He was only 57 when he left this world without giving us any signals, any ultimatums. Just an hour before his demise, he was combing his hair for too long and my maa mocked him for his partial baldness. He smiled, looked into the mirror and said, “Don’t you think I’m the most handsome Nana (Grand father of my daughter) anyone could have ever seen?”
I don’t know whether my father was the most handsome man on this earth or not, but for me, he definitely was! When I was a kid, all my friends used to compare him with Devanand & Raj Kapoor from black-and-white movies era. Apart from his suave looks, he was the most sophisticated person I’ve ever seen, when it comes to mannerisms, language, diction, etiquette and above all, values. The way he used to maintain the crispness and cleanliness of his white uniform and the spotless sheen and polish of his shoes, fascinated me as a kid. I always wished to become an advocate like him. He used to sing songs of K.L. Sehgal, Manna Dey and Talat Mehmood in his husky yet sweet and absolutely melodious voice. He inculcated a deep sense and inclination for music in me.
He was way beyond that common perception of a ‘crude Bihari male’, but possessed those unique characteristics of an uber-classy urban man with a rustic innocent heart. He instilled his deep rooted values in us which emphasized honesty and humanity the most. I grew up seeing him helping the needy by providing them ‘Legal Aid’ apart from being a Public Prosecutor. But as they say, ‘God calls his angels home first’, he too was called by Him so early! Though, he was not in the pink of health ever, as hypertension, the silent killer invaded into his life’s stream, yet his zeal for life never let him stop till the day he left us.
It was a cruel winter morning of 20th December 1998 when my mother taunted him for his getting bald so rapidly. He reminded her of the gold bangles he promised her long back and said that he would bring them on that very evening while returning home back from court. But he came home only after a couple of hours, all empty handed. His smile was frozen on his face.
All his kids were away from him, me, at my husband’s home and my siblings for their studies. Maa was all alone at home, only 46 years old, grief stricken and helpless. I was taken to my hometown without any intimation of that dolorous incident. I thought, I am going to surprise Maa Papa. But the shock frosted my tears! I didn’t cry for him. The girl who was always called a cry-baby, couldn’t shed a single drop of tear, rather sat beside her deceased father’s chilled body with utmost calm. The fire he ignited inside me had been extinguished.
I sat beside him keeping my hand on his chilled forehead. He was wearing his crisp white lawyer’s uniform. His black coat was removed and kept aside. My hand, too, started numbing slowly and a shivering cold annexed my conscience. I felt a block of dry ice inside my heart. The ice, that never melted after him as I never cried for him. It’s been 18 years since I’ve lost my father. I’ve seen him crying only once in his life, that was on my wedding day. It was 18th June, 1986 when I got married and I was 18 years old then. Today, on this father’s day, which is coincidentally my wedding anniversary too, I am remembering my father’s crying face. The iceberg installed within me is melting slowly because of the fire he ignited inside me. The fire, which was hidden beneath the ashes of time… the long 18 years since he’s gone!
The ice is melting… I am crying Papa… Missing you…
Happy Father’s Day to you!