His flowers


These were baba’s joy. Every winter he sent me photos of all his flowers with much pride. I had forgotten all about his flowers. Gouri sent these to me today. The man has ceased to exist but his love continues to spread through these blooms. There is an analogy to life and continuity somewhere but I am just content to look at them and think about the happiness they gave him each year.

Cadbury Fruit and Nut chocolate bar.


Last night I discovered that I threw away baba’s last gift to me. Everytime I left Kolkata, baba bought me a bar of Cadbury Fruit and Nut chocolate bar. In 2019, when Ryan and I left Kolkata with the hope of returning in May of 2020 to celebrate my 50th birthday with them, baba bought 2 chocolate bars for each of us.

After a laborious process of checking in, clearing immigration, getting my act together at Kolkata airport, we sat down near our gate and pulled out our chocolates. I opened mine first, unwrapped it and saw that the chocolate was covered in a white, powdery film. It was bought from a local, small grocery store in front of our apartment and I thought they must have kept this lot of bars beyond their expiry date. “Oh, my chocolate bar is bad. Ryan throw yours out. I am throwing mine out.” I threw the chocolate in the nearest trashcan. And as the chocolate swooshed inside the trashcan, Ryan exclaimed, “Mom!! NO!” He looked at me,incredulous that I would throw out a whole chocolate bar, “Why did you throw that out? Look it says it is normal to have the white film on the chocolate. It says it right on the cover.” And so it did.

Seeing the regret on my face at my hasty action, Ryan shared part of his chocolate bar with me before we boarded the flight for US. And he teased me mercilessly.

Yesterday, the four of us went to dinner when this topic came up. I said if you think about it, I threw away dadai’s last gift to me. Ryan said, “But I shared with you my gift from him.” And Sahana said, “Right there is a circle of love.”

Memories, anecdotes, stories circle in my head constantly. What the two kids says last night stayed with me as I tried falling asleep.

He has no one..


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


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.