On the morning of 17th October 2019, I lost the first-ever subscriber to my posts, my greatest motivator and my most vocal critic.
I lost my father.
This was one year, one month, one day after I lost my grandmother.
Papa was seventy and had been struggling for the previous eighteen months. His passing away was peaceful, if not the closing ten days of life.
When he died, family and friends told me that the grief would subside with time, that time would dull the pain. It’s been less than a month, but the grief has not really subsided, so I am pinning my hopes for a longer time.
The pain of realizing that he isn’t there anymore – though in a way he still is – remains as strong. But I still find myself at some peace, knowing that Papa is at a better place now, and will continue to guide me whenever I seek him.
Confucius said that we have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.
Papa was born in 1949, but his second life probably began in 1971 when he met “Anand”.
Anand was Anand Sehgal, a character played by Rajesh Khanna in a movie called Anand, which was Papa’s favorite movie (he wrote down the note below after watching the movie).
Anand’s character was all about living with vivacity despite going through the experience of imminent death. The movie presented the philosophy that even in the wake of death, life could be lived vigorously, rather it should be lived that way.
The protagonist Anand Sehgal had cancer (maybe Papa was so impressed with Anand, that he also took on this very disease) and was supposed to be alive for a few months only, but believed that ‘life should be large, not long’.
He was neither sad nor scared about his impending death. He wanted to live as much as he could in his remaining days, to enjoy and share his happiness (anand) with everyone around.
Papa was exactly like Anand. Like him, he shared all his happiness with the world, while keeping all his grief within (maybe that caused the downfall in his health over the last few years).
He had his share of flaws, but he was a genuinely good man – good in a pure, innocent, unfailing way.
He wanted, more than anything, to do good in the world, to always do the right thing. That is one attribute I picked up from him, and I thank God I did that.
Another thing I learned from Papa was that the best life one could live was not one in which a person did big, great things that influenced the lives of millions, but one in which you made a difference in the part of the world you touched, no matter how small.
He said that a life in which you helped only one person because that was the only opportunity you had to help someone else was just as great a life as that of someone who changed the lives of millions.
Papa was a wonderful writer, and I believe he wanted to do more of it after college. However, being the eldest in the family, he was not given any option by my grandfather other than joining the family business which then took away all his time.
Now, as I look back to his life, I wonder if our dreams are really our own, or if we are all destined to fulfill the unrealized dreams of our parents.
As I remember Papa and celebrate his life, it strikes me that perhaps the best way to remember the life of someone who shaped and inspired you is to realize their dreams. Perhaps the best way to honour them is to carry the torch they dropped, to pick up the broken pieces of their hopes, to revisit their unfulfilled dreams and also their failures and turn them into successes.
Perhaps the best way I can celebrate Papa’s life is to try as hard as I can to walk in the world with the same compassion, humility, love, and joy that he carried with him so that the light of his life will not extinguish even after the passing of his mortal body.
“Your parents, they give you your life, but then they try to give you their life,” said Chuck Palahniuk, the noted American fiction novelist.
Papa, I realize now, gave me his life. I hope I stand up to it.
For now, I can do nothing but miss him.