Today is papa’s birthday. Three years ago, I gifted him shirt piece and pant piece (I think you call them shirt piece and pant piece) from Raymond store. He always considered “Raymond” to be the ultimate brand in clothing. Eight days later he passed away because of a heart attack. He would never stitch those clothes. Its been three years since he passed away. Death had been sudden and hopefully painless. 15 minutes is what it all took. Till his death, he enjoyed everyday. He worked till the last day although he had retired from the service 5 years before his death.I was doing a night shift in office when Chetan called me. It was difficult to imagine papa being admitted to hospital when he had no sign of any diseases. He had suffered a mild stroke two years back but then he looked healthy and he always took his medicines.
As I prepared to hand over my responsibilities to my colleague and start from the home, the second call from home confirmed that he was gone. The next 30 minutes in the rickshaw were the most painful moments in my life.
I just wished that the news was not true.Strangely, I had not seen him for 2 days before his death. My night shift started on Sunday. Sunday morning I got up late. By the time he came for lunch from the shop, I had my lunch and was to sleep again. I got up when he had gone to the shop again in the evening. By the time, he came back I was off to office.
The next day, same thing happened until the news came. I finally saw him sleeping – forever. My father was a short man with a roaring voice. My brother and I use to tremble when he use to shout at us for not doing our homework, studies, keeping things in order and everything. Most of the time, the reason was always something we did wrong and more than 90% it was to do with studies. I use to hate him when he would shout at us. He was so much terror in our house that once someone asked my brother who he is afraid of the most. His answer – ghost and papa. He had his reasons though. We never realized that until we grew up.
Papa came from a very poor family. His father died when he was hardly 10-12 years old. He had seen life of extreme poverty. Had to live education quite early and had to start working. He worked hard but maybe lost on many opportunities because of education. He understood the true worth of education. He didn’t want us to suffer the same fate. He came to Mumbai, learned painting cars and houses under a parsi garage owner. The owner was strict and papa learnt the hard way. Most of his life after that was spent taking care of his home, his elder brother and sister. He married quite late – at age 39. There was a 10-12 years age difference between my mother and father. I guess mom agreed to marry him because she saw something which took my brother and me years to find out, she saw a good man. In spite of doing so much for his brothers and sister, he was thrown out with my mom from the same house he help built. That hurt him a lot but he never spoke about it much. Mom had always spoken against my uncles but papa had always kept quite.
He took criticism and hurt with a smile. Starting from a small room in Mumbai, he worked hard to get his own home with a lot of support from my mother. He gave us good education; put us in the best convent school with fees that had him and mom constantly juggling the monthly budget. We were not poor but we were not rich either. We did not live a hand-to-mouth existence but luxury was in fact just that, a luxury. Education and future was the sole objective of my parents. He was not a man of many words and most of my values came from my mother. However he practiced what he believed in. Living by example is maybe what he believed in. He worked all his life and even when he retired at the age of 60, he couldn’t sit still.
He started our old grocery shop. We did not have enough finance to fill up the shop at one go. But with his determination, slowly and steadily, he stocked goods. Five years later, after his death, we always wondered how we are going to adjust everything in the shop. It was a difficult moment when I opened the shop after many days to clear everything out. I remembered him sitting there, even though there were hardly any customer. He would make his small calculations in his small book, check out the stocks, talk with his fellow shopkeepers, joke with them. Although he was very strict, he was a very loving man.
It was a pleasure watching him handle small children. He would forget everything around him when he was with small children, talking sweet nothing with them. We never talked over emotional matters but he had his own ways to show his love. He use to come and adjust my covers when I use to sleep. He would move his hands through my hairs assuming I was asleep. When I was small, I always use to sleep clinging to him while my brother use to sleep clinging to my mother. My father was my security cover.Happy Birthday Papa.