It was one of those terribly busy week at work. I wanted to get away from the rut. Take a break and come back. I had submitted this concept paper and it went through well with the management. I was to submit the roadmap and it was to be rolled out in a month or so. The presentation went off successfully. I was very pleased with myself. Months of hard work had paid off. But suddenly I am gripped with this terrible bout of panic. I feel breathless just thinking of the magnanimity of the project. Thirty nine thousand people were to be trained in twelve months. Just the thought of it crunched my gut harder.
This stressful week was just having the best of me. As a life saver an old friend was in town and we planned a family evening out. We went for a movie and then had dinner at a cosy place. Just as we were leaving the place, this friend said, “ Remember we were here with your Dad”. Those seven words pierced through my heart and my heart sank. Yes, we were there with my mom and dad and we watched ‘Gunday’. A terribly loud movie though. My panic left my gut so fast that I could actually feel it leave. But then it was replaced with extreme sadness. The last time that I saw Dad was in Kolkata in April 14, I went to his room to touch his feet and say goodbye before catching my flight back to Mumbai. Mom and Dad were with me for the last four months. I wanted them to stay with me. But he insisted on going back just for setting his small but very dear house in place. He was to be back in a couple of months so he left most of his stuff back in my place. I went to his room and touched his feet. He put his hand on my head. He knew I was not happy with his going back. I didn’t say anything. But he heard what I had left unsaid. He in his strong and assertive voice said, ‘Don’t worry, I will be back very soon’. These were the last words that I saw him speak. He left for Tinsukia the same day.
I knew my father would not have lied to him. He would come back. But everytime I called him he would have some excuse for delaying. Two months became six months. One day Iput my foot down and booked the tickets for Dibrugarh and called him up to tell him to be mentally prepared as I was coming to bring them along. He handed over the phone to mom without answering and as I was told later he told mom to ask me not to pressurize him. My flight was booked for 18th of Dec and on the 2nd I get a call from my sister that he is gone. Gone with the wind for ever. His favourite movie. I felt a part of my heart leave my body. The remaining part was under the grip of a vice. It was crunching me it was wrenching me, it was shaking me. I could not breathe. I felt I would die too. My daughter came running from the kitchen and looking at hear I burst. It was as if a dam had built up in those, I don’t know how many seconds. But it felt like a lifetime. I don’t know how I flew home to see what remained of him before they took him for his last journey.
Today it is six months since he left. Rather ditched me and left. I am angry with him for lying to me. All his life he taught virtues. Why did he have to leave in this manner. The last sentence that I saw him utter had to be a lie. Perhaps the first and the last lie. I never remember him ever lying other than his repeated promises of giving up drinking which he always broke. People say that the dead come in your sleep to visit you. But I had read too much of Psychology to believe in such stories. My sister and my mother would always tell me that they would dream about dad. I knew it was in their subconscious mind which manifested in their dreams. I wouldn’t comment in fear of my sister asking me to shut up and get lost with my lecture on psychology. But somewhere in my heart I felt bad as to why I never had a dream. Why he never came to visit me in my dreams and talk to me.
All these thoughts cross my mind. But the mind is a very strong manipulator. The crowd and the chaos of Mumbai shifted my focus and my mind was soon diverted into maneuvering the crowd. I got home and a glance to the clock on the wall made me realize it was eleven. I went off to bed and tried to sleep. But sleep was away. I opened my laptop and started working on it. By this time my father’s thoughts had completely left my mind. It was twelve when I finally stopped working and oblivion to all went off to sleep. Soon I was fast asleep.
