No amount of tributes will hold a peace to his beloved daughters., for whom he dreamt beyond an ordinary man’s thoughts could go. My dad was like any other loving father in this world, a simple man with a steady job, a happy family of three little daughters with whom he liked playing always, dressing up them like dolls, buying them fancy and otherwise forbidden things by my mom, and also helping them with studies and homework. He had this unique sense of humor and a never compromising smile. He was duly respected by his colleagues and ardently cherished by his friends even today.
So what is special of this person? His specialty is that even after close to 2 decades of his passing away, his presence is felt in the lives of his children every day. His dreams don’t let us rest in peace, and keep us haunting to aspire more and more in life. He taught us what all fathers do and something different too…both in his life and death. His life taught us to be kind, loving, smiling, dreaming and aspiring, playing wonders with words and writing poetry to rekindle our imagination and thoughts, playing shuttle and participating in every damn thing that is competitive in this world, and sometimes win it brightly or smile when we fail and aim again!
In his death, we learnt much more stronger lessons of life. Tolerance, Managing Poverty, that meager resources are never a cause to aspire big, to fight out any odd situations, balance work and personal lives, securing our children’s financial futures, and the need to take care of health, with better lifestyles, and our faith in God and his wonders.
It was on 9th January 1992,Thursday, a chilly winter morning in a then a town, called Eluru in West Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh, that changed our lives forever. The memories of that day and the following haunts me like no other incident in life. The was the first taste of tragedy to three minor girls whose lives was hitherto happy, crispy and smiles filled. Within a hour from the time, he woke me up at 5 am saying that he was having acute pain on his left side of the body, everything was over. I rushed to the family doctor just 4 houses away and pulled him out of sleep to attend on my dad. He said that his cardiac readings are low and we need to rush him to a closeby hospital which has an ECG machine. With help of my neighbor and my best friend, we rushed him to Dr Y. Jagan Mohan Reddy. I can never forgive this doc in my life for the way he handled the situation. May be he was aware that its of no use doing anything further, he said that we have to move him to Vijayawada for getting a Cardiac special treatment. He could have tried to revive or try CPR and keep him stable for a while till his condition stabilized or deteriorated instead, he made me take back my dad home and make travel plans to Vijayawada which was like 60 miles from home. By the time, I was handling all this, I didn’t realize time is running out!. My younger sister was just 11 and sleeping. My grandmom was 65 and crying. I was the only one who could help. I put up a bold face and just don’t know from where the courage came in. Guess what, he asked me to get a paper and pen at 5.40 am and started writing a leave letter to his office….and while doing so in just a matter of 3-4 minutes, the pen fell down from his hand. By then Rajana and his mom, our neighbours rushed. Aunty was working as RN in local government hospital and she checked his pulse and told me to inform relatives including my mom who was then in Chennai with my elder sister……it was close to 5.50 am…I didn’t want to give up. Within seconds, me and Rajana took him a Rickshaw trying to take him back to Dr Jagan again…. With in 5 mins, as we were crossing the temples of Lord Ayyappa and Durga Ma, his head fell on my hands….sending shivers in me for the first time in life. It was 5.55 am, Rajana hugged me tightly. I saw the sun raising in the East above the temples. I know of a sun-set in my hands….
That day I know how much a proper medical care is yet to reach our Rural India. The need for good hospital, sensible doctors and proper medical care is still missing in many towns and villages of India, there by leaving helpless families succumb to unforeseen situations.
Even after I saw his head lying silently in my hands, we rushed him to Dr Jagan’s hospital again. He declared his death. By then few of our neighbours and dad’s collegues reached the hospital. We took a jeep and brought his lifeless body back home. I looked blank. I did not cry. Jai was still sleeping. My grandmom fainted. I just asked Rajana’s mom to take care of her..and then took my dad’s dairy and made the first call to Chennai..informing the worst news I could deliver. The morning left behind a full family of ladies grieving and helpless and futures so very uncertain!. Then, I called my dad’s boss and told him to arrange for some ice as I know it will be a day by the time my family reaches Eluru from Chennai. There were no much of ice boxes like of today in that town then. I took his dairy and rode on Rajana’s cycle to the near by post office…to send the telegrams to a list of my relatives that my dad kept the contacts list in his dairy… The man at counter looked at me with bewilderment. Probably, it was the day, I first broke the glass ceiling in life not even knowing of such a term then. Just because, what was so far expected a man’s domain of handling affairs started to slowly and steadily getting unfolded with me handling the situation. I got back home, stood bravely next to him for long 8 hours, taking politely all the condolences and grieving around....and my first set of relatives arrived. My dad’s sister and family and my uncle..the only male relative in the family at that time. I still stood there without crying. My dad’s office, and neighbours really helped so much… doing everything possible. After few hours, my elder sister and mom arrived with another set of relatives. I hugged my sister tightly and told her that lets sit and watch him whole night for we may never get to see him again after the dawn. She kept crying and I kept staring. Today I really wonder, how did I display such a remorse and unshaken courage? I just don’t know.
Haunting Images of Jan 10th..More Painful!
As the day unfolded and sun rose again…the pain continued. First time, the discussion of who would do the last rites aroused. People were discussing this at my ear’s length. I already know the answer and it was the time to just tell them and stop them guessing. It was my dad’s last words that gave me the direction and courage…that I should take care of my family and do everything for them. Yes, I stood by it. It was his wish I do and it includes with my first responsibility. I was just a young girl in her tenth standard…just 15 years old and shaken. But why the hell that should stop me from my responsibilities. I called my dad’s best friend aside and told him that it was his last wish that I will do his last rites. He did not get shocked for he knew his friend so much. My dad always brought us up with such a care that we can manage our things..and me more like a boy. But my declaration drew a much bigger debate ., that, are girls allowed to cremate , does the religion allow, is it right or wrong, can someone else do with just me watching or being at home after giving the ghee lit sticks and so on.
