My Dad

This post shall be long, depressing, emotional and random
but most importantly it shall be extremely personal.

Yes, this blog is personal again.

My dad is no more. He chose to leave this world on 15th May 2008 at 340pm IST, right before my eyes. The day is separated by a fortnight on either side, from my parent’s 25th wedding anniversary and his potential 58th birthday. He was cremated on 16th May 2008 , which happens to be his janma nakshatram, with due vaishnavite rites.

He was admitted into the hospital on 7th May 2008. I was supposed to return to Hyderabad,
early hours on the 15th. He was on a ventillator and hence on sedatives as well, so as to be able to withstand the painful process. The doctors had given him very little chance of survival when he was admitted. His edema and the resultant infection, had spread over to the rest of the organs. I wasn’t informed of the seriousness but was just asked to prepone my arrival to Hyderabad. I came at the night of the 12th and was briefed. He had improved, the ventillator had been removed and repeated dialysis had been performed. He had regained consciousness as well, but said that he just remembered being admitted and nothing else.

I met him on the morning of the 13th.

The most difficult sight for any child is to see his father powerless. Wires, tubes and oxygen mask do nothing but add to the agony. He saw me, sat up, removed a few tubes and gave me a hug that I can never ever forget. He then played with my cheeks as if I was an infant. This gesture is so special that I cannot express it in any words. My father and I, were never very expressive with each other. He was more of a father figure to me than a friend. It was totally different for all my cousins and my sister. I am talking in terms of physical presence. All my cousins, got the customary tap on the head which he would give whenever they met him. I for one, was kind of scared of him. Till not very recently, I still was. The most we ever shared was I think a firm handshake. I hope I am putting into context what that hug means to me. With the look that he had on his face then, I am sure it meant a lot to him as well.

The first thing he talked to me, was asking me whether I had talked to my sister.

I: I did.( in the most mockingest tone one can have when one is crying their eyes out ) But why should I?
He: Because I am not.
I: (mock laugh ) Nice reason you give ha.
He: I have not reconciled. I am sure even you have not reconciled. But after me, you are the head of the family and if you do not talk, then there will be no one to look after her.

From there on, the conversation changed tones and it was more pleasant. He had had no idea what had happened, so he thought that it was the 15th. I let him know of the change. He enquired about the journey and then asked me to go back home so that I stay away from the heat for 2-3 days to get slowly re-acclimatised. He asked to have a hair cut to which I said that I could not since it was a Tuesday. He seemed very happy to see me. I returned home after sometime and stayed home for the whole day. I did not visit him during the evening visiting hours, but my entire family had come down to see him and possibly even me. I stayed overnight at the hospital, without letting him know of it and saw him early in the morning. He had improved to an extent, one could not imagine. He even drank coffee all by himself, resisting my efforts to hold the cup. He also made me have some of it. He asked me to get the newspapers. I had some tea myself, gave him the paper and returned home. My mom, my grandmother and I redistributed the chocolates that I had brought into packets for disbursal later. My mother told that she would give one chocolate to dad. I told her not to do so and not to try to veer away from the diet that the hospital was giving him.

