Even if one never wants to remember a particular date for what it stands for, it makes a recurrence each year only to bring with it a rush of memories. Memories can be good or bad, but some lacerate our hearts and continue to act as open wounds.
Getting ready to attend a marriage ceremony in the heart of the city one fine afternoon, with my mom and younger sister donning new clothes, there were only happy and cheerful faces around. But how were we to know that this was the calm before the storm; the final moments of ‘real happiness’ for us three?
While we were relishing the busy and happy day, we got news from South Kashmir that my father had met with an accident. Our hearts sank as we braced for the worst and hoped for the best.
Papa had met with an accident in Kulgam. He was shifted to Government District Hospital Anantnag and later referred to Srinagar. We had been told that he had only suffered minor injuries, but the referral was a red flag.
The drive from the ceremony to the hospital was one of the worst rides of my life. Papa was a dedicated hardworking man, a caring husband and a loving father. He was a senior official in the R&B department and a man of principle. Despite holding a top position in the department, he never boasted about it. He was humble, and treated strangers as his own – even workers or beggars who came home would only be allowed to leave after tea or lunch. He taught us to never differentiate or judge. He never said ‘no’ to anything for us.
Good at mathematics, Papa helped me complete and revise my entire mathematics syllabus in just a span of a few weeks, and those days spent with him are a bright spot in my memories. Papa’s promotion was due last month nine years ago, but sometimes the best-laid plans don’t always pan out – for instance, we siblings used to make plans about touring the world with the family.
Instead, we never realised when the final moments of sharing things with Papa would come and go.
From the day he learned how to drive to the day he died, Papa never drove fast. He always drove slowly – when in the ambulance, he even asked the driver to drive slower.
At the institute, Papa battled his injuries. Nothing was impossible in life for him – from reading books to writing and penning “almost books”, every other room in our home was a library. We had even acquired the habit of being with him, studying, and sipping coffee with him all night.
All his courage, skill and intelligence gave me hope in the hospital that this would just be another hill that he would climb.
But it was not to be. His wounds were so grievous that he was paralysed. He also contracted pneumonia.
He had always liked the “nun-chai” the most. Even if the mercury levels soared, he would never say a no to it. During his final moments, he asked for it.
While Papa was eloping with death, the final days were excruciating. But he never let us know – whenever we were with him, he would talk and laugh with us. Still, he handed over his wallet and ring to us.
The doctors had given up and asked us to take him, and when family and friends showed up, my sister and I, still unaware of the world, were happy. They had all come to see Papa, but we never quite grasped that these were final moments “gilay shikway door karne ka”.
Even as the rush of people went on, he asked me from his bed if my studies were going well as my exams were on. Those moments were precious.
On August 25, Papa suffered a respiratory arrest. The ambulance arrived at night. As he breathed with the help of an oxygen cylinder, it was the last time I saw him alive. Forty-eight hours passed, I gave an exam, and as soon as the clock touched 6, the news came that Papa had lost the battle.
He was brought home one last time in a shroud. That was the day that I saw my Papa for the last time. How can I erase this day is a question I have not been able to answer. The screams and the cries still haunt me.
Losing a father, that too at a very tender age, comes always with a host of responsibilities. There is not a single day when we don’t remember and feel his absence. With his departure, our whole universe dimmed.
Grief has become part of our lives since Papa left. Sometimes at night, the lump in the throat becomes bigger. Without a male child in the family, it seems hard to deviate from some questions that come up time and again.
Does anyone even visit your grave? Does anyone even recite Surah-Fatiha there? Does anyone look after that grave?
But the one thing that always gives me assurance is knowing that he was always a man of honesty.
I know, Papa, you are there in peace, smiling over us.
Ifrah Nisar Wani is a student of MBBS at Khwaja Yunus Ali Medical College, Bangladesh.