I am writing this just a little over one month after my mother's death. Over the past few days, nothing much has helped process the grief. Not flowers, not people… not even a perfectly made slice of toast. Having been holed up, I have found solace, wisdom and courage in an unlikely source: a TV show about a half-horse, half-man, who used to be famous… once upon a time. Yes, BoJack Horseman.
"My mother is dead, and everything is worse now," BoJack says, while eulogising his mother Beatrice in an episode titled "Free Churro". But no, it's not a classic episode where the character cries, apologises and forgives. BoJack has anger against his mother, he carries resentment against the childhood he led, he lacks clarity on how his mother viewed him. There were no moments of redemption in their broken relationship as long as she lived. And we get little after her death. But despite all of that, BoJack says, everything is worse now. After the speech, there is no closure. In fact, there is only the twisted comedy that the show mastered throughout its run. BoJack realises he is at the wrong funeral parlour.
I was reminded of the episode as I stood amidst people, unable to cry. My mother and I did not have a broken relationship. In fact, she was the only one I wanted to do things for. But the rites were a nightmare. If nightmares were counted on a scale of 1 to being stuck watching Radhe, the rites would come a close second-worst. People I hadn't seen in years suddenly wanted to do things for me. I got no free churros like BoJack did, but I did get a lot of free advice. For a week, I felt like I was standing at the wrong funeral parlour. To everyone who asked, I wanted to reply: "Yes, my mother is dead, and everything is worse now." Of course, there was no parlour. Or casket. But you get the drift.
Slowly, as the people scattered, an emptiness set in. Friends started throwing the "you've got to pull yourself together" card. Even caramel cheesecake appeared to lack taste. (I thought I had COVID but realised it was just grief.) And then, I re-watched an episode where Todd, my favourite character from the show, says something simple and extraordinary at the same time: "Look, the woods are dark and scary, but the only way out is through." I have repeated this to myself on multiple days when everything seems too much. The only way out is through. I know what you're thinking: "Yes, Todd! You beautiful genius." But he isn't a genius – he is someone who lives on his friend's couch, gets easily distracted, and spends most of his days working on outlandish start-up ideas that are bound to fail. However, of late, I am beginning to wonder if he is the smartest of them all.
I am writing this just a little over one month after my mother's death and I find myself pondering how the movies and shows we watch on screen are more about the things we associate them with, rather than what they portray. Oh, Todd has a quote for that too: "But isn't the point of art less what people put into it and more what people get out of it?" So this is to art, and all that people get out of it. My mother would call this article silly. She would say that we writers try and ascribe more meaning to words than they actually hold. But she would smile, and ask me, "Wait a minute. Did you say the show is about a half-man, half-horse… who used to be famous… once upon a time?"