Today is Dad's birthday. He would have turned 73! What a fun-loving, jolly and eccentric character Dad was. It feels like he never left the world on June 19, 2007. I can still remember his laugh, anger ready to pounce on everyone who criticizes his only son. We had a truce, which Mom would never be oblivious to and he taught me the essence of love, never shying from showing his affection on me.
I remember how as a small child, I would accompany him on his way to work, till the shop near by. Despite our limited means, he knew what I wanted, expensive biscuits, ice cream and choco and would tell the shopkeeper, 'He's my only son, give him whatever he wants and the bill would be settled. He has always been an emotional person and doted on me, possessive in a way, owing to the fact that his mother died when he was two years old. I guess, that's what makes people emotional wrecks in a way.
Dad would always surprise me with gifts, favorite mags and what's not, got my first VCR as X-Mas gift when I went to stay at my cousin's place. Mom was the strict one but Dad could never say no to me, often at the receiving end of the former when he would retort, "Let it be. I have only my son. He means the world to me." At that time, perhaps I took things for granted and as part of growing up, we had spats that became ugly, at times and I am guilty of that. It was just the rebel and immature me, who was just plain stupid. But, one think, I am proud is that Dad always supported and stood with me, no matter what, fighting for justice and the belief in his ideals, was the things that mattered most. He was cheated of his property by his own half-blood brothers, my grandfather married twice, for that matter. Dad made my life when he sent me to study not once but twice..
The time I decided to go and study in Pune and Mumbai, is something that pained Dad a lot because he couldn't bear that I'll stay faraway from him. Yet, he believed in me and my dreams, phoning me almost every week, telling me to be strong and that I'll make him proud one day. I knew that deep inside, he was feeling emotional and sad but never showed the feeling so as not to make me weak. He worked till his last breath to ensure that he is able to afford my fees and not once, when I asked extra money, he refused and the money was wired as soon as it could be arranged.
I still remember the Saturday, way back in June 2007 when I was in the hostel at Churchgate in Mumbai when I got a call on the landline. I was out to the mess for coffee when the security informed that there were frantic calls. I lost my handset at that time and my cousin sister called from UK, 'You are not interested in coming home to meet your Dad....don't worry we'll make arrangement so that you can come home for few days." I sensed something was wrong and my first thought went to Dad, Has something happened, I was pretty sure by now. It was confirmed by few phone calls and when I asked, they told me that he was indeed ill but shall be fine. I pressed on them and called Mom who was crying on phone, telling that I must come back in one day, no matter what. Mom said, "Do whatever you can."
How I came back home, is another story that I shall tell in another post. I remember reaching home and after having breakfast, we headed straight to the hospital. Dad sunk in the coma and as I walked past the hospital bed, I couldn't recognize Dad. That moment, I knew that my father won't be here for long and decided that I have to prepare myself for that drastic change in life. He stayed at the hospital for several days and I visited him, speaking to him but slowly, he was cutting all contacts despite the fact that he regained consciousness.
At some point, hope rekindled and told Mom that he is on his way to be fine by now. He was discharged on a Monday and uncle came to pick him at the hospital.
As the car stopped in front of the house, Dad was able to walk till the bed, though we held his hands. He slept on my bed that night while I slept on the comfort of the sofa. The next morning, Mom woke me up, telling that we need to give him his breakfast.
As I was having tea with mom, she said that a petite and fair lady appeared into her dreams, standing on a specific area in the hall and smiled to her saying, Don't worry, he is perfectly fine now.' My first reaction was that, 'It must be Dadi-Ma.' I have never seen her. As I looked back, the dream re-affirmed my belief in the philosophy and greater power present in our lives.
That day, Dad refused the breakfast and medicine pill that both me and Mom were struggling to put in his mouth. As time went by in the morning, his body grew heavy and at some point, we tried to make him sit on the chair but we were struggling. Mom started crying and I consoled her saying everything would be fine. Later, during the day, a family friend and Mom of a friend visited, it was one of the rare occasion when Dad tried to speak and muttered, to make her sit.
I was sitting on the bed next to Dad, caressing his head when I saw tears in his eyes, he tried to grab my hands tightly. It was a moment I shall never forget, calling me, 'Babu', like he was affectionately calling me.
Minutes later, Dad twirled his eyes, his neck cracked and he closed his eyes. I went to see next door uncle who was Dad's childhood friend, who called him by his name, 'Gyan.' That was Dad's name. He opened his eyes and closed it again. There are people who are close to you and whose signals reaches your heart. I have witnessed this moment and it's the first time I saw someone dying.
There are very few fortunate children who see their parents dying in front of them and I am glad I was by Dad's side at this moment. As I hark back, I take pride in the lessons dispensed by my father, with whom I laughed a lot and bonded over football. I believe that someone never dies as long as we keep their memories alive. Priceless memories shared with Dad which I am gonna treasure forever.
With Love to Dad