Till Death Did us Apart... And No More I Love You's
Just 2 weeks after turning 72, Appa passed away on December 22nd, 2005 at 7:30 PM in the Intensive Care Unit of the Bangalore Hospital, a place he unwillingly frequented like an inveterate gambler over the past year, succumbing to a prolonged illness and a multitude of complications that made him a wreck, physically and mentally. Diffident yet, he chose to ride roughshod over it till the end, as he so frequently did during various phases of his life, coping all that was thrown at him with an admirably stoic will , and at the same time, a man resigned to the inevitable, a fate and an eventuality that no mortal who has walked the earth has ever managed to hoodwink. When death comes calling, there can often be no rhyme or reason, no precursor, and certainly no bagpipes. In dad's case though, the writing was pretty much on the wall, but there were hopes and signs that he would pull through again, as he had done so miraculously over the past few years, and as the docs quipped, outliving the cat that has nine lives..! Alas, it was not to be and as I was privy to the final sigh and the heave of the chest of his, a gamut of emotions ranging from numbness, vacuous, to a vicarious relief that he would have to endure no more divine retribution in this lifetime surged through the mind. Good riddance to Duphalac, Lasix, Flavedon, Nitrocontine, Vitcofol, Pantodac, Augmentin, Aldactone and the ubiquitous IV fluids and Dopamine, Oflin, Acyclovir, Crocin..and a plethora of other pharma stuff.. and enough of me playing the quack, deciding on the amount of Lasix to give based on the water logging, the amount of duphalac based on his bowel movements, the discerning of his condition that I got accustomed to, the cleansing of the pungent bile..Yes, Appa lived life a moribund way towards the end, lived many days like he was dying, walked a fine line, yet sprang back many a time, flattered to deceive.. as he himself used to tell the doctors wearily ... " What doctor, its become an Aaya Ram, Gayya Ram" scenario.. And Dr Bhat would quip back " Atleast you are coming back to us, the Gayya Ram often makes himself scarce after a couple of visits " !!
No sooner would he get home, he would hit the account books, make the few calls and, dear me,when mom fell a bit sick a while back, even cooked for us and how ! It gave him immense satisfaction to be among the chores again, be it watering the plants, starting the washing machine or hanging out the clothes to dry..but most of all to see me off to work in the morning, packing my lunch box, dusting my helmet, hand me all my stuff and then upon return, greet me with the famous " Hello Mukundu Mari..." and opening out to the bear hug, which he lately started shunning from me.. Sakkamma, Nan Kyli Aagala Inna, please... and call out to Amma thus .. Vasantha, please free me from this Kalla Kulla ;) And the lines which will be etched in my memory forever.. "Hogole, I did'nt fear my Boss, didn't fear my mom, my wife or anyone.. but you..you scare me sometimes.. Please Come, let's go to Vidyarthi Bhavan.. :)
And whenever I snuggled up to him at night (which was daily) and said "Appa I love you, he would quickly repartee.. " But, I don't.. I love only Mukhyapraana ( Lord Anjaneya) and I want to leave this bloody world .. God please take me away"and then sensing that I would be bemused, quickly pull me close and plant the priceless 3 kisses, one on each cheek and the third on the forehead and quip "Me Too .."!! Dad lacked none in wits and was as pragmatic as they come.. Guilt plagued him for all the trouble he felt he was subjecting us to, though we never felt the burden.. And he was evolved far ahead of the times he was born in and lived through, though he still wondered at technology and the stump vision camera of Channel 9 :)
Pulled out of a 7th grade exam, when he was just 13,(in1946) due to his father's sudden demise, life must have been tough for a large family suddenly thrust in the throes of penury and not knowing where there next meal would come from. Dad recounted that many a day they would go with rice ganji and milk and worry about the next day.. and learning to share, sacrifice and live became ingrained in him, a thing which he stuck by till the very end.. Living selflessly became his cornerstone and parsimony was not a word to be found in his dictionary.
