Wednesday, August 31

Assassin Grief

I've lost track of time. They tell me it's been a week.  For me, it feels like both yesterday and a year ago.  Quite stupidly, I had assumed that the first day, when I saw them physically carry him out, was the worst. No, it wasn't. Now I know, shock is really your friend. It shields you from the actual monster that's set out to destroy your mind - grief.

It is the dementor that sucks all the joy and happiness out of your life and feeds on your deepest darkest moments.  It tricks you into feeling better and then stabs you in the back, so you can feel the pain afresh each single time.

I can't explain why I'm so handling this so badly, though.  Everyone around me, even people closest to him and me, have expressed their condolences and have resumed their lives. I'm still stuck here.
Unable to remember what it feels like to laugh. Or sleep. Or to function normally.

What people don't get is that it's not his passing, but his loss, that I don't know how to handle.  The irreversible and permanent absence.  When I see his glasses around, or his wornout wallet , or the novel he didn't get to finish, or the t-shirt that my mom had set out for him to wear on the last day - that's when it hits,  they will never know his touch again.

But what kills me more than these constant reminders is the conspicuous absence of his big smile when I'd walk into his room every morning, or him waiting by the window when I came back from work, or the warm "good nights'' when I turned the lights out.

Grief. Reminding me every chance I get that there's no more him. That there will never be again. No one who will come close. No one for whom I will feel as much. No one who can ever give me the love, care or warmth such as his. That, from now on,  I'm absolutely and unequivocally alone.

Thursday, August 25

Life is Life

For the past year, my world has revolved around my dad.  I ate/slept/thought/talked about little else. He is the reason I know I can love someone so much that it could break me. 

After fighting an unwinnable battle with cancer, when he couldn't summon one more breath - 
he decided to call it a day.  He's gone. 

I have regrets.  That he will never see my story. That he will never know what I could really become. That I couldn't do more for him. Or give him the life he deserves.  I'm sure he has an equal number. We didn't get a chance to talk about it. We took him to the ER two days ago, fairly confident we'd bring him back after some treatment, much like every other time.  Except, this time, he went to the MICU and never returned. 

His lungs had filled with fluid, any oxygen they gave him was not enough, his heart was failing and they said he wouldn't survive the night. He did, that and then the next.  But then, as if sensing our anguish and to spare us the grief of having to see him struggle for air any longer, he let go.  Even then, not at some ungodly hour of the night but at his usual wake-up time in the morning after a glorious sunrise, so as to not inconvenience us and give enough time to plan his send off.  

Caring and gentle and above all, incredibly kind. That was my dad. A big smiler. A big dreamer. A big family man. A big friend. A big everything. He had any number of flaws but they were just never big enough to overshadow the rest of him. 

I saw this again at his funeral today, when we kept running out of chairs despite us having had no time to get the message out, how many lives he had touched in some way or the other. He had a generosity of spirit that was vast enough to always include, always extend a hand even to those who weren't always grateful or deserving, and forgive, when things went bad.  

But for me, he was more than all of this. He was my best friend, my confidante, my partner-in-crime.  I called him for everything.  After hearing of a shot-gun wedding in the family,  my mom wryly told me that she has no worries on that count because even if I were planning to elope, I would have called my dad for help.  I would have. Without a doubt. He would have helped. Without a question.

My failing, as I presume it is, for so many of us, was to assume we had more time.   Even otherwise, I suppose we wouldn't have told him any of this.  He knew. I knew.  That's all that mattered. 

Now, I face a world that's lonelier than ever.  But if I went complaining to him, he would say what he always said when I spoke of fairness - that life was life. That it was going to be a mixed bag, sometimes happy and joyous and sad and brutal. That I just had to make the best out of it. 

So, I will try to do that. I will miss him more than anything else and if there was any spell, any sacrifice, any prayer, anything at all that could give me my dad back, I would do it. But there isn't. So, the best I can do is have him live through me. 

At my funeral, I hope to be half the person he was. It would have been a life well lived.  

Thursday, April 28

A Full Circle.

In a sense, my life has always run in circles. I went to college on the same road that I went to school ten years ago. I now live in the same house that we used to rent when I was a child.

When I finally moved out and went to live in Bangalore, I ended up living in the same lane where my mom and dad first lived together. I thought then that I had come a full circle. But no, not yet, it seems, until now.

Today, I walked in and took up my old job at The Firm, six years after I left it to go to J school. Ordinarily, I suppose it would have been okay.  By now, I have somewhat made peace with how spectacularly mundane and ordinary my life has turned out to be. But today was still a blow. 

