In memoriam

Sorry we are closed

We walk down the street, our street. It's finally spring time in London. Cherry blossoms are paving the way, the sky is blue, and we have smiles on our faces. We walk down our street and suddenly feel something is off. There is a grey cloud over our block. The always-opened convenience store has its shutter down. Our smiles are fading away as we see people congregating in front. The regulars who usually dash in and out of the premise are for once staying tight, pausing, discussing. The eyes are reddened. Something has happened. This afternoon, Rana, the shop tenant, passed away.


When we moved to the UK we wondered if one day we would feel at home in this country. 7 years later, we have definitely started to blend in. We pour a dash of milk in our tea; we find Victorian terrace houses spacious; we got to terms with unscrewing the cap of a decent bottle of wine; we even roast meat on Sundays... And yet, I know that we will never be (or want to be) fully British. But despite that everlasting cultural gap, something happened Sunday: we felt part of the community, sharing the communal sorrow of the family and the regulars who used the shop. We are said to leave in one of the London's villages, and it certainly feels so in this dark day.

For years, we affectionately referred to Rana as "the little gentleman", "the husband of the little lady"... For most of our family members and friends who came home and visited the shop, he will only be remembered as such. Rana was a figure of the neighbourhood with his grey beard, his turban, and his strong voice. We were seeing him almost everyday but it took us years to learn his name. And it was only last week that we dared asking his wife the right spelling and his surname, in order to send him some properly spelled wishing well.

Whether Rana was a good husband, a good father, a good business man, a good man... we cannot tell. Not that we had doubts, to be clear, but it is just a sheer lack of knowledge as we only had just a few glimpses here and there of his life outside the shop. It is also that a community, tight proximity with strangers.


Nevertheless we are sad, full of sorrow to lose of good neighbour, a pillar of the community. I will remember his clear eyes through his glasses looking at me and my son, distilling some parental wisdom. I will remember him slipping some treats in my little one's pocket behind my back with a wink and a shhhhh... I will remember his "goodbye little man" in his unmatched accent. I will remember a welcoming man who made us feel at home on this block, on this street, on this street, on our street. Rest in peace.

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