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still living - purnima awasthi

Got a call, saying that his hands and feet had turned cold, very cold. I rushed blindly out of the house, hailed an auto, hurried up the hospital stairs and silently entered the I.C.C.U ward.

There he was, lying peacefully, as if in slumber, the same way as he had for the last ten days, when Coma led him there. Never had I seen him so frail, so quiet, so very static.

Moved his blanket a wee bit to touch his feet – they were ice-cold, his hands – ditto!

The various monitors displaying his body parameters showed that things were slowly getting out of hand.

Dad – thanks for giving me these final private moments with you, to bid you good-bye. I can never thank you enough for whatever you taught me in life, but ironically, these painful moments are the ones that I'm going to value the most.

You had seen me come to life, I'm seeing you slipping out of life.

After a couple of anxious hours, the hospital staff informed my brother and I that our dad had passed away.

Neither of us shed a single tear. The most difficult task, but it was our Dad’s wish.

photo: aryan nair

I had just come back after a tiring day at school, what with the admission season in full swing. Was about to settle down with my cup of tea, when the doorbell rang and Dad walked in.

Usually, he dropped in on holidays or in the mornings, our houses were just a five minute walk apart.

But today, maybe it's something important.

He took his favourite place on the recliner, had a gulp of water and agreed to just half a cup of tea.

He produced a printed sheet of paper in the form of a letter addressed to his close family, including his son-in-law and daughter-in-law.

Giving it to me, he said, “This is my will and, after death, I’ve pledged my body for donation. Keep it safely, as it has the contact numbers of the Trust that will coordinate with you all, and the hospital for getting it done without any hindrance.”

I read the contents, printed very bold and clear. Here he was, sitting hale and hearty, in the pink of his health – but on paper, he had proudly declared his death and requested us not to mourn or shed a single tear.

Instead, we were to celebrate his memory and donate his body for the noble purpose of Medical and Educational Research, to feed the poor and not have the rituals and functions which are customary.

It was signed ‘Love – Dad’, with his photograph and signature.

Not wanting to discuss, which a very distant possibility, presumably, I just kept away the letter deep below my drawer of files.

Something shook me up that day. I'd never realised my Papa was thinking of death! He has always been a man of spirit and vitality, brimming with life – never a man of destiny. Pushed himself very hard to achieve whatever he aimed for-- and his goals were never the easy ones.

He taught us never to sit back and wait, never to say, “I’ve learnt enough”, never to limit our thoughts and action.

His dynamism was inspirational to all.

At the age of 63, he enrolled in a Computer Academy to master the mind of the machine, so that he could regularly be in touch with his son who had recently got an overseas project.

At the same age, he never allowed me to enrol in a driving Institute – instead, patiently and relentlessly taught me and my sister-in-law the art of manoeuvring a four wheeler, trusting his own brand new vehicle in our unsure hands.

Never once did he make a demarcation between my brother and I.

If he was a proud father, then he was the proudest father of a daughter.

Even after I had a family of my own, he never let me go out of focus from his loving and caring eyes. He cajoled, pushed and at times forced me to make the right investments, an act which I will always be grateful for!

He was never the one to follow convention, always extended his love and support to his son-in-law and daughter-in-law in the same volume as to us.

Never could I imagine my life without him...

Today, it has been a decade since we fulfilled his wish.

His body was donated, and it was we, who got the appreciation for the noble deed.

But Dad, it was you who did it. You planned your own life after death – a feat only a few would dare to think about. You still live, amongst the batches of Medical students, always teaching and guiding, through the maze of your body anatomy.

You still live in our lives, guiding us even today through what you taught us.

You still live, Dad, you will still live, even after we join you somewhere up there.

- purnima awasthi

photo: aryan nair


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