Right now, it feels very much like the first day in a new school. A school that’s very different from the last one, where you had all your friends and a teacher you loved and where you were learning and doing very, very, well for the first time in your life. 

But all that is gone and you have to start all over again. So I shall. Because, there’s a reason I am doing this and for that I’m willing to do anything. 

Monday, April 25

The Grey Cub

I am writing this, weeping and red nosed, sitting in a cab heading to the Airport. I am leaving behind Bangalore, a city I used to detest but is now home to everything I know and love.

I am leaving behind a home, an airy little world of teal and yellow, where I was the happiest I have ever been. And I’m saying bye to Boov — Bear and H — with whom I have made a life together; who have seen me sob, laugh, and live out my grief these past few months and have come to become my people.

I know it seems like an overreaction, this terrible feeling of loss. But for me, its more than just the idea that I’ll never live with them again. And that I’ll never go out for frisbee nights.  Or have our cookouts. Or talk for hours by the peepal tree.

As I head back to Hyderabad, the pain comes from knowing that there is no more sanctuary. No more packs that will take me in, care for me, and shield me from the cruelty of what’s to come.

I’m on my own now. 

Monday, February 29

Life in a black hole

One of the things they don't tell you about cancer is how isolating it can be. More often than not, with people I just act like its fine, as if we still had hope, as if his chemo didn't utterly fail, as if they were still things we could try, as if my dad really wasn't dying.

I put up this front mainly to save other people from making the effort of knowing how to rightly react. And, it works for the most part, except when you do it so convincingly that they really do forget.  So, they make jokes about dying. Or take you to idiotic pubs where they sit across you and giddily sip vodka hooked up in saline bottles as your dad lies in the hospital the exact same day hands red and swollen, being pumped up with antibiotics to counter a blood poisoning.  Or, people tell you the big tragedies of their life like parking woes or salary hikes and expect you to sympathise.

For a while you try. You try to explain this new world you live in -  where everything feels surreal, like you're in a loop and everything around you is either speeding or has slowed down. Where everything is shaky, and you are constantly trying to keep afloat, stay in the sun, and not go under. Where you see a person slowly disintegrate and with them, take you too.

No one get's it. Not even the people who say they're closest. Every day, you realise you're slipping farther and farther away, and no one's noticed. Then, one day, you wake up and see that you're alone, in your own raft, and there's no saving you.

Friday, January 8

So it starts.

The earliest memory I have of my dad is of Sunday mornings. Of me sitting in his lap on our verandah and he carefully cutting my stubby nails into the newspaper spreadeagled infront, while he mulled over the Sunday crossword.

Then, there was the summer holidays. The one time he was made to babysit, he had put us (7 and 8 year olds) on our first ever flight, and by ourselves. By the time amma got back from grocery shopping, we were on our way to Calcutta.

Slightly older, at 8 or 9, I remember him taking Demonkid and me to school. We never once made it on time to the morning prayers. We spent the first hour of every school day standing outside the assembly hall for most of an hour. For five years.

Then, at 11 or 12,  I had not seen him for over a month. When he came back, he looked a lot older than when he'd left, quieter, more grave. He handed me a bag and went to sleep. It was a boardgame I'd ordered him not to return without - LIFE. My mom told me later that it was the first thing he asked on getting out of the hospital. He had had a heart attack.  

In later years, I remember him on the sidelines, seeing me trudge through colleges and jobs and boys and everything else. Never once telling me what to do.  Even when I didn't go to the college he'd have liked for me. Or take up a profession he would have wanted. Or be with boys he approved of. He stood by quietly, through my tears and mistakes, only ever wanting one thing -- for me to be happy. 

I always laughed at kids who were terrified of their fathers. I didn't think of mine like that. I think, neither did he. He treated us as adults, even when we were children. He let us burn our fingers and learn. He let us fly and all. Mostly, because he didn't know how to be a parent. 

What he did know and like were friends. And so we were, him and me. But he was always the better one -- Always curious about the world. Always wanting to do something new. Always trusting than doubting. Always living in the now than worrying about the morrow. 

But I didn't end up like him. I became my mother instead -- Cynical. Guarded. Reclusive. Risk-averse. 

And now,  I sit by him. In his chemo sessions. By his bedside. Willing him back to sleep as he wakes up breathless and panting every few minutes; still checking and double-checking PET scan results and experimental drug trials and median survival rates every night, feeling my jaded little heart crack every time I find out Stage IVs don't make it past a few months.

He has to. He just has to. 

Because right now, I don't want friends. I want my dad.