This post will be one of the hardest to write, but write I must or else I will explode in pain.
A few men came in to our house to take baba’s body to the crematorium. Since he was still mildly covid positive, the Kolkata Municipality, which takes charge of such situations, took his body for last rites. I was on video as they prepared him and started taking him down. I heard one man say to the other, “So sad, he has nobody around.”
That hit me like a brick. He has so many people who love him. Not only his daughter but extended family, friends in social media. His friends constantly reached out to me, organized help, was ready to do anything for him. His nieces and nephews, which include my friends, were coordinating oxygen refills, organizing cash when needed. In his home, he was cared for by Gouri and Mashi who have cared for him for many years. Even at the hospital he called out for Gouri. Gouri was standing right by him when they took him. He has people. Nobody could be there with him at the end but he did not have much consciousness to acknowledge the absence according to his caregiver. He became drowsy and went away gently like ma.
Those words of the municipality workers hurt. They haunt me still when I think about it. This Covid has caused so much devastation. I think being alone at the time of one’s last breath and helpless daughter/s or son/s (many, many like me all over the world) looking on via video are some of the most heart-rending consequences of this disease.
Baba liked to get things done. He was an organizer. He liked to take care of banking, paying bills, buying the freshest fish, the best vegetable. Once he organized everything and made sure all under his care were comfortable, he looked around with a beaming, satisfied smile. He was a fixer of things. If something needed to get fixed, he would get it fixed. And he loved animals. He loved them with all his heart. He made sure the stray dogs in his neighborhood had food and vet care when they needed it. Going out with him was a challenge as he was the pied piper of Kolkata. His brood of four legged friends surrounded us trying to give hugs and kisses, while demanding biscuits of course. Baba would always go to the local pan shop, buy packets of biscuits, distribute them evenly before going on his way. The same protocol was followed when he came back home.
Baba died a few hours ago. He put up a valiant fight against Covid 19, but Covid won. After ma’s death 9 days ago, I dreaded breaking the news to baba. His own health was so fragile that I decided not to give him the news. I hoped he would recover from this disease and I will break the news gently when he could handle it.
Well I don’t have to any more. He went away to join her and continue the constant bickering that was left incomplete in this life. I heard that the day they were going to the hospital, ma was scared. He was sick himself, but he sat by her and stroked her arms saying not to be afraid, he will be there with her.
I wonder if she was afraid on her own, and he knew she needed him to be with her. I want to believe they are together, fighting, bickering but still comfortable in each other’s company.
And just like that, within a span of 9 days, I am an orphan who could not be there to hold their hands for the last time.