My daughter got a tattoo yesterday. I’m not a great fan of body art personally, and would never have let her have a tattoo when she was still young enough for my preferences to be relevant. But she’s an adult now so it’s her decision, and she’s been and gone and done it.
I’m surprised to find that I like the tattoo. It’s a tasteful design, nice colours, and located on the back of her shoulder so can be easily covered up if the occasion demands. But my main reason for liking it lies in what it represents.
People in the UK may recall an incident which took place on 24 October 2014 and was widely reported at the time. For reasons I still find hard to fathom a man killed his wife and two teenage daughters, then he hanged himself. The deaths were discovered by neighbours a couple of days later when the family failed to emerge for school and work on Monday morning. The younger of the two dead girls was my daughter’s close friend at school.
Obviously, the ramifications of such a horrendous incident are wide-ranging. The extended family, the community, colleagues, friends, acquaintances , all wondering what went wrong, why no one seemed to have an inkling that such a brutal act might take place. Were there really no clues, no signs that something was horribly amiss?
Apparently, there were not. It was a seemingly senseless act, but on this day three years ago a bright, lively family was wiped out in a matter of minutes.
My daughter was distraught.
We went to the house and left flowers, our contribution to the massive pile of tributes and cards already there. We talked. She raged and questioned and blamed the father, a natural enough response but by no means the entire story. He was ill, that much is obvious, and it was his illness – and perhaps the failure of those around him to recognize it – which caused the tragedy. I am no expert on mental health issues, far from it, but I can’t accept that there was any conscious, sane, malicious intent underlying his actions.
The whole family, including the father, shared the same funeral, a Hindu service attended by hundreds of people. We were there, of course, as were many other staff and students from their school. It was an occasion when I was reminded that despite the diversity of communities in the UK we have much more in common than that which divides us. Jo Cox (the murdered MP in case anyone is wondering) was right about that and I suppose that is a triumph of sorts.
But back to the tattoo. The tattoo, and the timing of it, are my daughter’s way of commemorating her friend. I know she will never forget Neesha. She mentions her often and treasures the few photographs she has of her. Neesha was not a particularly devout Hindu but she did like to sketch the traditional lotus symbol of her religion. My daughter saw her doodles often, and it was one of those that she had etched onto her shoulder yesterday, a triumphant reminder that memories never die.
Neesha’s lotus is permanent. It will grow old with my daughter. If anyone asks, she will tell them, but mainly it’s there for her, her own way of keeping her friend close.