experiencing a sense of loss, I feel it is hard to draw tight time boundaries around these. The heart’s time frame is not subject to timetables, calendars, or convenience. No ritual can switch ‘on’ the world of feelings or switch it ‘off’, much less act as a regulator” K S Narendran

In an exclusive interview with Bookaholicanonymous, K S Narendran, and author of ‘Life after MH370: Journeying through a void’ recalls a painful part of his life and how he handled his loss.

KS Narendran has a degree in Economics from Loyola College, Chennai, and a Masters degree in Personnel Management from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. He is a Principal Consultant with Flame TAO Knoware Pvt Ltd and a Director on the Board of Greenclouds Education Solutions Pvt.Ltd and Sumedhas Academy for Human Context. Narendran led an uneventful life till he turned 50. Soon after, he lost his wife, Chandrika in the tragic disappearance of Malaysia Airlines MH370. Since this event, he has taken on a more public profile, speaking and writing about the issues related to the search, and investigation into the loss of MH370. Narendran loves Indian classical music, and Hindi songs of the 1970's and earlier. Narendran lives in Chennai with his mother and daughter.

Tell us what is the book about?

My book ‘Life after MH370: Journeying through a void’, as the title suggests, is a personal account of how my life was thrown out of gear after I lost my wife, Chandrika, a passenger on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

MH370 remains missing since March 8th 2014, the search to locate it has been futile, and since February 2017, stands suspended.  The book recounts the experience of coming to terms with this new reality of a failed search for the missing, the struggles in dealing with loss, puzzling over not knowing till date what really happened, and what it takes to look ahead and rebuild a new context for oneself and for the family. 

The book deals with the experience of a void within self, and in encountering the world – notably an information void. Given the unprecedented nature of this international incident, the book also deals with the difficulties in prevailing upon governments and international institutions to persevere with the search for MH370, in forging a community of the next-of-kin who are scattered across various countries, and in shaping public opinion and participation on enhancing aviation safety, a cause that could be well-served by the search and investigation of MH370.

The reader can expect a candid narrative of coping with loss and grief, groping for answers, and an up-close view of events, milestones, and experiences related to MH370 that the occasional press coverage could never offer.

The book is not an outcome of investigative journalism or an exposition of the science and technology that informs the search. It neither proffers a theory to explain what happened to MH370, nor lends its weight to any of the many explanations that have been proposed.

Did you write even before this tragedy struck?

I was an occasional writer. I wrote when I felt deeply about something, when some part of me was touched – triggered, provoked, evoked, or simply confused. Writing was a means to organize thought, or discover and make sense of what was happening within me. Writing was also my way of dealing with the mortal fear of speaking up, verbalizing and addressing groups.

What I wrote therefore was not with a reader in mind. If I liked what I wrote, I typically shared it with my wife, sisters, friends, colleagues…

Writing became a valuable way to fathom my inner confusions, anger, agitation, and anguish after MH370 and to communicate my state of being to people, near and dear. It became my means to inform and include them in my quest for answers on MH370 at every turn.

What made you write this book?

I began by asking myself the question ‘Why do I write?’ Did I wish to profit from a personal tragedy? What is my need? Why would anyone be interested? I was acutely aware that other MH370 families might not approve. How is my book going to be different from other MH370-related books already in the market? I tried answering many of these – for myself. I hadn’t envisaged it to be a part of the book

Close friends felt that it rightfully belongs to the book since it states my ‘ground’ from which the book is being written.

March 8th 2014 was an inflection point. I thought it made sense to share a snapshot of what my life was what ‘my world’ was like, before this date. This was a challenge. What aspects do I highlight? Which people in my life do I talk about? The book launches into this before moving on to ‘After March 8th…’

The interesting thing here is this: much like how films get made, the book was not written in the sequence that appears in print!

We all know everyone goes through loss - it's a law of nature – but one gets a sense of closure while carrying out last rites... How did you get closure (hope you don't mind this question)?

I have been asked this on earlier occasions.

I am not sure there is closure once the last rites are done. In theory, I imagine that different cultures and faiths have devised processes to legitimize grief, letting go, and moving on. Grieving, mourning, and experiencing a sense of loss, I feel it is hard to draw tight time boundaries around these. The heart’s time frame is not subject to timetables, calendars, or convenience. No ritual can switch ‘on’ the world of feelings or switch it ‘off’, much less act as a regulator.

I have come to believe that there can be closure, when the individual feels restored, has come to terms with the absence of a loved one, when memories rest lightly and you can smile, laugh, or simply be relieved while recollecting rather than feel anguished, and can make new life choices sans guilt. Closure to me, is an internal choice.

I do not know the date and time Chandrika last lived or the place where she was lost forever. I have understood for quite sometime now that she is not coming back. It has not been easy even after three years have passed to carve out a fresh path, re-envision life from here on. I am not sure that setting up rituals to bid goodbye to the dead can translate into new commitments for self, or a fresh start.

There remain questions that beg answers. Maybe if there are credible answers someday, some things can be laid to rest.

What are unknown facets you have come to know about your wife, which you didn't know earlier?

The most notable was that she had numerous friends and professional contacts across the world. She had deep and profound relationships with many of them. I realized that her work touched lives of people in many parts of the world and she was greatly respected for her contributions to the small-scale fisheries space. Within her organization, I didn't realize she had grown immensely in stature over the years, held her own in the midst of veterans and helmed it sensitively, tirelessly.

It also became clearer to me how little the gap was between her espoused values and beliefs, and her practice. In its content was a very Gandhian outlook.

How have you ended your book?

MH370 may remain a mystery for a long, long time. It will be so if the search is given up altogether, and no new information or effort brings us closer to the truth.

There may come a time when one must draw solace from locating the MH370 puzzle in the midst of the other mysteries of the universe. One ponders over existential questions that have no final answer; each day’s answer takes us over to the next day, a different ‘me’ straddling a ‘new’ world.

In my conception, the book ends with an assessment of the new realities, and reflections on what lies ahead, bowing to the mysterious, remaining in search, a quest.

Bookaholicanonymous thanks K S Narendran for sharing his story of loss with us and wishes that he continues to inspire us!

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