The passport is lost. I am blithely unaware, enjoying the windy breeze in ruffling burst which curled past my window and the sight of the gentle sea at Marine Drive. The perk of being a hostelite in South Mumbai. My life was going to change. Dreams came knocking and harassing me in succession to send a sign that life was going to alter drastically in the flick of days and weeks. Papa came in the dreams and pretending not to recognize me on the street and hailing him fell on deaf ears, as he marched ahead, turned to look at me with a stern face growing a shade dimmer.
The occasional monsoon became herky-jerky in the city. I woke up on Saturday in the city and picked up a copy of Economic Times to plonk my way on the wooden chair in the canteen mess, ordering coffee and sneaking a smoke, far away from the glares of the warden who may pop up. A couple of days back, I realized the pouch where my passport sat was missing and went to my bank, asking if they kept the document but no one did.
One Saturday my cousin called from UK, asking if I would like to travel back home to meet my Dad and then hung. I sensed something was bad. Another cousin called to say Dad is in the hospital but should be doing fine. I call home and after trying for a very long time, Mom was in tears telling me to come down by any means since Dad was seriously ill in the hospital. The cousin called and I asked straight away. No dilly-dallying. What I feared in the morning came true. Dad was in the coma.
The family shifted to a different country. I have two days to reach home. Banks are closed everywhere. I got no passport nor there was money in my possession but still gotta catch an international plane from India. It looked impossible. But, they say when you need help, the entire universe conspires to make things happen. Money pooled from hostel friends, some gave 500, someone else gave 1000 bucks and another family friend from Pune who tried her best to reach Mumbai in time but couldn’t make it. Gitanjali Didi called and her voice broke down but I assured her things are ok. I managed to get a travel document in place of a passport. Lalit, a friend and former hostel mate, accompanied me to the airport, where we took a train with luggage from Churchgate to Andheri hopped on the rickshaw to Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. I was stopped by cops for routine checking but dealt with me in the most humane manner, saying next time travel home with a proper passport.
Finally, I reached the place my parents made their home and after hugging Maa, gulped tea, hopped to the hospital filled with ailing patients. I couldn’t recognize Dad who apparently survived from the coma. It was a small miracle. Miracles can be an illusion. I walked past Dad and Mom called me. We came in the afternoon when Dad was shifted from the ICU room to the normal hospital hall. He was hallucinating and they told it was the medicine’s effect to get out of the coma. But, I sensed trouble and told someone that he may not live for more than two weeks. But, with time, Papa’s condition improved. Apparently, the injection was given to keep Papa alive so that I can spend some time with him. He stayed with us for more than a week during the hospital trips, speaking normally and was discharged. He was able to get up out of his own from the car to the room, with little help from us, heading to sleep.
I vividly recall the day when I slept on the couch when Mom jettisoned me out of my reverie early morning to feed Dad with milk and corn flakes who was in my room. Papa’s body has become suddenly heavily stiff and was reluctant to take medicine and we took a harrowing time giving him pill that he spit. We ushered him on a chair to sit but the entire body wouldn’t budge, making it impossible for two persons to lift him. Mom broke down. The time, I called a friend who came to help us lift him back to the bed. The first time I saw someone dying right in front of me but still, there was some reaction on his part when an aunty visited, someone whom he was rather fond of, making an effort to speak asking to make her sit and give tea. The time was coming. I called a close friend and medical student who asked about tears in Dad’s eyes and sat by his bedside, pressing his forehead and the rare times, he thrust to grab my hand with tears in the eyes. It looked so surreal. We were close to each other and there was nothing I asked Dad that would be denied.
Finally, he closed his eyes in the evening and upped the neck with a crack, the pupil became whitish. Mom told me to call uncle, our next door neighbor who was Dad’s childhood friend, calling him, “Gyaan, what happened?” He opened his eye one last time with tears in the eyes to say bye to his childhood friend. It was the final good bye.
Dad would affectionately call me, ‘Babu’. I maintained courage and balanced my emotions coming to terms with things that at least was able to see him for one week. At the hospital, he asked Mom what I brought for him from India. It was a shirt and a Hindi film CD. Our loved ones stay with us forever and they really die the moment we stop thinking about them. It’s a firm belief that people we truly love never go anywhere. You know the biggest coincidence? Dad passed away on June 19 on Tuesday and tomorrow going to be 11 years. It will be on Tuesday. Dad would have celebrated his birthday on June 28. Cheerz to you buddy, the one people would call Shammi Kapoor. You were a crazy fan, right! You adored Dev Anand Saab and Raj Kapoor Saab, of course, Amitabh Bachchan, where you took me to watch several flicks of the angry young man.
Love you, Papa. Happy Father’s Day.