“Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday, Happy birthday to you!” That’s how Baba used to wish me at the stroke of the midnight hour on my birthday. I so wish to have recorded that moment, only if I knew I would never get to hear that again! I always believed that life is unpredictable, but Baba’s sudden demise surely made me see life with a new perspective! It’s almost a year now since Baba left us. I can still feel a void inside me, an emptiness which I do not want to share with anyone. That’s something I own, something which I want to carry along, maybe for my entire life.
Baba was never good with expressions, something I must have inherited from him. He never hugged me and said, “Love you Shona”. I always used to feel that difference when I saw fathers lovingly hugging their daughters around, expressing their love in various possible ways. It took me years to realize that it’s difficult to define love and its varied expressions; I now feel love watches over, love takes no time off, love is a sentinel, forever watching those in its care. I still remember the day, back in 2007, when Baba got admitted for the first time. We were supposed to go out shopping, and Baba promised to gift me a new smartphone; a new craze I had induced from my hostel! I had just enrolled for my post-graduation in Jaipur and was in Kolkata on a break. He got diagnosed with COPD, a chronic lung disease along with Tachycardia, a heart ailment. When I went to see him, he was resting on the ICU bed. I could sense that he was in pain, so I thought of not disturbing him and quietly sat beside him. The moment he opened his eyes and saw me, he said: “Go and buy your phone, why are you here!” With teary eyes, I rushed out to Ma “How can he say that? He is so sick !” Ma hugged me and said, “Don’t worry, he will be fine.” Many admissions followed in the coming years, but he always used to be back home hale and hearty. The same thing I expected this time too! So when Ma told me last June that Baba has been admitted for a general checkup, “Don’t worry he will be fine” is what I told myself.
“Benuda has been diagnosed with a rare bone cancer, there is nothing much we can do” Mamaji said. I walked out of the consultant room and stood still. It was the first time I realized what it was to feel insanely helpless! I rushed to his bedside, tears gushing out of my eyes I stood still staring at his restless unconscious body. Every time I called him, he looked at me like a stranger. I was infuriated; the fact that I could not do much for him, could not relate his weakness and back pain with something as grave as cancer, could not give him the luxuries that he deserved, could not express my gratitude for all that he did for me. No amount of regret could give me back the moments lost, and I stood there silently hoping that he knew how much he meant to me! At that very moment all I could pray for was to speak with him for one last time; to ask his forgiveness for all my mistakes, to hug him and thank him for whatever he did for me, and to tell him a million times that I love him!
Exactly a month post his diagnosis I lost dad to cancer. It was a painful battle with no positive consequence. The memories still haunt me at night and keep me awake; that feeling that I will never get to see him again, hear him again, and feel him around me is suffocating. I still wait for his call and long to hear his voice; 'Babu' he used to call me fondly. But I know that’s never going to happen, and I am slowly learning to live with it, be at peace with it.
Seeing Baba's struggle, I have learned a valuable lesson; life truly is unpredictable, but it’s beautiful in its own ways. I feel truly blessed being alive, yes alive! I now feel that’s the biggest blessing that I could have ever asked for. Can't thank God enough for keeping me healthy, giving me the opportunity to enjoy the small moments that matter; thankful for letting me see, smell, touch, walk, eat, laugh, cry, love, hug, sleep, dance; the list includes all such very basic moments which we tend to ignore in our daily life. That’s what matters, don’t you think? Can we enjoy any of our luxuries if we are not well, can we enjoy the simple pleasures of life if we are not healthy, and will the daily worries that disturbs us matter if we are chronically unwell? No! Right?
I am trying to learn the art to simplify life; focusing on the small moments, and ignoring the agonies that will not matter five years down the line. It’s not easy and needs a lot of retrospection and practice, but it’s really worth a try.