It has been 13 days since it all fell apart. 13 days since I remember taking a cold water shower in Delhi winter, water pricking my skin and sealing the emotions in a way. Making my heart and body harden for what I had to bear in the coming week. As I let the cold water sit on my skin and wore the crisp white mens kurta pajama to bid dad goodbye to finally let his body go, I realised that I was shaking and not just from the cold. The thought that I had to actually light fire to the pyre, that I have to actually burn my dad was un-nerving. I wanted to lock myself in the bathroom forever and never come out of it. To tell everyone that I cannot do this, that my dad is here and he is not gone but then I recalled how I had told my mum “No one is touching my dad, I am the one who will bid him goodbye”.
I braced myself and stepped out and did everything I was told in an autopilot mode. I frankly don’t think I remember anything. I don’t remember how I reached the cremation ground or what happened there, the only clear memory I have is of having a stick with fire in my hand and the priest telling me “aag lago”. In that moment, all I wanted to do was sit and throw that wood away and hug dad, to bring him back home. In that moment, I realised how lonely one is, in grief. I had 200 people around me, atleast 50 of them who cared about me immensely and would have done anything to comfort me. But I stood alone not knowing what to do and how to deal with the intense grief, with sadness which felt like physical pain. I stood alone in a moment that belonged to me, dad & grief connected by that fire. A moment where no one standing in the crematorium mattered, all that mattered is that it was my dad burning in that fire. That I would never see him again, he would never hug me again. I would never fight with him again.
My dad was a self made man who was very proud of his daughters, sometimes a little too proud may be but I think we can discount that to a father’s love. For me feelings towards him varied from “OMG how can this man be my father” to “OMG, I am so much like him that it is scary”. We shared a very funny and warm relationship, we would fight like crazy and then defend each other fiercely to others. My mum used to tease us that we behave less like father & daughter and more like sister and brother. There were moments that I found difficult to stand him and there were moments that all I wanted was him around. Infact I never realised how much he mattered to me till he went away. Listen to me folks, go hug your parents right now and give them an extra hug from me because I am yearning to hug mine and I can’t. What if he never hugged back and was shy and would shrug when given a hug. I hugged him one last time when I went to pick his ashes next day.
I have always said that Hindi rituals are not respecting of the deceased, that we never treat the person gone as we should but that morning was in a way my closure. My final goodbye to his physical being. I recall picking bones (what we call “phool” with respect) from the simmering ashes wondering what each piece was. As I touched and figured that the piece I picked up was a bone or wood, I found immense peace. It felt that I am finally letting him go. That I know he will be happy and peaceful where ever he is and that I will have him around me always. The exercise of picking bones felt so personal and calming that I really didn’t want to stop even when people around us kept say stop, there isn’t any need to pick up the tiny ones. I wanted to pick every small bit, every small bit that belonged to him. Every small bit that was ours and then let it go, let him go.
Dad, as I drink the glass of milk you always fed us. As I wear your ring in my finger I want to say I miss you. More than I imagined, more than you will ever know. Be happy dad, be in peace something that you kept searching for in the last few years of your life. And try not to make God’s life too tough with your tantrums and whims, he isn’t as patient as mum
PS: I have been wanting to write this since the day he passed away. Every night on my phone, I open notes scribble something, delete, scribble and rinse repeat, I don’t know how much of what I wrote today makes sense, I know there is much more to write but I had to start somewhere and here it is