My father passed away peacefully in the evening of 12th September 2020. He was a Parkinson’s patient for last 12 years and his mental faculties were dwindling for last few years. We knew that it could happen anytime but wanted to hold onto him…
He was 78 and my mother always said he is same age as Amitabh Bachchan, indirectly implying that he was not that old. Papa (my kids call me Dad but, in our times, this is what it was) was a simple, content and generous soul. My mom has many stories as to how people duped him over the years and how they took advantage of his simplicity and kindness. He, however, was very hardworking, social and helpful. Many of my school friends called me and sent messages over last few days, reminiscing how he would always talk to them with a smile on his face. It might not have been a coincidence that he chose to go in midst of my ‘virtual comedy show’ – hoping that I was bringing smile to a few faces. He also had his favorite Jalebis (2 of them) and smiled at Guddu (his full time attendant) before bidding farewell. By the time, I knew and rushed to him, he was gone. Just like that!!
By that time, a doctor from the building and few other people were already there. I was advised to call up a hospital and get a doctor for a ‘death certificate’. The doctor on the other side, however, advised to do a ‘video call’ with me and send a certificate in which case he would charge only ten thousand – for a visit it would be fifteen. The doctor from our apartment eventually gave a certificate on his letterhead without any fees for which I was extremely thankful.
My friends came over and helped me with the funeral arrangement next morning. While at crematorium, they were asked ‘which package’ would we go for? The one with ‘end to end’ solution involved the ambulance (fully sanitized), good quality wood, pandit for the arrangement and so on. Multiple permutations and combinations were available, with different price tags. An ice machine had to be arranged for the night, which would cost us eleven thousand, though we got some discount eventually.
As we went for the funeral in the morning, the pandit and his attendant seemed to be in hurry. I went through the process and it was pointed out to me couple of times that I was not listening to instructions properly. We were called next morning for ‘phool chugna’ i.e. to collect the bones. As we did that and put all of that in a ‘matka’ to bury in a ground there, we were asked to give ‘dakshina’ for the pandits to be fed over next 14 days, which I refused. We were then asked for Rs 150 for a bottle of ‘Ganga Jal’ given to us for the last rights and Rs 500 to ‘transport’ the ashes which remained there. I offered to take it myself and for others as well for Rs 200 each but it didn’t cut ice with them. Must say, I was very impressed with the business model and resilience shown by them.
As we were coming back, the driver took a left turn on a red light (thinking it to be free turn). We were stopped by a traffic police who was wanting to seize the driver’s license for 3 months, which we could then collect from the Court after paying the fine. After a bit of argument (maintaining proper social distancing with mask on) largely about the need to having a Red Light and why the mistake was ‘inadvertent’, I was left with option but to surrender. That is when he seemed to notice that we were coming from crematorium and asked what happened. He thought for a moment and then just asked us to move on without any fine, his eyes doing the talking.
Papa, I am happy to report that kindness and generosity is still alive. Rest in peace there…till we meet again!!
PS: While we are at it, just one piece of advice. Spend as much time with your loved ones as you can, make memories, take pictures, laugh out loud and have jalebis – till it lasts.