I lost my father two years ago. Losing a parent is never easy no matter how old you are. Losing a parent who was a trail blazer, a public figure, a pivot on whom a huge hospital existed is even more disconcerting. To top it all, he went without a whiff of a warning. In a place completely alien to us. And left us shocked.
My parents had been to the U.K. for a conference. After the conference, they wanted to spend some time going around Ireland, which they had heard was very beautiful. Two days later, they landed in Dublin, had their dinner and climbed back into the bus, when he had a massive heart attack, collapsed and died. Just like that. In a matter of minutes. A team of doctors (including my mother) in the same tourist bus could not revive him. An ambulance which reached within two minutes of the event could not save him. They were due to return to India the next day. So my mother was left with hardly any cash, very little phone currency and absolutely no friends other than the ones on the tourist bus. And Ireland is very very expensive.
In the next few days, almost everything that could go wrong, did. In India, it was a Government holiday, so no papers could be processed. I could not get a visa to go because the embassy was not open on weekends. It was difficult to get through to my mother over the phone. A very close friend in the U.K., who started off to help my mother, met with an accident, which wrecked her car, but thankfully left her safe. My mother’s tourist bus could not stay with her, as the rest of them had to go on.
But at the same time, everything that could be called a miracle, did happen. The Kannada Koota, an association of Kannada families in Dublin, heard of his demise and came forward to help. The doctor in the hospital that my father was taken to, miraculously turned out to be the nephew of a senior doctor friend from Shimoga ( my town). The friend who met with an accident in London, was given first aid and a ride to the airport, by a cop. Somebody else, arranged for the money. Indian doctors who worked in the hospital took my mom home and cared for her. The President of Kannada Koota literally moved mountains to help get my father’s coffin back, as soon as possible. And everything started to go right.
The events that followed over the next few days and months are a story for another day, but when I look back, those days changed me as a person forever. And taught me a lot of things. Such as…
Good does exist in the world, no matter what people say.
When I first heard my mother over the phone, she sounded shaken. Our major concern was about how she would manage alone in an entirely different country with zero friends.Suddenly, people started pouring forth and helping us out, as though they had known us for ever. People who had busy jobs and families to care for, but still felt concerned about us. They opened their doors to my mother, a practical stranger to them, kept her company, took off from their work to be with her and had potluck dinners in an effort to keep her morale up. They would call up twice a day to let us know that she was fine. There were people at the airport who helped us move papers fast, old travel agent friends who helped get the earliest flights, social work organisations which helped us for the funeral arrangements and so on. People whom we had just met, who became good friends in the face of tragedy. I wonder how we would have managed without them. It may be divine providence, but to me, it felt like a reaffirmation of the fact that “good Samaritans” are not a figment of imagination. They exist among us. People who do good without the expectation of applause or laurels. I have, ever since, stopped being cynical about the state of affairs of the world.The world has hope yet. In the goodness of these people.
Life has its own whims and fancies.
Just an hour before his death, I had spoken to my father over the phone. We had discussed the work that needed to be done on many impending projects as soon as he landed base. I had started off a school outreach program just a week before they left for England. Over the past two years, priorities have changed. A few old projects shelved, many new ones started and a few more on the anvil. But now, I am wiser and less obsessive. I have realized that life’s plans and our own may not coincide at all times. Apart from getting things done, it is also important to stop and smell the flowers on the way. Because you never know what life has in store for you. I’m not saying that we need to be irresponsibly under planned, but only that everything, needs perspective. There is no need to lose sleep over anything.It is just your goodness of intent and hard work that counts. Because, at the end of the day, things that should happen, will! With or without your consent.
Good begets good.
I was never the type to believe in miracles. Two years ago, that changed. People told us, that it was literally unheard of, that we could get my father’s coffin back to India less than a week after his death. Normally, the procedure would take ages. But things went off smoothly. Help came from unexpected quarters. The people who came to help were those who had read my fathers articles in the magazines/ watched his movies, relatives of patients who worked in the police and the airport, doctors who had worked with my father as junior residents and people that he had helped over multiple projects over his life time. My parents had worked selflessly all their lives, and this I believe was the cause of all the miracles. My father had a great love for Kannada and worked in the agitation movement to help retain Belgaum in Karnataka. Who better to help him, than the President of Kannada Koota, in far off Dublin!!
How you live after, is your choice.
When an incident of such magnitude strikes, the “Why me?” questions are obvious. Around that time,I read a story somewhere about how people react to adversities. It goes like this. A boy complained to his mother about life being hard, when he was faced with problems. His mother showed him an experiment. She put carrots, eggs and coffee beans into boiling water for a while and asked the boy to observe what it did to each. The boy replied that the carrots became soft, the eggs got hard boiled and the the coffee beans, well, became coffee. And then, the mother explained that there are people who are like the carrots. They go into adversity hard and unrelenting but come out softened and weak. Some others go in fragile like the egg, and manage to handle the adversity, but come out hard and cynical. But there are few who go in like the coffee beans, headlong into troubles, and end up creating something good out of the adversity. Difficulties strike every one of us. We need to decide how we process it, rather than blame our misfortune. Try to look for the silver lining, however faint it may be. Realize that there are many who are more unfortunate. And then slowly, life gets better.
I am not given to personal posts. But this weekend, on my father’s second death anniversary, I was remembering those days, which were unnerving, to say the least. There are many who go through loss and grief. There is no way to come out of it unscathed. But as the saying goes “If you are going through hell, keep going. Eventually you will come out of it”. And when you do come out, remember, that in the worst of times, there is always hope, help and a lot of lessons to be learnt.