His improvement was so pronounced that a shift to the ward room was being contemplated. They said that they would do so the next day and for that they decided to move him around in a wheel chair that day. In the evening visiting hours ( He was in ICU. We were not allowed to be with him all the time ), he persisted with the security guy and got himself out into the corridor to meet everyone outside. He talked with everyone wholeheartedly. When my cousin Pachu came in, he hugged and played with his cheeks like he did with me. He talked so very well, was in perfect mindset even quoting newspaper articles from different papers. He asked my grandmother ( they never talk to each other directly, maintaining some old tradition of mother-in-law-son-in-law-mutual-silence-to-be-observed-when-in-person pact ) to return home as per scheduled plan now that he is perfectly fine and improving very well. Later I went into the ICU with him, where we talked about how to revive our home PC. He gave me a list of what to back up before installing Ubuntu. He admonished me for not getting anything for my sister’s husband and told me to give the shaving kit that I had bought for my dad, to him. Then the mixed vegetable soup arrived. He had half of it and made me drink the other half. He even defended the security guy against the authorities, who was being admonished for leaving my dad alone in the wheel chair. He was to have dialysis then so I left. I returned later at night, again without letting him know and stayed overnight outside the ICU. In the morning, he showed me his legs, which had till then been bandaged pretty tightly. He showed the parts that had improved and told that he was picking out the dried skin at some of the pieces. He asked me if Ashwat was coming, to which I replied, that he was most willing to do so but it wasn’t clear if he would. I said most of us at some level were vexed and some way or the other, needed a break back home. He replied saying that “you guys have so many facilities to communicate and still you guys feel so frustrated. think about those who were there a few years back”. He then said that inspite of the ticket to Hyderabad from Guntur being around Rs.15, he would think so much about it before actually making one such trip, during the times he lived alone. In the recent past, he was referring to those times frequently to me. He then asked me for the newspaper which I brought after having tea. He said that he would prefer staying in the ICU for another 2-3 days, since there was no A/C room available. Those were exactly my feelings as I felt there wasn’t any need to rush this whole shifting-to-room process.

I returned home to have the haircut he had asked me to have. I even took before & after photos. Unexpectedly, I had to make the inevitable conversation with my sister and her husband. Tempers flew. I said what I had to say. Then I took her to her school for some paperwork. Returning home, I had one of the best mor-kozhambu+katthirikkai curry combo. I always brag that my dad is a far more accomplished cook than my mom, but I am sure if dad had had this, even he would say otherwise. I couldn’t savour it for long since mom had called from the hospital saying dad’s BP had gone down. Nothing serious, but still she asked me to come down. When I reached, she was worried. They had said that his heart rate had come down. My mother and my sister were performing Reiki and trying to heal him. I sat beside them for sometime, but left that place since I was getting only negative thoughts. Some time later the doctor called me and my mother in and said that he had a cardiac arrest and was a bit critical. They said they would try using a ventillator and if necessary a pacemaker. The chances were bleak. My mom could not stay there anymore and left outside. I stayed there and saw him. They tried CPR, put the ventillator on, inserted an external pacemaker, thumped his chest and what not. His heart was contracting without any pumping power or rhythm. I saw this scene for about 30 minutes and all through this time there was a line playing in my mind.

Come out, come out , wherever you are.

The most difficult sight for any child is to see his father limp inspite of the doctors applying electrical shock. At about 3.40pm, his heart slowly gave way. I didn’t want to tell my mom. I asked the security guard to stay in, lest his face may give it away. I asked the doctor to inform my mom. I stayed in and waiting for the nurses to remove whatever they had to. I went in to see him.

The most difficult sight for any child is to see his father dead. I kissed him on the forehead, something I wish I had done before. I went out and told my mom myself. His brother and all his sisters were there. I decided I would not cry. I was now supposed to be the support for my mother. For most parts I put up almost a smile, for he was lying in there, with almost a smile. He looked peaceful, something that was rare since his health problems started a few years back.

Now the mode shifted. It is so difficult for someone mourning to do the funeral arrangements, but in some strange way, it helps I tell you. It somehow makes it less personal for that small amount of time. There was all the help one could ask for. We got him home. A sea of people came and went. I almost still maintained my smile. I tried to stay as much as possible near my mom, but when I could not control my tears I left the place. I did not want her to see me weep. Later at night, me and my mom were forced to eat something by friends and family. Later, we slept. Around 230am, I woke up and walked around. In the cellar, I found my brother sleeping on my chitappa as if he were a 3 year old who needed paternal presence to sleep.

I have never felt more jealous than that ever.

