Is death the end or a new beginning? What lies beyond death – oblivion, darkness or a new light that washes away the worldly woes? What about those who are left behind? How do they deal with certainty that the one they love will never come back? I was plagued with all these questions as I watched my father slowly lose the battle of life. There were moments when I was convinced that he would come back, he would beat death this time. I thought I would be better prepared to lose him if he spent a few more years with us but having lost him forever I now realize I would be never ready.
Death is probably the only inevitable, the only truth that we know one day will engulf us. Our loved ones will leave us to never return. We will mourn them; feel the vacuum that they left and eventually learn to deal with that loss. We will be gone one day, maybe we will be remembered for a while and then forgotten. It’s the certainty of loss and the fear of oblivion that makes death so ominous. The pain of losing our loved ones forever. The fear of being forgotten once we are gone. Yet we live ignoring death, pushing back the inevitable to some remote corners of our minds. Maybe this is our defence mechanism for dealing with ominous death that we will encounter sooner or later!
Babi, my father, was growing old and at the back of my mind, there was a lurking fear that that someday he would be gone. But that day seemed far away for I was not prepared for his sudden demise. I had lived away from home for decades now though I have always remained close to my family. Babi, my protective father, who didn’t agree with my initial career choices let me go for he wanted me to live my life. Always supportive, he never doubted me or questioned me and eventually, he was proud of what I have become. I drew strength from him. Through his life, he showed me how to live a balanced happy life. Confident and forever optimistic Babi was content with his life. Being an honest bureaucrat there were times when he struggled but I have never seen him give up. He was not a rich man, but he always had enough. Always giving, always forgiving Babi lived his life with no regrets, on his own terms. Even if he was unhappy with certain decisions or situations, he never carried it along with him.
After my graduation, while travelling to Gangtok from Kolkata with my Masi and her family, our car met with a bad accident somewhere in the interiors of Bengal. I learnt later that I was unconscious for three days and my parents feared that they were losing me. I remember nothing about how we met the accident and my state of consciousness, of course, I only remember waking up to the voice of my father. As I was gaining consciousness on hearing Babi’s clear voice, I thought I was waking up in the morning at home, in Agartala. I later realized that he was talking to the doctor. I was soon out of danger though it took me months to recover. He stood by me and held my hand when I first stepped out of the house after the accident.
When I rushed to Agartala on learning about Babi’s sudden bout of pneumonia I thought on hearing my voice he would get better, I could bring him back home. He started responding, fighting back for he wanted to come home too, but eventually he succumbed to a cardiac arrest. Those were by far the most difficult days of life, visiting Babi in ICU every day, swinging between hope and despair. Some days he would be better, and we would be preparing to get him home, talking to attendants and physiotherapists etc. Spending the nights sleeping and waking staring at the phone lest the hospital called, rushing to see him in the morning and waiting anxiously for the doctor to arrive. And finally, that call that we feared, and we rushed to the hospital to get him home one last time before we let him go forever.
Babi is gone but I feel his presence everywhere. A part of him will live in me as long as I live!