This Sunday was Father’s Day. June 20th, 2010.
This Sunday also marked five months of my Baba’s passing. Exactly five months. To the day.
At first, I thought it was a cruel, cosmic joke. Maybe the heavens really enjoyed seeing me weep till my heart was dry, wait for it to replenish and then weep again and again and again till my eyes were swollen shut.
Friends sent me warmth, kindness, words of love and wisdom. It helped...greatly.
When the rage of tears finally abated and I sat wearily by myself, curled into a ball in the bean-bag, looking at the green trees framed against a cloudy, grey sky, I let myself feel again.
From the time he went to the hospital and continuing, Baba has woven some kind of magic with and around certain calendar dates. There are messages intricately linked with those dates. I keep telling myself that it is his gift to me, to us, but mostly me, to tell me that he’s fine, he’s ok and he’s still here with me.
I have always believed that when it is a person’s time to go, he will go. The date and time have already been pre-ordained and there’s nothing that we can physically do about it. We may rant and rave and scream till our hearts, lungs and vocal chords burst at the unfairness and injustice of it all, but that can never change anything. No matter how untimely the passing may seem, it was time.
And it was my father’s time. I know that, I believe that, I just can’t accept that. Logically knowing and understandingly accepting are two different things altogether.
And I also believe that when a person dies, they go to an infinitely better place; the best place. I don’t believe too much in rebirth, but I do believe in heaven. Actually, let me rephrase that. I don’t believe that the rebirth is instantaneous. I believe s/he goes to heaven for a year, to be able to look after his/her family and also to be able to indulge in all his/her favourite past-times till it’s time for the soul to enter a new body. And that’s where my father is right now. In heaven...healed, healthy and whole; drinking his favourite tea, listening to endless sessions of classical music and finally learning the truth about his idol, the man my father literally worshipped while he was alive, Netaji Subash Chandra Bose.
It’s we who are left behind who are consumed with guilt, grief and endless questions that will never be answered.
Did my father have any regrets? Did he know at any point in time that he was not going to make it? Did he ever feel pain? Was there ever a point when he just couldn’t stand it anymore?
And of course the all important, burning one – did he know, did he have even the slightest idea just how much I loved him? With all my heart?
I have the answer to that one and it’s all linked to the dates on the calendar.
December 31st, 2009. The day I came home from the hospital to find my contributor’s copy of “Chicken Soup for the Indian Armed Forces Soul” waiting for me. Also, the date of my father’s operation. There was a point when his heart started fluctuating on the table, but he didn’t die. I now think it’s because he didn’t want me to associate New Year’s Eve with his passing. He knew me well, my father. He knew that if he left on this day, I would never celebrate another New Year’s Eve with family and friends again. And that’s why he held on till...
January 20th, 2010. Saraswati Puja. If there were two things my father held above all else, it was education and music. He himself had three degrees but he was never fully satisfied with them. He was in awe of anyone who studied ‘difficult’ subjects and who did PhD’s. And music! Oh music was his all-consuming obsession. It actually seemed appropriate for him to pass away on Her day.
It’s funny; no matter how faithful we are to God in our day to day life; no matter what our religious convictions and beliefs; even non-beliefs, for that matter; we all become our most religious selves when we see our loved ones suffering. Those last few days, when my father developed one complication after another and when we could see him shrinking before our very eyes, I think I called out to every God and Goddess in our pantheon. I made innumerable mannats and promises to All of Them...except Maa Saraswati. I don’t know why I didn’t call out to Her. And even though She called one of Her most dedicated devotees to Her side on Her special day, a day dedicated to Her in worship, prayer and song; I bear Her no grudge. I am not angry with Her. It’s as if She didn’t let me down; instead it was Her way of telling me, “I’ll look after him from now on.” As for the Others, I am still not on ‘speaking’ or rather praying terms with Them. Yet.
January 23rd, 2010. Netaji Subash Chandra’s birth anniversary. Also the fourth day after my father’s passing or the ‘chautha’, the day when a married daughter conducts a puja for her parent’s departed soul. Yes, on the day of his idol’s birth anniversary, I gave jol (paani/water) to my father’s soul.
January 30th, 2010. Maghi Purnimaa. A day so auspicious in the Hindu calendar that many homes and temples all over the country were having Satya Narayan pujas and havans. There was a havan in my parent’s home too, that morning. The one where my ‘baby’ brother gave jol to our father’s soul. After all, it was the 11th day after my father passed away; the day Bengali Brahmin families conduct pujas for their dear departed.
The significance of these dates have not escaped us. Everyone around us also told us what a good and pure soul my father had, for its journey to take place on such holy and highly significant dates.
But I still didn’t need my father to pass away to know what a good soul he was.
And it hasn’t stopped there.
Since my father passed away, he’s been sending me all sorts of signs that he’s still with me. I think he knows how much I loved him; warts, faults and all, and he’s trying to tell me he loves me back. And his blessings, somehow or the other, always seem to find me on the 20th of the month.
“Chicken Soup for the Indian Romantic Soul” had already hit the bookstores, weeks in advance. I hadn’t received my contributor copies, until...that’s right, February 20th, 2010.
In the meanwhile, I got a lovely offer...a dream come true; to compile and edit two of “Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul’s” forthcoming titles. A few phone-calls, many e-mails and some contract signing later, I got my cheques on...April 20th, 2010.
Which brings me back to Father’s Day, 2010. It fell on June 20th. Exactly five months after my beloved, beloved Baba passed away. And now I know it wasn’t the fates mocking me. It was my father hugging me and calling my name to tell me that he’s still here; he’s still around, looking out for me and after me.
And I know he will. For the next few months at least. I know he will be hovering over us making sure we are ok and fine and whole again. Until it’s time for him to live once more.
In fact, I even know the date my father’s spirit will leave his final kiss on my forehead before he parts for good, leaving his memories and blessings behind.
It will be next year. Not on January 20th, 2011. I know my father well enough now, to believe that it will have to be a special, significant date.
It will be during next year’s Saraswati Puja; a day of worship and blessings. A day that will be forever and inexorably linked with my father from now on.
And according to the lunar calendar, next year's Saraswati Puja falls on February 8th, 2011.
Also my 10th wedding anniversary.