I couldnt control myself anymore. I cried like a kid on my mom saying I wanted my dad back. I took Yavvan to the terrace and talked for about an hour. I decided to get the smile back again and I failed miserably at that. I called and let as many of dad’s friends know as I could. People flooded in. The vaatthiyaar arrived in the afternoon. My chitappa was to perform all the rites on my behalf.

What with the atheist/agnostic/part following culture/whatever feelings that my dad and I shared as far as religion was concerned, it was strange to see my dad and myself with a naamam. I had very little to do with all the rites. For the first time, I properly put on a vaeshti( dhoti ). I saw rice burn in fire. I said to mom that we would give him a happy farewell from home and hopefully we did.
We reached Bansilalpet. From what I could gather, electric burial had been stopped and it would be a normal one. The rites resumed.

The most difficult sight for any child is to see his father’s face for the very last time. I kissed him one last time and then all was done.

We returned home to take bath and later have food. It was strange again, to be having food in the way I liked, but not in the manner I had planned. The scene was less teary, what with the kids being around. Time heals they say. Slowly should be appended to that. At some point of time in the evening, my mom said to me, that no amount of money can buy the family and the support we have.They helped a lot in every which way.

The next day, we had to pick up the ashes and so we planned to go to Beechpally ( Deechpally? ) to spray the ashes in the river. At the final moment, it was decided that we’d go to Nagarjuna Sagar. At Bansilalpet, a few more rites were performed. These were a bit interesting. The ashes were shaped in the form of a man, and then fed some half cooked stuff. This is supposedly for the unsettled spirits, who on eating these, are believed to think that the food at this place is not proper and that they would decide to leave the place in search of good food elsewhere. After that proper food like pori, boiled moong, milk and coconut water were given to the departed soul( coincidence being, all four are liked by my dad ). Then we picked the ashes and collected them in a pot.

The surviving male members of the Raghava Iyengar ( my paternal grandfather) clan started for Sagar. We had various discussions enroute, their range being way too infinite for this post. We reached Sagar and did the needful there. We spent some time in the water, which was a sea change from the otherwise scorching heat. After lunch, we reached home and I am writing this after everyone has left.

The following are some of the feelings that I have gone through over the past 3 days:

Was he just waiting to see me so that he could leave?

Couldn’t I have come earlier than when I did?

Couldn’t I have just let mom take the chocolate and give it to him?

He didn’t see my laptop nor did he see the gift I brought him, which I was desperate for him to see.

Why did I have to delay my haircut by a day? Had I done it on Wednesday, he would have seen me as he wanted to.

With Pandu, Akshay, Diraj, Ashwat and I being the friends that we were, I always wanted us to all go out for lunch with all our parents. Why didn’t I do it before?

Why did I not say what I had to say on their wedding anniversary?

Why did I have to stay away from him the past year?

Also there seems to have been some kind of premonition on my part. May be I was seeing signs. May be I am reading too much into things that happened. But these are some :

Around 20 days back, I had a dream in which I was attending a funeral. Initially it seemed that a close school friend of mine had died but it changed to the death of his father. I woke up from it and called him enquiring his welfare. All was fine at the other end. But I felt something was wrong. I had never seen his father.

The day before he died, he was in the best of his spirits. As such I have not seen him being so expressive ever in his life, and so happy in the last few years. My mom even said that he was as happy as he was in their initial days of marriage, way before all these health troubles. I spent a lot of time with him and was very satisfied with his progress. But Yavvan said that I looked very worried that evening.

Never before was I present, when a doctor had summoned my mother to say my dad was serious. He had ALWAYS come through when that was said.

I was randomly seeing Google Maps a few days back and for some odd reason, zoomed in on Nagarjuna Sagar Dam.

I was helping a friend design a spinal disc implant, to be placed between vertebrae for spinal support. I picked one of my dad’s vertebrae in the ashes.

I do understand that it is a great loss for my mother and my dad’s siblings. But being the selfish person that I am, I am very jealous of them. They have so much more memories than I do. And more so because, I had exactly planned to say this to him once he was moved to a room.

