This time last year, I was sitting in our Kolkata flat, deciding on what I should pack for the 7-day trip (starting the next day) to Noida to see my brother. It would be a good distraction from everything that was going on for the last few weeks and it would be so good to see my brother again after so many months – we could plan some trips to nearby touristy places and try to feel normal again.
The next day I would wake up, make myself a big bowl of muesli and start packing clothes into my suitcase with my favourite Christmas song “Christmas Wrapping” playing in the background (and of course me singing along) when I would get a phone call that will turn my world topsy turvy.
It was a call from my aunt asking me to come home as soon as possible and that could mean only one thing – after being comatose and hooked up to life support machines for three weeks my grandad had finally lost the battle.
Three weeks before that fateful day I was watching Hang Over Part III on the telly after work, when I got a call from my uncle saying grandad had a stroke and was in the hospital. That was the first time I experienced what we watch in movies- how our brain shuts out everything else in a situation like this – it felt like, someone had turned down the volume of everything around me- there was a ringing silence and even my uncle’s voice on the phone sounded like it was coming from a distance. All I could feel was my heart pounding so loud that it could probably be heard on the other side of the phone too. But he reminded me that grandad had survived a couple of strokes before and every single time, he recovered with no visible or permanent negative effects from them. Remembering that made me feel a bit better , and by the time he hung up, I was feeling much better and in fact, I even finished watching the movie, albeit with a heavy heart and a nagging feeling in my mind.
On 2nd December 2014, around mid morning, after that call from my aunt, I was in an airport bound taxi checking available flights on my phone. Not being able to get one of those would mean not being able to say my final goodbye – as, in our religion we are cremated within a few hours after death.
To give an idea about the distance between my hometown where my family lives, and Kolkata where I was on that day: it takes at least 15 hours by train to cover the 680 kms. If I was to take a one-hour flight to the closest airport city, it would still take me another 4 hours by car to get to Cooch Behar – the banes of living in a massive country.
Thankfully I did manage to get a last minute flight and I had a car waiting for me at the airport (thanks to my uncle) which took me home. I got to spend only a couple of minuets with grandad before he was taken away. His hand felt cold and unfamiliar already. With the problem of being able to get home on time taken care of, the magnitude of the situation was finally hitting me. I had not allowed myself to grieve on the way as I needed to keep my head and analytical thinking goes out of the window when your brain gives in to sadness.
It’ll be one year tomorrow since that incident and not a day has gone by when I have not thought about him or felt a knot in the pit of my stomach when I would go to bed each day thinking “He’s really gone – I’m never going to see him again.”
We are all alone in the world – alone to fight our battles, fight our demons and face the world which – let’s be honest- is not very kind most of the times. However, thankfully, we all have a handful of people who would be willing to go any lengths for us. Just knowing that there is someone with unconditional love in their heart for us, is a source of strength in itself. And when you lose a person like that forever, you feel even more lonely.
I can’t say that I feel him around me and I can’t bring myself to believe that he’s watching over and protecting me, but every single day I feel grateful that I had him in my life for so long – and most importantly I’m grateful that he led a virtuous life that inspires us every single day to selflessly do good for people.