That was the first taste of gender awareness to me in life. Do we women need to think being aware on those lines? It was not the day for debate. Seeing my anger and pain, my uncle came to rescue. He said that, let Uma do what her dad wished, I will stand by her and help her to carry on the rituals. In the Hindu community, in that town, I didn’t realize it would be a news for long time. Even remembered till this day. Rest of my relatives also did not debate for all of them know that they cannot stay back for more than 2 weeks just in case they take up the responsibility. As everything got arranged, my sister started to yell at peak saying don’t bath my dad in cold water, he never liked it. I was thinking to what extent we go blank in those kind of tragedies. My kid sister stood silently and crying not realizing the bigger impacts of the day in our lives. I don t think people let my mom and grandmom grieve in private and it was so chaotic. I hardly spoke to anyone. Rajana forced me to a cup of milk before I went for the cold water shower. There was an unexpected courage, a sense of new blood flowing all over me, and I came and sat with the pandit and my men folk. As the time came and the palanquin to carry him on his final journey got ready, I could hear cries to the loudest. My dad was just in his forties and well admired in the town. I took the pot with the smoking coal and ghee sticks and walked in front of the crowd with my dad’s cousins all around. It was most traumatizing moments years later remembering that day. I walked through the burial ground, saw my dad for the last time on the pyre and lit the fire with a deep calmness. They forced me not to look back and walk away…but after few steps I quickly turned back and saw the fire raging over his body. That fire is stopped in my eyes forever! I don’t like watching these scenes in movies or attending funerals after that. I go and see people when they are well, they are ailing or when I know they are going to be gone soon…but mostly avoid watching the last journeys unless it is very important to attend.
From that day Death to me is nothing and the only thing ..the only end to every human being. No matter, how rich or poor, how big or small, how good or bad, how healthy or not, this end is inevitable. So worrying about it is not worthy of it. It is important that we make our lives worthwhile while we are still alive. It is worthy to have helped at least few people who would remember us after we are gone.
When did I cry then and how did I overcame it?
It was on Friday late evening I was sitting on the table at the opposite grocery store and staring at the skies. Lot of people went back to their homes. Rajana came and kept talking to me all about daddy. I shouted at him to stop. He said, if you cry, I will stop. I said, I am not getting tears. I am ok. He said, it is wrong sign not to cry at that situation. I smiled back at him saying I am really fine. His mom came and spoke to me saying that I can atleast talk to her. She brought to me few greetings that my dad gave to their family on every Christmas. She spoke on each year Christmas and cried thinking that would influence me to cry. I looked at her for being funny. After having proper dinner in the last two days, I went to bed early. The next morning, at 6 am, Rajana came home and asked me to come out with him. He said, I will take you to pampula cheruvu ( A close by man made lake with lots of taps). I said ok, and told my grand mom not to search for me. He rode me straight to the cremation ground. I shouted on this that he is playing tricks on me early in the morning. He dragged me to the place where we cremated my dad the previous day. He showed a heap of ashes and said, ‘this is your dad,. He is dead and gone. You better realize that. You are acting as if nothing had happened in your life. He is no more, he is not going to take you on his scooter, he is not going to play with you anymore, he is not going to help you in school work. He is dead!’. He made me touch those ashes….I became silent. I kept staring at those ashes for many minutes before I ran back to the cycle and sitting there on the ground. I hid my face in my lap and cried. Cried aloud. Cried till I realized the fact. Cried and Cried. First time the fear of being in a graveyard engulfed on me. First time, I felt back like a little girl after close to 3 days of my dad’s passing away. I felt much better after that incident. I thanked Rajana for being sensible and even today when we speak, we recall the way things unfolded and how slowly I started behaving normal like two of my sisters. At times, the man in me arises….but most often the woman in me remains intact after that day. After few years, when I was describing this to a doctor friend, I remember her telling me that I would have been depressed and suicidical for long many year had it not been the way, the reality dawned on me. For it is not easy to be unnatural for long. It is better to be natural always. Now where is the question of glass ceiling, gender bias and all that feminist scrap. It is good to be out there natural, emotional and the way god made us to be. Same time situations like this teach us not be vulnerable, to be strong and brave.. to be tolerant and sensible., to be focused and move on!
Close to 20 years…Today, it all remains as memories..both good and painful. Teaching us lot of things that no books or studies taught us. Tragedies happen. Dreams get destroyed halfway through. But yet, we should learn to Move On! You can never give up in life no matter what., overcome tragedies, rebuild dream and reconstructing lives is more important. My grand mom went ahead to live with my aunt for the rest of her life till she passed away in 2003…and my mom bravely fought real odds till she shaped our destinies in a different way. My dad dreamt of making us Engineer, Lawyer and a doctor in the order we were born…nothing happened as he dreamt. But well, I guess we made something in our lives for which he would definitely be proud of where ever he is ! If not anything bigger, at least as good human beings and being sensible wives, caring mothers and daughters and above all as professionals, poets and writers.
Today we celerbated the birthday our first son Ajay in the family, whose birthday falls on Jan 11th...and we know....we have moved on with grace, pride and happiness as his daughter till holding his fondest memories intact for ever!
May god let my dad rest in peace! And his dreams continue within our thoughts and actions! Love you Dad and Miss you too!