It was an early morning of 24th of May 2017. I was frantically woken up by the attendant who was looking after my dad. I rushed to his room. We checked his BP, pulse, oxygen saturation, etc. The BP machine constantly showed an error, and pulse and the Oxygen was descending rapidly. The situation was alarming. CPR was given, ambulance was called for, he was rushed to the hospital, admitted in ICU, put on ventilator….all in a matter of half an hour….but all was in vain. His spirit had freed itself from the physical bondage. What remained lying still on the hospital bed was ‘the body’….. My dad had left for his forward journey leaving all of us behind.
Though we were engulfed with immeasurable grief, I decided to bid him adieu the way he lived life – no tears, no gloom but with love and in style. He was 90 year old, but was always elegantly dressed irrespective of whether he was in the house or stepped out. He loved to wear different outfits and carried them equally well. Whether it was a Hawaiian shirt I got him from Indonesia or the traditional Nepali dress from Kathmandu, he loved wearing new clothes and often showed them off. If someone asked him, “How old are you?”, he would ask them, “What do you think?” and when people said, he looked like he was in his seventies, his day was made. He took great pride in the fact he looked much younger than his age. His enthusiasm for life was contagious. He would do everything ceremoniously.
How can a person, always full of life, die? He never dies,…he always remains alive in all our hearts.
My dad loved to meet new people and visit new places. I was surprised at the number of people who came to pay their last tributes. I had quite underestimated his popularity in our neighbourhood.
I have learnt and imbibed a lot of things from my dad. In fact the foundation for what I do today was set by my father almost 40 years back. I remember when I was eight-year-old, I was a hyperactive child, and unable to focus on my studies. In spite of being a bright student I failed to score good grades. My teachers often complained to my parents about the mischiefs I did in school. But my dad never reprimanded me on this. Instead he made me sit one day and said, “Do you want to score well in your exams? I will show you a trick.” He said, “Close your eyes and focus at the centre of your brows for five minutes. It will help you concentrate on what you do and remember what you study”. With full trust on him, I started practicing it…and my results improved significantly. I started scoring good marks and was always amongst the top five in my class. Focusing between the brows and experiencing the calm thereafter became an integral part of my routine. This practice sowed a seed for meditation in me. It brought a remarkable change and helped me develop a greater understanding of life.
My father was an avid reader and always dreamt of having a big library at home where he could spend most of his retired life; and I am happy, I could fulfil his dream. He was the one who put me into the habit of reading. We had a collection of some really good books on literature, classics, philosophy, economics, history and so on. Some of his favourites were Shakespeare and Swami Vivekananda, which eventually became my favourite too. He made me memorise Mark Antony’s speech from the play Julius Caesar, “Friends, Romans, countrymen…”
He had a supremely creative side to him. He was a connoisseur of art and music, and a gifted painter. He would often be moving around, humming old Marathi and Hindi songs in the house. I have picked up this trait from him.
As a kid, I looked forward to every night, when he would cuddle me close and tell me stories from Phantom to mythology to Laurel and Hardy, gently patting me to sleep.
He used to say, “When a son starts fitting into his father’s shoes, he no longer remains a son, he becomes a friend.” I still remember, when I was fifteen, one evening after I came back home from my classes, he said, “Let’s have a beer together”. In the setting of 1980s, hailing from a middle class Brahmin family, even uttering the word ‘alcohol’ in front of your parents was considered to be a complete disrespect to them. And there was my dad who wanted to have a glass of beer with me. I can never forget that day in my life. That particular incident dropped all the inhibitions between us and took our relationship to a new level… we became friends. After that there was nothing I needed to hide from him.
The biggest virtue I learnt from him was patience and a caring attitude. He was a people’s person who always valued people and relationships. Once he was posted in a small town Ambikapur on a government deputation. Due to his nature, he became instantly popular amongst the people there. One day some children were playing near a well and a ten year old girl accidently fell in to the well. Everyone gathered there creating a big hue and cry. My dad’s office was close by. When he learnt about this, he ran and jumped in the well and saved the drowning girl. Such was my father. He risked his life without a second thought, to save the little girl. He was felicitated by the then collector of the town for this bravery.
My dad was a family person and bonded all of us together with love. Even after I grew up, he would make it a point to call me several times during the day. Our conversations would be like, “Did you have lunch beta (child)?”, “what time are you leaving from office?”, “where are you beta? Drive safe.” And so on. At times I would get slightly irritated and tell him, “Dad, I am grown up now. You don’t have to worry so much about me.” And his standard reply would be, “You can understand the concerns of a father only when you become one.”
Its an irony that now I am missing the same things I would get irritated upon. Dad, who will now call me and check on me, ‘Where are you beta…?’, and who will shower me with the unconditional love and who will worry about whether I had lunch, or slept well or if I am okay? Its truly said, “When your parent dies, you cease to be a child.”
If ever anything went wrong he would say, “Don’t worry. Everything will be fine.” Those words were so comforting. They gave me renewed strength to handle the challenges. But now I am really going to miss all of those.
Love you dad and will miss you forever.
One of his favourite songs ”Aayega aane wala” from movie Mahal