Sunday, March 24, 2019

Time to Go

"What more is there to live for, ma? It is time for me to go," 90-year-old Gagan told his daughter Shriya.

Shriya, herself 65, felt a stab in her heart. "Don't speak like this, papa!" She still turned to him with questions and his wisdom was a beacon light she couldn't do without.

"It is a fact of life. Who lives forever... And for how long can I go on?" Gagan asked stridently, his voice still so strong and sure. All these years, though he spoke of imminent death, it had been without conviction. But of late, there was a sort of dimming, a sort of remoteness that was hard to miss. Even her daughter Pari had mentioned it, "Why is grandpa silent like this? He responds only when we speak to him?"

'Age' had been an easy answer and Shriya would feel her heart quiver when she said it. Yes, 90! But there were people who lived to be a 100 and more. Her father would probably hold the record for that!

"Your father is going to see us all go, don't worry," her husband Sukesh laughed her worries off. How prophetic he was! Sukesh didn't wake up one morning, passing away peacefully in his sleep at just 68 years.

"Is this his age to go?" Gagan asked of all those who offered condolences. "Here I am, sitting like a rock at my age, and that young man passes off for no rhyme or reason."

"Don't blame yourself for this, pa," Shriya told her father, trying to overcome her grief for his sake. "It was his destiny to go..." she said, choking on the words.

Any news of bereavement, and there seemed to be a non-stop stream these days, was becoming hard for Shriya to handle. Most seemed to be in their 60s and 70s, but sometimes, they got news of those in the 30s and 40s passing away from cardiac arrest and cancer. Gagan's long life didn't seem like a blessing anymore. Failing health despite no malady made it harder to bear and nature seemed to be playing a perverse joke. "I'm going anytime now," his refrain stretched infinitely while other lives around came to abrupt end like short stanzas.

Shriya found his fading intelligence hardest to bear. She didn't mind cleaning up after him, feeding him or curtailing her activities to be around him. But watching him slowly sink into a dithering and dotty old man, confused, suspicious and bitter was difficult to bear. She wondered if she had prayed too hard whenever he was hospitalised for him to return safely. He had. But he was not better, not by a mile. Now, she couldn't find it in her heart to wish for the inevitable. Just that, Please God, let him be calm and peaceful...

Like a ball set rolling down a steep cliff, Gagan's life-breath seemed to be waning. What made it horrible was the dance around that inevitable moment.

When her own heart gave up abruptly one morning, her last thought was for her father, watching her without comprehending from across the room. She tried to call out, to alert him of one more loss, but darkness surrounded her as the spirit itself was flooded with a strange light.


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