Beyond Goodbyes

Ahead of Father's Day celebration, a few citizens share with CE, memories of their fathers and special objects they used to possess, things that make both their loss and their love for them tangible
Father's Day special
Father's Day special

“I measure every Grief I meet With narrow, probing, Eyes…”

Emily Dickinson talks about grief as never-ending pain in one of her poems, something that seems bigger than the moment of loss itself. Time falls short for her to contain grief, one always has to look beyond time to be able to recuperate from one’s loss. Yet, it all comes back in the form of memories, that is when we feel we can measure it, hold it, and contain it, probably in a photograph or an object that the loved one once owned. While overcoming loss is a personal struggle, there are ways in which each individual processes grief, whether it is due to the loss of a person or an idea, fantasy or desire.

There are various forms of grief, and one of them arises from the loss of a father. The father’s presence feels so enduring that it becomes difficult to conceive that such a steadfast figure could eventually fade into a fleeting memory. Sharing a few memories of his father, B. Ananthanarayan, a professor at IISC Bengaluru, said, “My father, C A Balasubramanian, was born in 1932, to Padma and C K Anantanarayana Iyer. He became a baby once again by the end of his life– after his heart attack and quadruple bypass in 2019. Survived for 24 months. Mother’s demise 14 months earlier was a terrible blow for him.” Talking about what objects his father kept as prized possessions, Ananth said, “For many years he loved a Maruti 800 that had been bought in 1992, which stayed with them for about 20 years. He would love cleaning the car, both the insides and under the bonnet. It would be shining, and at the shop, it would go to for routine servicing, the workers would be astonished.”

Ananth brought alive the beauty of remembering our loved ones when he shared how some memories are quite vivid as the present day, “We knew father as a rather quiet and austere person, who talked very little and even less about himself. Later he was much more eloquent, and loved children, and also cats and dogs. I see him when he was in service in my mind, (his father worked for the IA&AS) walking back with a book or two from the office. I see him in 1975 waving goodbye as his train left taking him to Calcutta en route to Agartala.”

“I measure every Grief I meet With narrow, probing, Eyes — I wonder if It weighs like Mine Or has an Easier size.”

Emily Dickinson goes on to say in her poem. The truth about grief is that it is both extremely personal and universal at the same time. When asked to share his favourite memory of his father, Mazher Ali Ahmed, a businessman, says, “A lunch or dinner that led to a family gettogether was some of the most celebrated moments with him. These get-togethers rarely happen now and we miss him.” His father, Syed Raza Ali Ahmed, an executive officer in Andhra Pradesh, passed away in 1996 at the age of 86. “He had an attachcase that nobody was allowed to touch. He kept his personal diary recording the daily expenses, a shaving set and a few herbal medicines in it. One would find a few sets of fancy sherwani buttons in it too!” he said. Unable to describe their own griefs, both Ananth and Mazher went on to talk about their fathers’ personas when asked how they processed their loss. “A strict disciplinarian with regard to food habits and lifestyle, he would get up early enough to brush his teeth, shave, have a cold water bath and pray while everyone else around the house remained fast asleep!” Mazher said. He further added, “He would reach all functions on time and return back if it got delayed. My family members were afraid of his punctuality and would try to maintain timing to avoid his disappointment! One more important characteristic he had was, he would call a spade, a spade and never sugar-coat his views on any matter.”

Emily Dickinson goes on to call grief a thief and a juggler in another poem, but mostly, g rief is tongueless. For Niveditha Natraj, an MNC employee, a special routine ritual comes back in the form of memory. “It’s been many years since my father (Ramakrishna Natraj), passed away but the absence is real in my life. We gave away most of his belongings but kept a few things which are special. I have a wallet and handkerchief which belonged to him with me. As he got ready for work, I would hand over these things to him and no one else was allowed to do it! It was my responsibility and it was a special routine which I really miss,” she said. Niveditha puts into words, the abstract feeling of loss that overshadows our lives even after many years, “I and my sisters are still reeling under the loss. There’s not a single day when we don’t wish he was here to guide us. I miss his cooking. He was a great cook. With him being in the Air Force, I had the opportunity to go inside a fighter plane when I was a kid. I still remember the control buttons and the view from the tiny window of the plane,” she said. Despite the monster-sized absence that remains after the loss, humans learn to cope with it.

Ratna Chakraborty, a former government employee, lost her father, Dr Ranjit Nandy, gynaecologist & child specialist, when she was a kid. “When I lost him, I was very young, studying in class 1 and my brother was even younger. We had each other when our mother was coping with the loss. We only knew that father was not coming back. The support system we had between us got us going,” she says. “He was a doctor who fancied pens, especially ink pens. He had a variety of pens in his collection. I have a few of the pens with me. One of the pens has a gold-plated nib. I plan to pass it on to my children,” she reminisces, while mentioning that she too, like her father, has a knack for pens and is building a collection of her own. “The most memorable moment with my father is when we used to go on drives. He would come to pick me up from convent school during the holidays and we would drive back home,” Ratna added. We leave you with an extract from another poem by Dickinson:

“And though the Woe you have Today Be larger — As the Sea Exceeds its Unremembered Drop —They’re Water — equally —”

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