Two years back, on this day, around this time, I had called my brother. Like I had done every morrning for many, many years. Instead of the usual pleasantries, his immediate question was “Khobor peyechhis?” (“Did you get the news?”)
In a flash, I knew what must have happened. Dad was in his last legs shuttling between nursing home and home almost weekly. He had lost his will to live for over five years. Mom dying a few weeks back had added unthinkable amount of psychological pain to him over and top of the physical ones he was enduring.
“Andaaj kortey paarchi”, (“I can guess”) I said after a brief pause. Somewhat relieved that dad might have finally been released from all his anguish and granted his wish to die.
“Thik aachey, tora bero. Sabdhaaney jaas.”, (“Ok. You guys go ahead. Stay safe.”) I told my brother. They were getting ready to go to my dad’s place to take care of all the last rites and formalities.
The one regret was that my visa to India had not arrived yet. In spite of getting my second vaccination a week before, I was not able to make it to India to see him one last time since my special visa had not processed yet.
Which was a bit of an anti-climactic end to the once-a-quarter trip I used to make to see him. Honestly though, if the actual suffering he was going thru was even a fraction of what I could see in our video calls, I did not want him to drag one for even one more minute waiting for me to get my visa. I was content to live with the memories of those near 50 visits to see him before the pandemic.
That said, “Ekbaar aay. Ma maara jaabaar por dekha hoyni”, (“Please come once. I have not seen you after losing your mother”) – those words from the previous night over the video call rankle my mind till this day and I wake up at nights with cold sweat.
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The first ever picture I have with dad (circa 1966) and the last ever picture I have (a few weeks before the world shut down in 2020)
One of the fond memories I have of my mom goes this way…
Now, as a background, you might want to know that I was sent away to residential school at the age of 16. Thru high school and then college and subsequently while working, I used to come back home fairly often. At least, more often than most of my friends.
The first two hours of the routine in every such trip never wavered. Invariably, I would go to the kitchen where mom would be busy cooking and stand there at the door and chat with her. It would be a fairly one sided conversation. I would basically dump on her in a couple of hours everything that had happened to me since I met her last.
And after that, I would completely vanish. For the next couple of days, I would be out on my dad’s Vijay Deluxe mostly spending time with my friends or out there on the field playing with my brother.
All that changed during those years was that she moved from a coal fired oven (I still remember she making the hot rotis on it) to a LPG gas burner. Instead of sitting down to cook, she moved to standing and cooking. But other than that, my side of the routine never changed.
All that changed of course. when cell phones came. I talked to her every single day. Therefore, during my quarterly visits, there was not much “catch up” to do.
Those memories of a young boy standing at the kitchen door having a monologue with his mother is what flashed by my mind first thing this morning.
Two years later, I sometimes still instinctively reach for the phone to call her in the morning.
Today was the day, two years back, she suddenly collapsed and unexpectedly died.
These kind of fond memories are what she left.
It used to be the case that every time I visited my parents, the whole family would get together at their place. These three kids and I used to get a lot of quality time together. And by “quality time”, I mean completely nonsensical discussions, giggling at the stupidest things and always pulling the elder nephew’s legs. (He is the goody goody, conscientious one of them all).
Then my parents passed away.
And two of these three went away to college.
After a long time they were together this week for Diwali and “bhaiphnota” under the same roof.
We had a long video call to celebrate the olden times. “Kintu ototao noy” (this is an insider joke).
And of course, there was good ribbing of the elder nephew to be had!!
Sprang a surprise on my uncle. They were not aware that I was going to be in India. The highlight of a trip to Durgapur is of course spending time with Rana – my first cousin, once removed.
After our usual conversations, we moved on to puzzles. I gave him a puzzle involving a clock face.
As you can see more than one person was trying to solve it!!
There are so many memories… This is where I slept every three months when I came to visit him. This is where he was shifted every time he got very sick. This is where he was surrounded by all his grandkids who came to see him after his stroke in 2017. Lonely (mom passed away a few weeks), completely out of any zest for life and beaten down by too many physical ailments, he was finally granted his wish to transition. It was sometime in the dark of the night that he quietly breathed his last on this day last year.
I still miss him a lot!
… on this day, the sun rose in the east in its fullest glory like you see it today.
Only that my dad did not rise.
He passed away in his sleep after going thru a lot of suffering for about five years and then having been dealt the biggest emotional hit – losing my mom a few weeks before. I was not there with him that day (was not vaccinated yet). A year later, I will be there at the spot where he passed away (although the exact time of his departure is not known).
There are too many memories that floods my mind. For whatever reason, the one that I remember most is the last video call I had with him when he asked the same question he had been asking me over and over again … “When are you going to come?”