They had kept his memories intact. Two years ago, I was ambivalent about it. Today, I find it inadequate and insufficient. I see his photograph often. His is a happy smile. I smile at it wistfully, recollecting our happier times. The time he sat down and asked me what I wanted to do with my life, the time I presented with him a near-perfect report card, the time I twirled around in my brand-new lace-hemmed dress.
But these moments can take me only so far. I miss him terribly, far more than I had imagined myself to be doing. I miss sharing stuff with him, an academic achievement, a breakthrough at work, a new thing that I learnt. No, we weren’t particularly close. We didn’t see eye to eye on a lot many things. But I cherished his words, his wisdom, his experiences. He was an individual too liberal for the times he lived in, albeit I didn’t understand that in his lifetime.
He was very proud of us. Never missed an opportunity to discuss our lives or accomplishments. No matter how busy he was, he’d always take the time to get us chocolates every evening on his way home, usually a 5 Star. And we’d rush to the door, much to our mothers’ annoyance, as soon as we heard the driver honk. It was a race to see which one of us got to him the soonest. In fact, till date, we refer to most chocolate as 5 Star at home.
His body bore the traces of his hard life, more than his mind did. He ignored all the warning signs of the former, but in the end, his mind let him down. While it was a shock of sorts, we had all been prepared for it at a sub-conscious level. I want him to know that I’ve tried to be brave about his absence and objective about his illness.
I look at his photograph for answers, for solutions, for mental support. I seek him in the peals of bells at every aarti, in the flame that we keep lit at every religious ceremony, in the sonorous cymbals that herald joy and merriment. I seek validation for where I’m headed in life, for the work I do, for the person I’ve become.
I look toward him for resolution of internal strife. To perhaps be my link with the spiritual world. To perhaps help make my prayers come true, now that he was with God in person. To perhaps give me an indication of his presence. On a clear summer night, I often glance toward the sky, eyes laden with expectation, hoping to catch a glimpse of his presence. I know he’s watching over me. But I want to know what he thinks of me. Would he delight in my achievements? Have I lived up to everything he had dreamt up for me? Would I have made him happy? I want to know if what I’ve done is enough.
I want him to know that I miss him. That every festival at home feels incomplete without him. That our unfinished conversations haunt me at night. That each time I flounder, I take two steps behind to pause and ask myself, what would he have said to this.
I want him to know that I feel let down. About my limited share of time with him, about him taking not care of his health, about leaving us abruptly. I never did get a chance to say goodbye.
But I also want him to know that he left behind a lesson in education, courage and strength. He taught me penitence, sacrifice and dedication. Today, all I have in my hands is a photograph. Someday, I’ll have learnt to decipher his smile.