As, I anointed his body to prepare for the final journey, and get ready to light the wooden funeral pyre, I was fighting hard to hold my tears – philosophy had taught me not to grieve, the soul never dies, it moves on to another body, it is like changing of clothes – sleepless for the last 50 odd hours (with the long flight from US and a 5 hr drive to my town) – my mind was flickering to the past and coming back to the present (though I had trained myself not to let the mind time travel, but now my mind was failing me) – I slowly recalled….
When I was 6, he threw me into the swimming pool with a rope around my belly and taught me to swim. Today, though, I don’t swim regularly but, I am an expert level swimmer and can swim a mile. He taught me playing badminton – a game so close to my heart, which I play even now almost 1-2 times a week and won a bronze medal in 2015 in men’s singles in Connecticut, USA. I remember the aluminium double barrelled racquet he brought for me when he visited the UK in 1978.
In the years 1984-88 (4 years before I moved to college), every evening after dinner, we played chess – 1 game a day – something that has lingered with me – but now – I solve 1 chess problem a day before I start my day.
He wanted me to focus on 1-2 sports, preferably individual one, to avoid injury and excel based on my own ability.
He was my first Yoga teacher – I started at 7, religiously I practiced YOGA everyday till I joined college in 1988. Inspite of being out of touch with Yoga since 1988 – I was so well trained by him, that I remember and can still do all the asanas he taught me.
My grandfather did yoga everyday till he died at 96, while my father regularly did Tai-Chi and Yoga till his last day on the planet. He taught me the, 2 most important things about Yoga – proper breathing (Pranayama) and proper relaxation (Sabasan).
He moulded me into the habit of early to bed and early to rise and from Grade 9 to Grade 12 – he regimented me to 6 hours of sleep 10pm-4am, something that I still follow in my lifestyle in US – everyday – weekday/weekend.
I remember during the winter months at 4.00 am he used to get up with me, turn on water heater so that I could bathe and then he used to bring, hot water with honey and tulsi leaves so that I was warm and did not catch a cold.
After lighting the pyre, I sat by the river on a cold wintry, windy evening, sitting beside me on one side was – Dr. Kundu Uncle (who lived across the street from where we lived, has been our family friend since 1982) – his closest and bosom friend – But – What a quirk of fate – the week my father passed away, Kundu uncle’s son was getting married. Kundu uncle used to accompany him during the morning and evening walks, they used to share poetries and proses, and they composed and created and spend quality time with each other. Kundu uncle was god’s gift to my father and to us, and it was he who came to our house in the middle of the night when my mom called him to see what happened to baba. Kundu uncle was heartbroken.
On my other side was Arup Mukherjee uncle – who sat beside me for the whole 3 hours as the pyre burned. Arup Mukherjee uncle and his family have been our close friends since 1974 during our days in Ujjain and have always remained in close contact with us ever since. He was heartbroken at my father’s demise and seemed he aged more in the few days after this news.
Waiting by the side of the river – speaking to them of the good old days – my mind flickered again – and I recalled, that there was only 1 material thing I ever asked him – a bicycle when I was in Grade 5 and he told me if I rank within the top 3 in the school, he would buy a new one for me. In 1979, when I studied hard (which was so difficult for me at that age) and ranked in school he kept his promise and got me a bicycle and I vividly remember the day he cycled it for me from the bike shop to our house.
There was a time when he sort of non-verbally also rejected something I wanted to do, which was to go for higher studies – but our financial condition did not permit us to take this step. I was heart-broken for some time but I rose up and faced reality.
There was a time when I was envious of his hand-writing – it was so beautiful – clear, crisp, simple and distinct. It reflected his personality and his inner being – compared to mine which was so messy and dirty – that once my Grade 2, teacher threw me out of the class for my messy handwriting. My handwriting has over the years improved drastically. He taught me to relax at the end of the day while lying on the bed – to recollect and recapitulate what you have learnt during the day. What a great piece of advice I had from him at an early age.
He was very proud of 2 things that I did in 2016 – though he never showed or told too many about it – it was my hike to Mt. Everest Base Camp in Oct 2016, and my first book which was published in Nov 2016 and then he left us on 17th Dec 2016.
I remembered that during most of 2016 when I was writing the book, every time I used to call him he enquired how far it was from completion. Sadly, though I could only show him the cover page of the book when it was published but was unable to get a copy in his hands.
In 1992 when I earned my first salary as an Engineer – I gave it to my mother. I remember the days when I started earning and thereafter he used to ask me for a lot of things – from books to other things he had never indulged in and spent money (probably to save for us) and I remember how happy I felt buying them for him and seeing him happy to receive them and use them.
My mother has told us once no one ever saw him angry except 1 person at a shop floor in the factory where he worked. That one day he threw his hard hat and refused to take the orders of his manager – because he thought that the decision was risky & dangerous for the factory and the lives of people working there.
I used to tell him jokingly – that he should have been an Automobile engineer and I should have been a Mathematician. I remember how proud he was when I got 100% in Mathematics in High School. He was a Metallurgical engineer who, could repair any electrical problem in the house or fix any problem in an automobile.
I have not seen any amateur – who could open up an Automobile Engine to its, most granular piece including the pistons in the Carnot Engine and then fix it again.
Death came easily for him, got up from his sleep middle of the night, fell down a few steps away from the bed and within minutes he embarked on another journey. The whole town was shocked from his sudden demise. He was extremely active, could walk faster than a 50yr old, and had more energy than anyone of his age. He was always smiling and everyone I met during my trip had only one thing to say about him – they had not seen anyone as happy, smiling like him who always used to enquire about their and their family’s well-being. Lots of people said – he was so so lucky to have met his end this way.
My life today is a set of actions reflecting what he always instilled in me during my growing years. His memories will remain a blessing for us and his voice echo in my mind and heart till my last breath. To me every day is a gift from the Lord & from our parents and at the start of every day I have always bowed down to mother earth and to them with respect, for giving me this life and sustaining it.
To us, our parents are the lord of the universe – they have given us this life, which according to our philosophies provides the only opportunity to liberate from the cycle of birth and death – to reach liberation / Moksha.
I did not cry when I heard the news, neither did I cry when I lit the pyre – I never will, (I will cry ONLY when I deviate from right path he has always shown me). Today, I do feel happy, rich, and proud and at peace, because I have adopted – everything he taught me, everything he asked me to do to keep healthy, and be spiritually happy – based on simplicity and high thinking and growing and learning every day.
Good people get good friends and companions – and my father was no different – as he was surrounded with some supremely good human beings.
Mallick Uncle who lives across the street from us – was probably the person who has been with father the longest – since 1965 when they started working together at the same factory in Ujjain. Mallick uncle has been our family friend all along these years and – as a quirk of fate – father and he were transferred to the same city in 1981 within 2 days of each other.
Mazumdar Uncle and Aunty – probably someone father respected most all through his life. Mazumdar uncle was a gem of a person who left us very untimely in 1988, but our families have remained bonded in friendship, love and respect, ever since. Even till the last days of Mazumdar Aunty – who also by quirk of fate passed away in Aug 2016 – just 4 months before father – he used to call her and enquire about her wellbeing and whenever he was in Kolkata he tried his best to meet her.
My Mom and Sister have been his left and right hand always. Both have done everything possible for his well-being, peace, happiness and success. My sister has inherited his smile, she was able to conceal her grief and pain during the last weeks of 2016 when the three of us were together – with an open smile and jovial being.
As, I write this – here are two thoughts I would like to share:
- Life is like a sea, we are moving without an end, Nothing stays with us, What remains is just the memories of some people who touched us as waves
- Death is an experience not for the dead but for the living