He had quit drinking water a long time ago, but the will power for living would not let him leave all the material life behind. The feeling of wanting to be in between every single thing important was very strong. Even at the absolutely ripe age of 95 yrs., the grip of his hand was stronger than an adolescent, and a growing boy. His only rule for living was complete simplicity; simplicity in living, talking and towards life. His memory would take him right to his childhood and his British teachers in school, calling Shivaji a mountain rat. His excellent hold on English Language was a stunner to all the parents and grandparents of my friends, “He is not only well Educated, but his English is something we all can learn from”. He would see through his thick glasses and try to explain all types of relations that exist, “bapsugalo mavasbhavagalo putanyo.” (Father’s Maternal Cousin’s and I still don’t seem to know what exactly a Putanyo is). And would just nod a yes to convince him that I had understood what he was trying to explain. “Ofcourse, now it doesn’t matter, you can just think of him as your far off relative”, was what he would end up saying after looking at my confused face.
“I have to see xyz’s wedding,” “How can I miss seeing my Great grandchildren?” he would proudly say. “Ek Anagha gale wardik palaunka, bas. Ajjya punyane itla vanchala haanv.” (I have to see Anagha’s Wedding, I have lived so far thanks to my forefather’s virtues.)
We would always tease him, “you would not want to eat any ice-cream, now that you have just had dinner?” “Why not? I would never say no for any sweets!” He could practically live on sweets, and that’s what happened, coffee and toast was the only staple diet for almost 3-4 months towards the end. Dehydration would not affect him much, a quarter full glass would be enough now for the entire day, taken just with a few capsules. Some milk porridge or chocolates or poornapoli, or anything sweet would satisfy his need for food and his taste buds. A little child grew inside him day-by-day. But just a day before, he could not even swallow that. His daughter, and my aunt, Sudhatai would try to feed him, but “I can’t see you!” was his reply. Imagine the feeling of a daughter who was invisible to the eyes that helped her grow up this far! But then he didn’t even have the strength to talk a word. The final expression from him was just his hand raised trying to either signifying as simple as, “Call Lalita and Anagha,” or maybe it was, “I am leaving for the high above now.” Well we are just left to guess.
He was bedridden for almost 2 and half months now and sleeping on one side of his bed trying to look at the outside world eventually wore him out. The natural decay had caught hold of him a bit, but my mother, would not give up. Clean him with sponge baths, wash everything when bed got wet and other things was what she would do all day long. Frustration was the conventional killer of any human’s will to do anything more, but appreciating what she has done for him, would be shameful on our part. Nothing less than a mother to him, “You rightfully proved my mother’s name bestowed upon you. You have really taken care of me like my mother would have!” Now he is closer to the hand that rocked him to sleep in his childhood.
They still fought like little kids and not only that but like the legendary ‘Tom and Jerry’ we would say sometime. If one of them is quiet the other one would provoke, figuratively, nonetheless equally irritating to each of the two. I used to be the referee quite a few times but then eventually I let them be. And now one of the pugilists is left alone.
Being the youngest grand-daughter, I was the ladli of my grandparents. Right from picking me from my school bus to dropping me there for the next day would be his programme. “After looking at Lalita (my mother) I feel 50% confidence and you fill in the other 50% of confidence in my life,” where his words about 3 years back when he was admitted in the hospital due to dehydration. He was back in shape, fit and fine after two days and some litres of saline. This time we thought would be the same. After the Doctor saw him at night before he said if he doesn’t eat anything tomorrow then we would have to give him some I.V. saline solution. He was temporarily at my aunt’s home in Dadar, Mumbai due to the painting and other construction work going on in our newly bought house at that time which we had just shifted into. “I want to see our Andheri house, When do we shift there?” I am sorry we could not get you here. And I am sorry you breathed your last whilst away from home. I am sorry we could not meet you before and I am sorry for my Dad I could not hold you back till he came home.
Time was important like he was always about to miss a very important train scheduled to leave every day. He would match his wrist watch with the wall clock almost every hour. We fixed his old wall clock from his previous abode, ‘Hira’ house, Khar, Mumbai in ‘his bedroom’. His time has stopped but his watches still continue to tick away.
Time stops for neither man nor child, the sun won’t stop shining its rays over the clouds, showing us array of colours throughout the day and until twilight. The shadow of the ‘diya’ dances in the directions of the burning flame. His hands were cold when we touched him, no pulse found, but he seemed like he was sleeping peacefully. That he was, but in a way never to wake up again. His body had stiffened, his sideways posture in such a manner that he looked on his left throughout the time of the rites. I sat on his left all the time so he could see me through his half-opened eyes, but they had lost the sight. He was gone hours before we could know. All that remained was a ‘body’, for the ‘annoo’ we knew was no longer with us. Unable to believe I sat next to ‘him’ for an hour shocked and unable to understand what had happened, hoping every moment that he would move, but he won’t. The moving wind would move his shirt as if he was breathing and his stomach was heaving, but he won’t. Half of his lip was forced toward his left side and I tried to move it back into position, but that was the minute I felt his dead and hard skin against my finger. I would never forget that touch. The folds of his wrinkled hands felt soft but now I knew he would never move again. Although I would want to write a lot more about him, the flowing tears of his memory won’t let me even at almost 3 years from that day.
And he lies there with half-open eyes cotton closing all the orifices necessary for life, the nostrils mouth n ears… It is unnerving how you try to stop yourselves from half thinking this unmoving body was breathing and you saw the chest heaving. When you know that’s impossible, that’s completely unnatural. The cotton avoids the body from being stiff by the air entering the already frail body but the stiffness of the mind doesn’t change nor would it now that the mind of the dead is not alive enough to feel it… Just that we are half expecting the ‘him’ that was some hours ago to move or ask for something, to show a sign of life — exactly the element the he lacks now… But we should not be sad as this is an end to the continuous ‘torture’ should we say that he has had to endure… Hoping that he finds the ‘light’ and is freed from this vicious cycle of life and death, or is led to a happier phase of reaching to a new life, innocent, reborn to face a family and eventually a new beginning…
All the rituals done, we were about to leave with his ashes, the only remainder of my grandfather. That is when I saw a board in the crematorium,
“Charges for an adult- Rs. 250 and for below 12 years -Rs. 175.”
Only one thing runs on your mind at this stage,
“Death is so cheap isn’t it?”
Annoo a.k.a. Mr. Bhalchandra Laxman Bailur (22Feb1914-19Sep2008) – RIP