Appa, now that you are getting better and going to come out of the hospital in a few days, I want to tell this to you. What more do you want in life? I know you want your kids to be successful, but that aside, for yourself and mom, what is it that you want? I want for you to have a plan in this regard, something just for the two of you. You two have done more than your share in sacrificing your luxuries and in some cases necessities even, for our luxuries. You have never let us feel the need for having something, because you have already fulfilled it before we felt the need. I think you have done enough and now it is time for yourself. Dad, you have so many strong views on current affairs. I want you to present them in some kind of a blog. I feel that I do not know you enough. I want to know more about you, the times you were in Nanguneri, in Nuzvid, when you were alone working, with the union, with mom. Everything. I want you to write those in a blog and send me daily. This way we both can have something more to look forward to each day. If there is anything else as well you can add it to your list. Same with you mom. I hope you understand why I am saying this.

It hurts me so much more because, I wanted to know him more, I wanted him to know me more. Its gutting me to a stage that I cannot stand it and hence this post. I just wanted to get this out of me. I know it won’t die out any soon in me, but still I am hoping that this helps a lot.

Now for the other side of things :

He was extremely happy to see me. I know that he was. My mom said that he boasted to her about my Orkut profile, quoting testimonials and telling her what my friends felt about me. He wanted me to study more and do whatever I wanted to do and that he would leave no stone unturned to see to it that I get to do what I wanted. That is enough motivation for me for this lifetime.

Just like any other story, even this one has a moral. If you think you have to say or do something, do it. Else, you will repent forever for not having done it.

My Kovil Prasadam Experiment

Have you ever wanted to just feel the environs of a temple, while being at home? I mean, the smell of that old granite stone, with residue vibudhi and kungumam smeared all over it. Now here is an extremely strenuous and boring procedure that you can meticulously follow, so as to create the same feel in your kitchen.

1. Soak Black-eyed Peas overnight ( Not the singing dancing ones. Leave them alone. ) 

2. Boil them Black-eyed Peas. 

3. Heat some arbitrary amount of oil in a suitably sized pan and put some moong dal ( instead of urad dal), cumin seeds and asian mustard seeds into it.

4. Strain the water from the boiled peas  and put it into the pan. Stir randomly till you get bored.

5. Put some italian chunky pasta sauce into the pan. But before doing that, check for fungus in the bottle. If fungus is found, throw the bottle into trash and remind yourself to never buy that thing ever. Forget about this point. Stir a little.

6. Put sambar powder, haldi powder, salt, MTR chutney powder ( Idly/Dosa Kaara podi ) and asafoetida powder in proportions as deemed comfortable for your taste buds. Pour half a cup water which should help in stirring the whole thing.

7. Pour 6 cap-fulls of lemon juice concentrate. Mix the whole thing up very well.

At this point of the preparation, the smell that emanates from the pan will make you nostalgic and you will start reliving every single temple prasadam that you have ever devoured. I went to Himayat Nagar’s TTD temple. I like that temple. There was hardly anyone there every time I went. I went there regularly in my final year, bunking my GATE prep classes. Now tell me who would be willing to forgo curd rice at 6 am, after a refreshing early morning bath. Plus, the peace and serenity combined with forced divinity, was any day far more alluring to me, than a classroom fit to hold 50 skinny students, but overflowing with 300 oversized ones. Hopefully, I’ll go to that temple in a week and have their excellent curd rice once again. By the way, the temple-smell goes away in about 3-4 minutes and then settles down to something I could not smell. I have a very weak sense of smell you see. I can only smell really strong ones.

8. Take the pan off the stove.

Whatever you  have just made, is very much an edible preparation. As such, if you put some grated coconut, you can easily pass it off as kovil chundal. Name it whatever you want. Eat it with, bread, rice, roti, whatever. I had it with bread and it was filling.