It’s been a very long time since I posted on my blog, and it is with a heavy heart I write this post today. I cannot stand in front of a crowd to say what I feel without completely breaking down, so instead I’d put pen to paper and quietly cry in my room while I hope that putting my emotions down gives me the strength I need for the upcoming days.
* * * *
Monday 30th April, 2018.
I sat in my scrubs in the operating theatre waiting for the next case to be wheeled into the theatre. My phone started ringing. ‘Incoming call from Daddy’. Odd. My father never calls me at work. I turned to my co-intern, “It’s very strange that my dad is calling me right now.” Maybe he wants to know what time I’m finishing so my sister can get the car, or maybe he wants a number for someone, or maybe he’s calling for me to pick up my sister. NOTHING and I repeat NOTHING prepared me for what he actually called me to say.
* * * *
“Hey Dad, what’s up?”
“Hey hon, do you have a minute to talk?”
“Yeah, I actually do. What’s up?”
Silence. A long pause that made my heart sink.
“What’s wrong, dad?”
“I have some bad news.” I hear his voice cracking as he tries to form a sentence but can’t quite get the words out. “Uncle Prakash..”
My heart immediately started racing as I felt sick to my stomach.
“What? What happened to Uncle Prak? Answer me Daddy, what is happening?”
“He’s in emergency surgery in Suriname, the doctor said there’s a tear in his heart and a blockage and there’s a 35% chance of survival..”
“What are you saying, dad? Are you sure?”
He’s audibly sobbing now, my heart is pounding out of my chest, I can feel the blood draining out of my face.
“Yes hon, I’m sure. I’m trying to get to Suriname now. Will you come with me?”
My heart is aching.
“Dad, I can’t get leave from work on such short notice, I’d be home soon and we’d talk more. Hang in there. It’s going to be ok.”
* * * *
I hung up, my hands shaking. You know what? These Bhaggan’s are known to exaggerate. Let me call my cousin. She’d probably be more level headed. She confirmed his story. No exaggeration. It was happening.
* * * *
I stood there uneasy, staring at the clock waiting to rush out of there and home to my family. My dad and I are insanely close and he always leans on me (apart from my mom of course) for support and comfort and I knew him asking me to accompany him was for that said reason. It broke my heart that I couldn’t drop everything and just go with him. But I thought, everything will be ok and when they ALL return home I’d be there at the drop of a hat… wrong.
* * * *
My dad came home shortly after I did. He briefs me. I tell him that they had to be wrong and there was no tear in my uncle’s heart. It was impossible. In my short stint of being a doctor, I’d never heard of it happening. It couldn’t be. Wrong again. I foolishly began consoling my father. Maybe we got wrong info and there’s just a blockage which they’re doing bypass for. “Don’t worry, he has really good prognostic factors, dad. He will pull through. I’m sure of it.” Fucking wrong as hell.
* * * *
We continued through the motions of the day, my dad preparing his things to get on a plane, all the while trying to act like there wasn’t a huge elephant in the room. We tried, very unsuccessfully to act like things were normal. We kept staring at the time, waiting for those dreaded 7 hours of surgery to be over… time suddenly felt like it had stopped ticking.
* * * *
I sat with my boyfriend, watching a movie trying my best to keep myself occupied when the worst sound I’d ever hear in my entire life filled my house. My father was screaming. I instantly knew what that meant. My heart sank. My little sister ran towards me.
“Nerala! Come NOW! I don’t think uncle Prakash made it.”
I ran into my father’s room, seeing him slumped on his bed. My eyes already full of tears. “Daddy!”
“He didn’t make it Nerala! Why Nerala! Say it isn’t so! Please Ral, tell me it isn’t true! They couldn’t start his heart back.” The rest became a blur.
* * * *
The wails of my father reverberating in my head. Me, feeling helpless and throwing my arms around him instinctively while I myself felt the hot tears stinging my face. My little sister and I held on to our Daddy, while we watched the strongest person in our lives crumble. As we felt the immense loss that had just taken place…
* * * *
My mind immediately ran into all my other family members. Did they know? I ran downstairs to my uncle, who immediately started howling at the news. My entire support system crumbling around me, domino effect.
For those of you who know my family, we’re all ridiculously close. There’s no beginning or end in my family. We’re all the same, we’re all one. There’s no distinction of whose mom is whose, whose dad is whose, whose sister is whose. We are all each other’s. And this, we weren’t ready or prepared for. It was a shockwave vibrating each and everyone of us, knocking us over from where we were standing.
* * * *
We’re like the links of a chain, all of us intertwined with the other and Uncle Praks, the clasp that held us all in. Our chain had just burst, and while we hold on to each other our ends are now frayed. Irreparable.
* * * *
As a little girl, I grew up with my daddy’s family. All 7 of them playing different roles in my life. They were always there. We were always together. They were always my strength and guidance and each other’s strength and guidance. As I aged, it slipped me that they were also aging, I kept thinking they’d always be around forever. Never did it cross my mind that I’d be losing one of them, and more so, as suddenly as this. I still refuse to believe it. They’re invincible, right? They’re the ones who took care of us, it’s not real for them to be affected by things like ‘death’.
Uncle Prakash was THE integral member of this family. It aches me to use the past tense. When Aja died, uncle Prakash became the head of the family, without anyone asking or doting that responsibility onto him. He assumed the role gracefully and perfectly as a matter of fact. He took care of his mother and siblings with a sense of pride and honor and not ONCE did he ever complain. He managed at a young age to accomplish more than some people do in a lifetime all the while juggling the responsibility of his mother, siblings and newly married wife. He never complained. He silently persevered, focused, driven but yet still the most humble person you’d ever meet.
