It was a call from my elder brother, a doctor himself, that alerted me to the possibility. It was a second call 10 minutes later that jolted me into action. I rushed to the hospital. And found my father on the ICU bed. He was no more.
On 31st of March 2002, I was on a routine visit to the Indore centre of Professional Tutorials. It was a Sunday, but an audit was overdue, and I was conducting it alongwith the entire team at the centre. Around 12:45pm, my mobile phone rang. Deep into the audit, it took me some rings before I took the call. "Come to the hospital, Dad is not well", said my brother from the other side. "Sure, I will", I said and continued with the audit, hoping to finish it in another 30 minutes. In just 10 minutes, the phone rang again and my brother, slightly more impatient this time round, said "Come NOW."
These were precisely the words I used while designing the obituary advt in next day's newspapers. I hope it gave him happiness that I remembered.
I also remembered that just 2 days ago, there was an advertisement of PT in local papers, and my father had called me up to congratulate me. That was his habit. Every time a news article or advt of PT would appear in media, he would make it a point to call on my mobile and talk to me. He liked to do that. In fact, those were the last words we had exchanged - "Sandeep, I liked today's advertisement. Nicely done. How are you doing, beta?" And I had sensed that he was unwell. His voice was low, and not upbeat. I had asked him about it, and he had brushed it aside saying it'll go. (In fact, when his obit advt was printed, I suspected he may call me from heaven congratulating me for a good design).
The fact that my father came from a very small village always amazed me. I say this because he would speak (and write and understand) English extremely fluently and effortlessly. So much for those who crib about their rural backgrounds!
It was only after my father passed away, that the full impact of the depth of our relationship dawned upon me. Till that day, I had taken the relationship for granted. Here was this hugely successful ENT surgeon, a thorough gentleman, extremely fluent at three languages (so much so that he could easily be confused for being an Englishman, a Malwa native or a Marathi) - my father, who would always be available for advice. So it was a given. But when he suddenly was no more, a strong sense of vacuum hit me.
I distinctly remember a senior uncle telling me just before the funeral pyre was lit "Beta, chehre par ghee zor se lagao, aur khoob sara lagao." I was applying ghee very gently to Dad's face (just before the funeral pyre was lit) but that clearly does not work. They need lots of it. That's practicality for you. One may be emotionally distraught but the process has to be followed absolutely properly. And then the pyre was lit, and all physical contact was lost forever. It's so strange - we hold our dear ones in our hearts, but feel it through physical touch, and when that medium is lost, one really has to dig deep inside one's heart (or mind) and feel it from there. And that can be very painful! In fact, when we went the next morning for asthi sanchay (collecting the bones that remain after the funeral), I felt strange. These were my father's bones!! The asthi visarjan was equally painful. One realises the stupidity of clinging to material things only when one passes through this experience. It all ends, one day. We return to where we came from. Dust. Or call it Mother Earth.
In just another two years, two more of the most senior friends of my father also passed away. One of them, Shri H C Singh, was very close to me and had helped me through the initial years of PT through his strategic advice on various matters. A whole era had come to an end for me.
Given his strong sense of humour, on the 01st of April 2002, it was almost as if my father was smiling at all of us saying "April Fool everyone! I am going! Now you are on your own. You better behave well as I am no longer there to take care of you." I was badly upset on many occasions for several days after my father died. Of course, I kept it hidden from everyone (how could I show my weak face!!).
Your love and blessings made me what I am
Gratitude would be too small an emotion
To repay and express what I feel
For we are not separate
For we are not spaced apart in time and existence
We are one, together
Our deeds, intent and goals make us one
The only way I can repay what you did for me
Is to do even better for others with all my emotions!