He belonged to my past life, but he is still there for me in my memories. His presence like a movie clip that keeps running again and again.
I lost him when I was but 6 years old. For many, losing one parent when one is as young as 6 years may not be very traumatic considering the fact that the other parent is very much present to care for.
For me too, the death of my father was just a happening- albeit sad. I took the incidence in my stride like all children do, who are more resilient than adults in most cases. I came to know what happened, saw his dead body, witnessed the entire family crying, and thats it.
We, my brothers,- one younger (4 years old) and one elder ( 7 years old), were packed off to my aunt’ s place in order to avoid witnessing the depressing evening and night until the next day when the body would be removed from home for the funeral.
The stoic nature of all children prevailed in all three of us too and we bore the event without much ado. I remember my younger brother crying as he saw my mom cry and I hushed him. Thats all was there then.
I also remember we being taken back to our garndpa’s place- thats where he passed away in an electric shock accident- for doing the final rites to be done by the kids before the dead father goes on his journey to the other side of life.
When we 3 reached,we saw a huge crowd outside grandpa’s place and like magic the crowd parted when some body saw us and prompted our arrival. My first vision was the dead body of my father tied to the wooden stretcher kind of thing made and lying on the road outside the home. He was draped in white dhoti ( a sarong type worn by Indian men in southern parts) and his upper torso covered with plenty of garlands. His big toes tied together, his hands placed on his stomach and the thumbs tied together, his nostrils closed with cotton and a coin placed on his forehead.
Very strange and disturbing to look at him like that. But before we could assimilate the things, we were led closer by our uncle and we were handed some white rice and were asked to place that on his mouth- his tightly closed lips actually. My older brother and I did it, but my younger brother started wailing and so he was excused. Next we were handed some milk in a glass and asked to pour little on his mouth again.
Then immediately we were whisked away and the crowd closed in as if to cover him. My mother hugged all three and was silently crying.
Even though the rituals didn’t make any sense we were profoundly aware of the happenings and I for one was struck by the dark hue my dad seem to have acquired since the previous evening. I knew him to be a man of fair complexion, but why suddenly he appeared black and I thought death brought that to him.
The usual child curiosity won me over and I asked someone near by and the wailing grew more loud, but I could make out that as the current flew through his body he kind of became electrocuted/ burnt and so the skin turned blue.
This image stays with me forever. Then a little flashback prior to the death. The previous evening, I remember walking back to our home from grandpa’s – all four of us, mama, myself and my brothers walking beside me , all holding hands. Dad did not come as he had some work at grandpa’s and he would get home later was what told to us.Within fifteen minutes of us reaching home ( very close to grandpa’s), I remember going to a kiosk nearby with my older brother to get some pencils, bread and milk, which we both do quite often.
When we got back we found our aunt waiting with our home locked. She hustled us back to grandpa’s and to all our queries she only said, ” hurry! Oh my god! Please keep him safe ” and started chanting prayers. Then the moment we reach grandpa’s we noticed mom sitting next to dad who was lying on the floor(which was unusual) and crying. Looking at that the aunt who brought us started wailing loudly.
We children were taken away from there into another room and later packed off to my maternal aunt’ s place.
Having narrated all this, I must say that my mom did a great job in bringing up all 3 of us very well.She educated us with her salary she drew as a lecturer. She provided us with all that was essential to have a decent upbringing and honestly we didn’t feel lacking in any basic comfort. Thanks to her determination, love and care she did this all alone( she did not marry again).
But I still missed him, missed his presence whenever I met my friends’ fathers and the fathers in the neighbourhood and I still miss him now; When I see my children seek out their dad on occasions which only a dad can give, I wonder how I grew without that.
Had I had that protective yet stern male presence in my life , I might have become a more assertive kind of a person. I am the most accommodating in my family. I do things because I cannot say ‘no’ to anyone. Even it goes against my comfort I still
do, despite my mind and heart and soul screams and cries and I hate what I do.
May be that is why I miss him. Also I wish to feel the special bond a girl shares with her father like my daughter does now.
I miss the first man in my life- my father- till date.