I started dreaming about the roadmap of implementing the project. I was talking to my boss about how to manage the whole show. How to delegate the implementation…..and all the nonsense that I was thinking about before going to bed. In that particular situation in the dream we were to catch a flight the next day, so I come home and go off to sleep. The alarm went off and I woke up. I went to my kitchen as usual to make my green tea. Suddenly I see a man standing there. A man with a very dark complexion bending over the counter. I see closely and he is dressing up a pan. I can also see the pan box that my father used. I am taken aback. Rather shocked as to how a man could have entered my kitchen. I snapped at him, “who the hell are you and how did you get in”. The man looks at me calmly. God…. He looks like baba, I mutter and step back. I can hear myself chocking and this time in a ruffled and hardly audible voice I repeat, “Who are you”. I can see it is Baba. But baba was never this dark. He was reasonably fair. Who is this man? How did he enter my house, looks comfortable here, looks like baba but he is dark…..very dark. What is wrong with him? As I mutter all these questions to myself, this man is is busy dressing the pan in that same calm demeanour. He puts the paan in his mouth and turns to me and says. I know your mother told you I am dead. I freeze. Oh my God, this is Baba. I cry out and run towards him and hug him tight. Tears rolling down my eyes, I cry out to him….Baba baba, why did you leave….why did you have to leave….you promised you would come back to Mumbai and live with me…..You said that you loved to be here. I wanted you baba. After you leaft I realized how much you have influenced my life. You had been a torture but you made me what I am today…….I go on and on… All the while he is stroking my head. Dad was never a physical person. He never hugged or stroked. But here he was hugging and stroking. Slowly my cries became my muttering. And soon I was only sobbing and telling him not to ever leave again.
He takes me back to the kitchen, opens the cupboard and points to the neatly stacked containers and says…. See I have put everything in order. You don’t have to worry about anything. It was my time and I had to go. Everybody has to go. I cry back, “Baba I don’t want anything in order, I would rather have everything messed up. I want you back”. He replies, “ I know how you feel. But I am gone now and I will have to leave, so you be strong, you are my first born and I made you a strong girl. I can’t be with you for ever”. By this time I realize that I am in a dream and I will wake up and he will be gone. I look towards him, “Can I hold your hand and sleep on your shoulder”. “Sure darling”, he says. I hold his hand. His hands are cold as ice. He sits on the ground, with his back rested on the wall. I rest my head on his shoulder still holding his hand. I am so much at peace with the feel of his touch. I soon fall asleep. There is a knock at the door and I wake up and find myself sleeping on the floor. I am out of my second dream and back to the first dream…..which now feels like real. I try to figure out what actually happened. I realize it was a dream.
I hear a beautiful music floating around. I feel good and light. The music is going on for too long, I suddenly realize. It has started irritating me. I shut my ears and shout, “stop it….stop it”. By this time I am wide awake. Actually awake! The music is the alarm in my phone. I sit on my bed. My pillow is wet and I realize that I had been crying in my sleep. I go to Chinky’s room to check on her. She is fast asleep. The kids these days….they will stay awake all night and sleep during day. Dad would have killed me had I done the same. I smile and go to the Almirah. I open it and see two rows of neatly stacked clothes which my mom had laid before leaving. I walk up to the kitchen. There is no one standing there bending over the counter dressing a paan. I make myself a cup of green tea with lemon and honey. While I sit on my favourite spot in the living room siping that refreshing cup of tea, I look at his garlanded picture looking at me in that same calm demeanour. I start wondering, why did I have this dream. Was it because I was thinking of him the previous evening. Perhaps it was. But for once I did not want to look for a scientific explanation. I wanted to believe in the mystic. I wanted to believe in that world of magic where the dead come to you and talk to you. Where you can actually feel their touch. I want to believe that he was here last night, talking to me, justifying his leaving.
I wonder…did he come to bid a final Goodbye. Well… my darling Baba, I will never let you bid a final Goodbye, nor will I bid you one. You will be with me…..always in my subconscious mind, so that whenever I think of you, you will be compelled to come and see me in my dreams. And one day when I am done here and am with you…..i am going to tell you on your face, …..” YOU ARE A LIAR”. I will have gathered the courage by then, I hope.