It's mid-afternoon on a typically sultry day in the Mumbai suburbs, and most of my family are taking an afternoon nap. And, given the circumstances, it is good that they are, for it has been a difficult week for the Valladares family.
On Saturday, news reached us that Sinclair, my father's younger brother, had been seriously injured in a traffic accident - he had been crossing the busy road between Mahim and Bandra and had been struck by a motor-cyclist. Tragically, it quickly became apparent that he wasn't going to make it.
Suddenly, unexpectedly, in Auckland and Toronto, London and Boston, passports were being unearthed, emergency visa applications completed and flight tickets booked, as the implications of diaspora came into sharp focus. My cousins, Sinclair's sons, Clyne and Clint, live in Canada and the US, his elder brothers, Windsor and my father, live in New Zealand and London. As for me, I was booked on the evening flight.
By the time I arrived on Sunday afternoon, the house was already filled with a stream of neighbours and friends, there to express their condolences and to tell stories of how Sinclair had touched their lives. Fortunately, my Aunt was already visiting, and Daphne, his sister, who lives across town, had arrived to take control of things.
The funeral was arranged for Tuesday evening, and as sons and nephews, brothers and cousins arrived, we sat and retold stories from our shared past. A stream of friends, neighbours and those whose lives Sinclair had touched came to the house to tell us their stories too, of generosity and support, of favours done and lives changed, of redemption and heroism.
Three hours before the funeral mass, the coffin was brought to the house - open, as is the way here - and prayers said over the body, both by the priest and by a nun - we are never short of the latter here - before a small New Orleans-style band turned up to play some tunes. Eventually, the coffin was carried to St Michael's, the band leading the way, the rest of us following along behind.
I admit to being a less than entirely devout Catholic - I am guilty, rather than practicing, but not so guilty that I feel I should be practicing. But it was a very nice mass, nonetheless, with friends of the family, plus Clyne and Clint, performing some songs as part of the service. It was only when I got up to read a eulogy on behalf of the family that I realised that the church was full, a thousand or more people there, filling the pews, up in the mezzanine, looking through the windows. It was a deeply touching demonstration of his place in the community and the affection in which he was held.
Afterwards, a blur of condolences and reintroductions, as the coffin was interred into the family plot and rose petals scattered, before we returned to Eagle's Nest to talk and eat and reflect.
Such an event in the life of a family is strangely terrible yet moving in equal measure. When that family is as far flung as ours is, it is however an opportunity to reconnect, to strengthen the bonds that tie, regardless of how tenuous they might have become through age and remoteness. Whilst I mourn the passing of my uncle, I am grateful to have had the time with my family here.