I can still remember the 10th of March three years ago. It was early in the morning, I woke up to go to my school but hesitantly sat near the kitchen table with a big mug of tea thinking about my ailing father who was still in coma. My mind was not allowing me to carry on the usual chores which I did before going to my workplace. Somehow, I gathered up myself and went to school only to prepare myself for another long, lone journey back to my hometown. My father had left us by the time I could even start my journey. As the train I boarded on ran passed the uneven plateaus dotted with blooming Palash trees, I remembered that how dear the red colour was to him, my Baba, as we called him. He remained a leftist throughout his life, in his mind as well as in his deeds. He led a simple life untarnished by the capitalistic glitters we occasionally indulged ourselves to.
My thoughts were interrupted by a lame beggar dragging himself through the train floor and then a few moments from another black year came rushing to my mind. It was 1992, my father suffered a compound fracture in one of his legs and could not join his work for 17 long months. During his entire recovery period, he used to drag himself all the way to the toilet for his daily ablutions as he refused to wash himself in his bedroom. Such was his will power and sense of self-respect. In those long 17 months, I had observed a different Baba, helping Maa in daily household chores, helping us with our studies while Maa went away to work. It was unusual for us to see Baba cooking and doing the dishes, but he remained undaunted. Infact, it was our nightmare to find raw papayas in every dish he cooked and we waited eagerly for our Maa to save us from the daily doses of raw papayas.
As I sat alone in the train compartment, I suddenly realised that I have grown old enough ever since Baba went into coma. While my brother kept a positive outlook about Baba recovering miraculously, I could sense the impending death quickening its steps towards Baba. The phone rang, my brother sounded apprehensive about my reaching time. I mechanically told him to start the last rituals as I won’t be able to reach before evening. No, I didn’t want to see him lying lifeless for he was so lively in his entire lifespan. I cannot remember a day when I haven’t seen him joking around, yes during his plastered days too. It was really difficult for an active person like him to remain bed bound for about one and a half year, but he went through the ordeal by maintaining his usual jovial self. I don’t know whether he could accept my marriage and going away to another house, but he remained strong as he did the ‘sampradaan’ ritual. I could realise his immense love for his son-in-law, my husband, on the day he suffered the fatal stroke. As he was slipping into coma, slowly, he vigorously kept patting his son-in-law’s back. Did he wanted to express how happy he felt meeting him after months? I don’t know. I regret that I couldn’t learn much from him. He had a sea of experiences to share but I became busy with my life and now, when I want to talk to him, spend time with him, he is no more. Though its a difficult journey ahead without a friendly guide like him, but I have started along, with the memories of the instances of his strong will power and grit.
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