* * * *
The more he excelled and climbed the financial ladder, he never forgot where he came from. The more material wealth he gained, so too did he gain compassion, humility, family values, empathy and the list goes on. He was the one who kept our family in check. If anything was going haywire, you’d get a phone call, “Hi, how you going? I’d like to see you in my office please.” It was like being called to the principal’s office. He NEVER let anyone of us, from siblings to nieces and nephews stray. He was always there offering guidance. He was the one that anyone in trouble would go to, the one you’d consult before making any new investment or big step in life. The one with all the wisdom. He was the Hanuman of our family. Instead of carrying the mountains on his back, he carried us. Effortlessly.
Many of us in the family have lost our way at some point and PB was there offering assistance and moral support through it all. Never once judging you. When my incident in 2016 had taken place, of course he was taken aback and upset but you know what the first thing he asked me was? “How you going, Nerala? Are you ok?” That’s the way he dealt with most situations. Level headed. It’s done, how do we move forward? Are you coping well?
* * * *
So many memories come flooding to me. When I got first got drunk, PB was there. I remember throwing up all over the car and he just sat and watched and laughed. He harassed me about it the entire next day, telling me how I’d crawled through the hotel lobby to get to my room. But when all the jokes were aside, sat me down and gave me an entire lecture on why I shouldn’t drink to get drunk.
I keep hearing his voice in my head ‘Nerala, mix a scotch and soda for me there.’
‘Nerala, you cook all this food? Nah, you lying.’
I keep seeing his face blowing out when he stood up, like a real grandpa and pulling up his pants. I remember us constantly arguing about why he never wore socks with his shoes. I keep remembering that at any family function, he’d be the first to arrive and was always so jolly. Always laughing and making a stale joke. I’d give anything to hear those jokes one more time. I’d give anything to see you just sitting there smiling looking at your family like they were your greatest accomplishment. To know you’re there. A phone call away.
If only I had known your last birthday was going to be your last, I would have stayed much longer. You were so close to your next birthday. Just a few days shy. If I had only known the last time I saw you was going to be the last time, I would have hugged you for longer. I cannot understand. I do not comprehend what is happening. How?
He was my dad’s superhero. Just like in the movies when the little brother follows EVERYTHING the older one did, my daddy emulated him. My daddy looked up to him so much, he tried to do everything to make him proud. And dad if you’re reading this, I know you did. He was immensely proud of you, of all of his brothers and sisters. My superhero lost his superhero and I can’t even imagine what he’s going through. Our pillar of strength is now gone. The biggest root of our family tree, destroyed.
Never did I think I’d be looking at a picture of you with a deeya in front of it. Never did I think I’d be trying on white shalwars for your funeral.
* * * *
My biggest regret is thinking you’d be here forever and taking you for granted. Not sitting with you for longer and listening to your jokes. I wish I could find the snaps I made you take with me where we did all those funny faces. We’ve put tents and stage up in our home again, the last time we did was for a completely different reason. You were here and you had such a fun time. Never did I think we’d be putting up tents for your funeral. The words ache me to type. I keep expecting to see you walking up the yard like you always did, with Maddy by your side. I keep waiting for you to show up and sit under those tents with us to tell us stop crying, it’s not real and you’re still there.
* * * *
It pains me to think that you’re not going to be at my wedding. It pains me to think that at any other milestone or event, you’re not going to be there. It pains me to think that my children will never know you but only of your legacy. It pains me to think that we’ve been robbed of a few years with you. That void will never be filled. It’s like when a stick of butter is melted , no matter how much u try to reshape it, no matter what temperatures you subject it to, it will never be the same. We are never going to be the same without you.
The question we all keep asking is why? Why so suddenly? We’d never know the answers. Never have closure. Were you afraid when you went into surgery? Why did you think that you had to be strong down to the end? Why didn’t you tell us you weren’t feeling well? You tried to protect us so much. You didn’t even want us to know you went into surgery. Why didn’t you let us help you? Why did you feel like you had to do this alone? You were so busy being strong for everyone else that you forgot yourself.
* * * *
The guilt consumes me. I keep thinking what if. What if we knew? What if we could have advised you? You caught us so off guard. I never thought for even one second this year would mark the losing of the backbone of my family. PB if I could say one thing to you now, it would be that I love you immensely, I admire you and we appreciate everything you’ve ever done for us, big or small. I treasured every moment spent with you, from the time of my birth to now. Every childhood memory includes you and most of my adult memories too. You’ve really taken us by surprise but we know you’re on a bigger mission. You were an actual angel. A gentleman, too good for this world, I know you’re going to meet Agee and Aja and continue protecting us from up above.
* * * *
I don’t know how we’re going to move on. I don’t know how life is going to go on. You’ve rocked us to our core PB. I wish we could have fixed your broken heart the way you’ve fixed ours time and time again. I pray that your soul finds eternal peace. I pray that the transition from this world to heaven up above is an easy and peaceful one. You sure deserve it. No one can utter a single negative thing about you even if they wanted to. I pray that you can finally rest, without the weight and responsibility you had to carry your entire life. I pray that you know wherever you are that we love you and we will be ok. Not today, not tomorrow, but you’ve taught us strength and you’ve taught us resilience. You’ve given us the tools to carry on. I pray that you seek comfort in knowing that even though we’re broken, we will stand together. I pray that you know we’d do anything for you even if it means smiling through this pain. We love you PB.
You’d forever be in our hearts.