Why are those who are so very important to their families asked to wind up and return to their heavenly abode leaving much of their work either undone or only half done? How does one explain why a ninety six year old man, whose sons and sons-in-law have retired, manages to survive 3 heart attacks and continues to live partly bed ridden much to the dismay of his family members who feel tied down on account of him?
Some forty-two years back my dad was given 6 to 8 months to live after cancer struck him without a warning. My younger brothers were just 3 and five years of age and it was unfair that they should be deprived of their father’s affection so early in life. In my naivety I prayed hard that I would willingly suffer and die on his behalf if only God granted him a lease of life. I was about fourteen years old and we were doing Moghul History. The story of emperor Babur who prayed for his son Humayun’s recovery and how he fell ill and died while Humayun recovered, seemed so impressive!. I studied in a Christian Missinary school and had a kind of bargaining session with God. I offered to convert to Christianity if only he allowed me to die in my father’s place. I made a quick mental calculation that since I would die in any case, it would hardly matter whether I converted or remained a Hindu. I only hoped that my mother would understand my reasons for doing so. But nothing happened. My father died in about 8 months and my maternal grandfather who was a practicing lawyer took over and life went on. Today I realize that life is not that simple and we all have a role to fulfill. Conversion too involves one’s head and heart and is not a business deal.
Since then I seem to make a special note of more such cases. M…. the Accounts Assistant in our college was not only an expert in her work but a caring mother too. I met on a Diwali day and she told me that she had sent her daughter to her mother’s place for the day. There was nothing unusual about a child spending a day at her grand mom’s place. What was unusual was the fact that the girl had been left there on her own for the first time. Little did M... know that the girl was to be totally left in the care of her grandmothers very soon? The day after I met her, M… fell sick, medical tests, hospitalization and emergency surgery followed and finally in less than 3 months she left us forever. The same was the fate of V…. who was in the Examination Department. Both of them were troubled with occasional gastric problems and would joke about starting a new Graduate School in heaven. Both of them left behind girls in their pre teens that were looked after by their relatives while the surviving parent was busy with office work.
And there was Dr. M.... who was an asset to our college. She was a born fighter. Her husband’s business wasn’t doing well and her children needed help in their studies. She did not want to unnecessarily spend for tuitions. She therefore would first come to us with doubts in Science subjects. (She was in the English Department) She would understand the concepts herself and then teach her children. She got a grant from UGC to carryout postdoctoral research in tribal languages and was doing a great job of it. She suddenly lost her voice and we thought it was a throat infection. We were amused at the way she’d write out whatever she wanted to say and even joked that it would be better if we all spoke less and worked more. She recovered her voice but the diagnosis was not good. Hers was a rare condition of an atypical cancer growth in the lungs where the line of treatment was more speculative than direct. I, for one, felt that it was unfair that a person of her caliber should be allowed to pass on. Time and tide wait for none. On the very day that tsunami struck Mimi joined the victims of tsunami in their final journey while her family dealt with a tsunami of its own.
Such examples leave me frustrated. I have a paternal aunt who is ninety-four years old. She has lost three of her four sons and last year she lost her only surviving brother too. She found her own way to deal with her grief. She has chosen to live on her own and says that keeping herself busy is important to her. I know better. She wants to be left alone to grieve in private.
Strange are the ways of God. When he takes away a parent he takes it on Himself to ensure the family’s well being. He does send someone to care for the children and often such children show a maturity and responsibility not found among their more fortunate counterparts. Very often, such people who are called back are assets to society and their family and the question oft asked is “What next?” However important the person may have been, life goes on with or without him/her. Is there perhaps some element of truth in the sentence I often hear when people refer to my father- that his blessings have accomplished that which he could not have done himself?
M… would have been proud of her daughter who has accomplished a lot as a golf player and has won a scholarship and has left for the USA where she pursues her studies. The same is true of M… the accounts assistant’s daughter. By some co-incidence I happened to read a poem relevant to this post. The jist of the poem was that the leaf that falls first laments the fact and asks why it should be the first to fall when all other leaves were merrily swaying and having fun. The leaf that was still stuck to the branch, while all its “branch brothers” had fallen, asks why it should be the last to go? Neither state is desirable but there is little one can do about it.