Many were the friends and relatives who were helped out when in need and made to see better days. The magnanimity was not lost out on the animal kingdom as well and cows, dogs and the odd cat were avaracious recipients of many a meal. Before falling seriously ill, he would be up at 5 am, jump rope, warm up, swim from 6 am to 7 am, come rain, cold or sunshine, go to the market and buy stuff and be home even before I would be up.. His zeal for life never failed to amaze people and the indefatigable attitude towards many a seemingly unsurmountable task was something he became well known and appreciated for.. And so, he would stand in serpentine queues amidst cricket crazy fans at KSCA and get lathi charged, find mention in the Deccan Herald the next day that a heart patient was beaten up and walk away with a couple of priceless tickets..:) .. Cricket crazy was Dad and rubbed it off on me.. and regaled us with many tales and the great matches he had witnessed at Chepauk, listened to on the radio and elsewhere..
There was more to Appa than that met the eye and yet he preferred being inconspicuous, and shy away from all the spotlight. Simplicity and humility made sense to him and it didn't augur well with him to pry , he eschewed being nosey and took pride in being a natty dresser. Kids were all time favourites and my cousins Rajini and Murali would vouch for it, as well as the numerous other cousins who liked the gregarious Madhi Mama for a whole lot of reasons, many of which find mention in an earlier blog I had penned about appa. Married at the age of 41, I must have been everything to him and mom and the pampering that dad showered on me is no secret among frnds and relatives..! Mukundu Mari meant the world.. and it didn't help that I was a Problem Child.
The universal rule is all good things must come to an end.. and surely there's no exception to it. And so subtle can the difference be..From pouring water, syrup and milk down his throat and bathing and dressing him up when he was still alive, to pouring hot ghee, milk and curds over many parts of a limpid 'body' the very next day and set it alight, the dichotomy can be enervating and leave one completely befuddled with this unfinished jigsaw puzzle called life.
And when it was time to sift through the smoldering pile and gather the bones, I wished I could catch a glimpse of whatever was left of the cirrhotic liver, the CBD stent in situ, the stent in the UT, the malfunctional right ventricle and literally make no 'bones' about it.. Dad had become a 'stent man' as Dr Lorance joked once..and though the humour was lost out on appa, as his hearing had waned and his eyesight was none too good, he liked Dr Lorance the best for he always said he'll send him home soon and spoke kannada a bit funnily ;) Apologies Dr Bhat, but he kinda held you at an exalted level and thought it was better to ask Dr Anupama or Dr Lorance, lest he invited your ire !
Hepatic Encephalopathy can be a real gut wrencher to see, the faculties would have gone haywire, the right hand wouldnt know what the left is doing and the demented rage can mainfest itself into something surprisingly quite strong and you can often be the recipient of a few sound slaps ! Fettered to the bed, dad would shout out for release, berate the ward boys and the sisters, swear that I was responsible for all this and moan and groan the night away. If only one could buy a liver, bile duct and gall bladder in the market and ease it in as they do with parts for motor vehicles, life would have been so much easier !!
Yet, in a fuzzy cerebral state, dad had the wherewithal to sing and speak some amazing stuff.. A day earlier, he had sung beautifully, and loudly, ( leaving the sisters on the shift bewildered) from 3 AM for a couple of hours and I was stirred out of deep slumber as he continously clapped and chanted Hanuma, Bhima, Madhwa for a good 2 hours..!! He followed it up the next afternoon, for 3 hours straight about Purandara Dasa, Madhwa Philosophy and waxed eloquent about all the doctors for everything they did in fluent english and kannada... only mom got to listen to it though, and as luck would have it, she had no voice recorder to tape it.. "There was a saint...." he began and amma listened spell bound as he reeled off some heady stuff..Was he partaking in a seance in a different strata, the minutes of which he managed to leak out ? Maybe the departing get a premonition before they answer the last and final boarding call..and then after the storm bloweth over, the lull sets in, as opposed to the usual lull before the storm! But we'll continue to be selfish and fight till the very end, at times unmindful of the travails they are going through, yet the vision clouded by ifs and buts, we are prepared to run it up the flagpole and finally, almost as an afterthought, leave the rest to the almighty ! As dad would ironically joke many a time at home " Operation successful, but the patient died"..! Brevity is the soul of wit and it seemed to bounce of him many a time. When I asked him to read the blog I had written about him sometime back, he said " Nah, thats to be done/written after I'm gone "!!
