I don’t know why, but I feel that with each passing day, my bond with you and our memories is getting stronger and stronger. It is often said that once a person is gone, he is reincarnated in a world of memories and stories. Reflecting on your life and the way you lived gives me guidance and shines light when the pain of the path starts tormenting.
I am guilty of never thanking you for your undying love and care. While growing up, thank you and please were not part of my vocabulary. As a family ritual, I parroted thanks to Waheguru (God) without assigning any special emotion to the gesture.
I used to look forward to Sunday visits to Kanhaiya Lal Butcher’s shop with you to buy goat meat. I still see an 8 year-old kid walking while holding your hand, your freshly washed loose hair is flowing with a day old turban sitting on it unceremoniously. The butcher’s shop was in an area known as Gumti Number 5. This area was a new home to refugees from west Punjab (now Pakistan), and I would marvel at the sparkle in your eyes upon meeting an acquaintance. After buying meat, I remember sometimes going to Pahalwan’s shop to buy poori chole (fried flat bread and chick peas).
Every Sunday afternoon without exception, you would read jokes from the Urdu newspaper Daily Milap to me and my younger sister while we all sat on the bed. I remember your laugh when in all her innocence she would tell you that you have 3 navels. These were marks under your naval left by a hernia surgery.
I am now sixty-eight years old and everybody says that I look like you. I do not know anybody with a bigger heart than yours. You were ordained a sacred duty of taking care of every one on your side of the family by some divine order, and you executed your mission flawlessly. I remember that on the day of final prayer for peace of your soul, Gurudwara Kirtan Garh in Kanpur was packed with people of all religious persuasions with stories of how you had come to their rescue during financial needs. In a ritualistic sense, you were not religious, but each act of yours was pious. You know your story, but it is important for me to tell you that at every step, your story is walking with and me. I remember your visits to me when I was studying in college studying sat Banaras Hindu University. You used to come to Hindalco Aluminum factory to supply timber, and would travel extra 80 miles to see me for half an hour. The money given by you at those occasions would turn my rhyming life into symphony.
I still hear in the scenery of past, the stories of your business acumen and fighting spirit. Somehow, in social circles, you always felt awkward. I often saw you coming from a party earlier than everyone else and eat simple Dal, Roti, and a fried egg accompanied by Patiala Peg of XXX Rum from Sikkim.
Genes flower in inexplicable ways. Like you after getting up in the morning, I always sit on the edge of the bed for a few minutes and when thinking, I, like you, automatically tilt my head and rest it on my hand. My daughter - your grand daughter - is blessed with your pinkish eyes. You are going to laugh at it, your grandson like you loves to walk around in the house only with underwear on. Narinder, your middle son, left us to join you almost two years ago. We hope that he is under your good care and supervision. Between us remaining four siblings, we’ve all carved our own paths and are blessed in different ways.
Regarding me, like you I have gone through a lot of ups and downs. You always rose like phoenix, and the story of your journey is a depthless reservoir of encouragement for me. I was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in July of 2014. The cancer had migrated to my brain. It is nothing but blessings of elders and Waheguru’s grace that supported by faith I am moving on. You had taught us that falling down is a lesson in how to get up.
After Indira Gandhi’s assassination 31st October 1984, the little empire you had built along with my brothers laid in ruins. All the factories were destroyed by the rioters using phosphorous bombs. In early 1985, after the physical and emotional stress of the riots and its impact, you suffered a heart attack and I had gone to see you. I cannot forget that when I entered your bedroom, you were laying down and the moment you saw me, you held my hand and tears rolled down from your eyes. I knew you were experiencing an intense trauma for the second time in your life. After the partition, where you resided in West Punjab became Pakistan, and you and your family lost everything. You had come to Kanpur pennyless. Now, I saw this new trauma had penetrated a deep forest of resilience. Now in your studied silence, there was a form of heartache. The mere visualization of that scene fills my heart and the banks of eyes get submerged with tears.
On this Fathers day, I want to lift the lid on my silence and say I Love You, and a child in some corner of my heart misses you. I feel your presence, Darji.