Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Obituary of an unremarkable man

My father – the first imposing figure in my life – died yesterday. He was a doctor, and a negativist, but one of the very few contented men I’ve encountered in my life. He was eighty four, and lived life in a profound way.

He died of acute bronchopneumonia, but the real disease was the cancer of lung. He had cancer of the larynx twenty years ago, but was treated successfully for it with radiotherapy, and had almost a normal life, devoting time to three passions of his life – crosswords, Bengali cinema, and cricket.

Perhaps every man can sense the arrival of death in due time, but he knew it more in advance and accurately. He kept his eyes shut tight, refused to eat or respond to our interrogations, and on rare occasions when he opened his eyes, he fought hard to check his tears. The message was clear: he was unwilling to depart. But what was more remarkable was that he was in a sulking mode till his last moment.

I’m the eldest of his ten children, and have not lived with him much. Circumstances had so much to play around against developing a strong bond between us. He was a domineering father and always wished that I follow his advice to the full. I revolted. I liked writing, but he discouraged it. I was more inclined to intellectual and literary things. He would not approve it. He wanted me to become a doctor following in the tradition of our family. I decided not to oblige him. So at my first chance, I left the family – I was eighteen at the time - to pursue my own passion and kind of snapped all relations with him. It meant lots of struggle for me, but the fun thing is I ended up being a doctor myself graduating from a premier medical college in Bengal. He had the last laugh.

His attitude towards other children was different. He proved a careless father to them. So barely had I started my medical practice than they began to gravitate to me one by one. I had to fend for them. I had to take care of their education. And he never sent any help whatsoever.

He joined us many many years later when my siblings were somewhat settled, and some sisters married off. And then he opted to live with my youngest brother, an engineer-turned-entrerpreneur, who was going great guns at a very young age. My father sold out all his property in the country, and must have brought a good, if not large, sum with him. He never discussed it with me, and I never enquired him of it.

At one point, I lived several blocks away from him. I saw him in the market, scanning fish, vegetables and fruits before buying them. Sometimes I saw him on the road taking his morning walk. Sometimes he would visit my flat for a brief while. He seemed to be fond of my son. I have heard them discussing cricket.

When I visited him at my youngest brother’s residence, he was either busy fiddling with his crossword with dictionaries scattered around him or seeing some live cricket match on TV with so much attention that he didn’t notice me. But when he noticed, he welcomed me with a shy smile and asked me to sit down, but no further words, and our conversation never progressed.

We celebrated his 80th birthday with great style. As usual, he was impeccably dressed in his starched while dhoti, and punjabi, and seemed to enjoy the party. When asked to say something for the occasion, he said that he was indeed a very happy man, and had no grouse or complaint against anybody or anything as such, but would fervently wish that some, at least one of our children, might be a doctor.

He was not a successful doctor for whatever reasons, but a good clinician. He had great love for his profession.

In his deathbed, when he had severe spasms of breathlessness, he said to me in one lucid moment, “I have never harmed anybody in my life. So, why do I suffer this way?”

I had no reply for him.

Is there any relation between one’s karmas and sufferings? I’m not sure.


S Roy said...

May His Soul Rests in Peace !

Now your responsibilities towards the other members of your family increased manifold than earlier!

----Subhasish Roy

Donigan said...

My sincere regrets for the loss of your father, and to thank you for this beautifully written elegy to him and his life. I wish there was an answer to the question about the problem of suffering, but I suspect there isn't one. It seems that no matter the powers of human intelligence, we live in an essentially unintelligible world. We struggle to apply reason to the unreasonable, and maybe that is the process by which our intellect expands, but it still will not answer those questions that are outside the bounds of rationality. Your father, at the very least, has achieved the state of peace that awaits us all.

Mrinal Bose said...

Donigan, thanks for your kind words and enlightening insights.

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