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2002, exactly 14 years ago, we were having summer vacations, All of us(Me, my younger brother and sister) were playing cards and we heard the knock on the door. Reluctant to leave the game, we were fighting who would get that. Finally i gave in and ran towards the door, unbolted the pin and opened it. It was our neighbour, looking all tense, she said “ put on your clothes , all of you are going to your native village”. Unable to comprehend the situation i sought clarity, “why, what happened?”, “your father’s health has deteriorated, and they want you to reach the village soonest”.
We got ready, all this while wondering, what has happened, even though I knew what this meant, I knew something bad has happened. My brother and sister were crying, i was consoling them, assuring them that everything is going to be fine. It took us 3 hours to reach the village. I saw a huge gathering and as i move towards the core of the gathering, i could hear murmurs “he is so young”, “God’s wish”, “God is cruel”, i reached and i saw a body wrapped in a long sheet lying still, my mom next to it crying inconsolably, I approached the body, saw my dad’s face. Still. Motionless. Expressionless. No usual smile. No snoring, normally he snored while asleep. I broke down. Hugged his body. Screamed at the top of my voice. Cried incessantly. A bunch of people came and took me away. “It’s time, body is deteriorating, lets go”, heard a voice. I was told to take bath and wear new clothes, which my mama(maternal uncle) had brought- a ritual. We started moving towards the grave yard, I was in the front, holding a pot, behind me my dad-lying still on the bed. As we moved , people came out of their houses to get a glimpse of ‘the eldest child’-children, ladies-in ghunghat- “Hai Ram! chote-chote bache chod gaya”. We reached the ground, the body was then kept on the pyre. Now it was my turn- a 12 years old kid to say good bye to his father the last time- I moved forward and as the pandit chanted the mantras- i torched the pyre and stood there. Emotionless. Thoughtless. Lifeless.
On that fateful evening I sat in the corner and recounted my last conversation with my dad, two days ago. We were sitting and talking. He was giving me his two cents on life, and all i wanted was to run away and play cards with my friends. He looked serious than other times. He said “ Son, society respects strong, only those who appear untouchable are not messed with. So no matter how vulnerable you feel, never show your weakness, not to anyone. you would think that people would help, but they won’t, they will use your shortcoming to their advantage. Always trust your family and take care of your sister”. Now, this was not a conversation a normal dad has with his 12 years old son, whose only objective in life was to complete ‘Super Mario bros’- Level 8 , and it would be wrong to assume that the kid will take any of this seriously. Like most kids would have done, i nodded and ran to my friends to play.
The incident was not a small one, it was the toughest. It will make me a different person and will change me forever.
I was in class 8th, my brother in class 5th, elder sister in class 10th, all of us studying in good private school, and suddenly we had no source of income. After 15 days, We along-with my mom returned back to the city, the house was haunting, everything , everyplace reminded us of him. It is after this incident that the not only mine but my family’s life changed, forever!
First few months, People came and expressed regret, and assured us that they would be there in case we need them. – they didn’t – I never asked, as I remembered my father’s last teaching.
All three of us had to change our school and move to a less expensive one, My friends asked, why? I told them as this one was closer to home, I never told them the truth, as I remembered my father’s last teaching.
In my brother’s PTM, i went as a guardian, the teachers asked for the father, I never explained, as I remembered my father’s last teaching.
I attended my farewell in my school dress, when the dress code was a Suit, my colleagues made fun, I laughed it off saying I forgot. I never revealed, as I remembered my father’s last teaching.
I forwent all the picnics, all the trips, all the parties. I never shared the actual reason, as I remembered my father’s last teaching.
I hunted for groom for my sister, they asked for dowry. I resisted. I relented. She got married. I took the ‘kanyadan’ for my ELDER sister. I lifted her in arms and saw her off to her new home. I cried but never shared, as I remembered my father’s last teaching.
I missed him at every point of my life, when I won, when I lost. When I participated, When i fainted during a debate. when I got into NIT, When I was given HR. when I became a 9 pointer, When i was rejected in an interview, When I was selected in an MNC. When I got into a relationship, When I was dumped. But i never let is show on my face, I was solid, strong, unperturbed at least on the outside, as I remembered my father’s last teaching.
All the times when i saw a son-father chemistry i missed him. My friends used to crib about how their fathers are so controlling, and ‘pain in the ass’. I would smile, I wanted to tell them how lucky they are that thay have theirs. One can not feel the strength you derive when you know, you have someone who has got your back no matter what befalls, no matter whose fault it is, no matter how you treat them. Unconditionally.
The incident made me ‘mature’, ‘introvert’, ‘strong’, ‘compassionate’ and a ‘liar’.
I fully know that I am never going to see him, but i wish i could tell him;
that I have kept every promise i made to him-
I have been strong,
I have been taking care of Mom, Chotu and my sister
I am an engineer.
I am helping poor people in need.
I have never let anyone see my weakness.
If I have kept all the promises I made, why hasn’t he kept his? Why did he say, he will get well soon, when HE DIDNOT!
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