And as difficult as it might seem, we have to learn to leave and let go.. and listening to the religious discourse called Garuda Purana at home, I feel it probably behooves us to accept, at times, rather reluctantly and ridiculously, that there is justice in death (?).. in whatever crude and unsightly manner it comes calling, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake, truculent tsunamis, howling hurricanes, quakes, fires or bullets from lunatic missionaries ...all unmindful of the type of victims that are to fall prey to these vagaries of nature.. and the shock factor can be such that many are scarred for life.. Quagmires to be quelled, shards that no super glue can join..
I think we should count ourselves real fortunate then, that Appa wasn't a victim of any of the above, rather 'nature' took its course, and that truce was called in a manner that made sense..
And the river ride on the theppa or the coricle at Tirumkundlur ( T Narsipura) to the intangible spot where the confluence of the Cauvery, Kapila and Spatika Sarovara occurs, had a concomitant in a balmy breeze, that served to dispell the cataclysm that I was confronted with. Appa, the water wasn't too cold, only knee deep and lucid..and I did what was asked of me... and we later fed the monkeys there too, as you so often did at H.A.L.!
Appa - my philosopher, mentor, friend and El Capitano, thanks for nurturing me through all the 30 years, taking care of my schooling, college, dishing out pocket money, instilling core values, buying rasgollas and misty dahi at K C Das, making Xmas caps for school, making all the lovely banana and mango milk shakes for us boys, bearing painfully through my US sojourn, receiving me at the airport, no matter what hour or what condition you were in, and a zillion other things for which there's no payback... I tried my best, did what I thought was good for you, and even got to take you places in my new car... Marriages and other functions would have left you wistful perhaps, but I just couldn't pull that one thing off.. I'm so sorry, but I thought I was onto something and you would have liked the best for me.. and you have handed over the keys to a world that hitherto was all new to me, and I don't like booking LPG cylinders and going to the post office every month or standing in Q's at banks!! I wouldnt even want to go into your shortcomings, though you could go a bit slack on being recalcitrant :)
In many ways then , dad was similar to my ajji (his mother-in-law) about whom my uncle had written this eulogy. And if we can try and emulate even a wee bit of what these 2 great souls have done.. sigh.. It seems like a pipe dream surely, but then if we were to atleast try and aim for the stars, maybe we can get a wee bit close, what ?
And while I am at it, maybe Appa would come out in the wide open space once on a starry night and talk some sense into me.. just like in Lion King, when Simba gets a sermon from his dad out of the night sky.. an Aakash Vani with a familiar countenance..Aah, the visions I conjure up, the toon freak that I am :)
Amma, who's held fort superbly all the 5 years, asks of me quirkily " You love/loved him more than me right ? " !!! C'mon mom, I can do without this and I am not answering any trick questions. Let's heal ourselves first and you better have 3 kisses and hugs lined up every day henceforth !! Que Sera Sera..
Salutations then to a great soul, who'll remain in our hearts forever and will be venerated by one and all. May his tribe increase.
dear Mukund, trust this finds u in good spirits. keepcheerful come what may. u have the god`s blessing. tomorrow is yr BIRTH DAY. your coming into being with eyeswide open & with tiny fingers in the rosy mouth is green in my memory & it shall remain so for ever. godbless u for aother HUNDRED fruitful MAY soconds.tomorrow we have given for PANCHAMRITHA abiseka at our pranadevaragudi near minto. so we will not be available between8 amto 11 AM& in cace if we are not available even after11 AM u may try ch pet if necessary.. yr ever loving ammm/appa