In Memoriam – Appa

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On Saturday May 18th, almost 2 months past his 80th Birthday, my dad passed away to the ages due to a sudden cardiac arrest. One can spend hours, days, months drowning in sorrow over his death. But knowing my dad and how incredibly positive and full of life he was, that is the last thing he would want us to do. The memories of our loved ones are the most cherished and I shall share some of my memories of my childhood that I still remember clearly.

My earliest memories of him were that of a person who would love to take photographs in his Agfa Point and Shoot camera – he would love asking me to pose whenever and wherever possible – a love affair that he carried till the very end – but now instead of a camera, it was on his smartphone. Btw, this was a trait that really bonded my wife and him because she shares the same traits too and finally, he had found a companion in his family with that same interest.

Even though he had never played cricket, he was very interested in the sport. He took me every Sunday to practice – but in a really odd place. The Rama Krishna Mission at Gol Park was closed on Sundays and there was ample space near its entrance. He would bowl underhand and have me play the ball straight. The love for this game was infectious – something that we (including my mom) carried on till the very end – the advent of IPL did not dilute his love for the game – in fact, he was an ardent fan of KKR (and then CSK of course).

Now that I think about it, he was not very corporate savvy – his simplicity was his biggest drawback in the corporate circles – but he was just happy to go to work and come back at 7 and turn on his “Jaymaala” on AIR. For me, that 7 – 8 pm time at home was the most precious – I am doing homework, the radio is blaring some really wonderful songs, mom cooking something for dinner etc. He had keen ear for music – regardless of the genre or the age – 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and even the 90s. Whenever he was down or not feeling well, his go to comfort music was Rafi Saab’s songs – slow, mellow or even Junglee! types. He would start humming, his eyes would gleam and he would be immediately ready to share a trivia from that movie or that time.

Even though his earnings were significantly less than his colleagues and other immediate family members, that did not deter him from sending me to some of the best schools in Calcutta – for him, education had no substitute – he was not educated enough (barely made it through 12th grade) but he ensured that I did not suffer like he did. My school to IIT journey was as much my parents’ journey as mine. When I saw the name on the IIT rankings board, the first reaction was that of relief – because it meant so much for him. He beamed with pride when he went to office the next day.

When I went away to IIT and then to pursue my ambitions in US, coming to think of it now, I can understand how difficult it must have been for him. His only child, with whom he might have had so many aspirations to do things together – was leaving him to go to another country. But he never ever made me feel weak – being a dad myself, I can understand how hard it was for him.

But all of that changed when Susmita got married to me – he instantly connected with her on so many things (including photography as I said earlier), made her feel comfortable and welcome. And when we had kids, his joy knew no bounds. He was the most active grandpa that I have known – taking them for walks, to parks, to classes, picking them up from after-care etc. Rightly so, my kids are extremely heart-broken right now – over time, I am sure they will get over it and remember him for the positive influence that he had on them.

The biggest thing that really stood out for me about him was his zeal to always learn new things even till the very end – whether it is a new technology, new fad, new style, new mindset – he was always open to it. I remember when we had our 1st child (pre-Whatsapp/FaceTime days), I had installed the beta-version of the Y! Messenger app with HD Video calling that my team was working on – he was very comfortable using it. In fact, in one of my last conversations with him, he was trying to figure out why the Internet Connection on his iPAD was dropping.

Even in his last few years, he didn’t just want to come to our home in USA as guests just take care of kids – he wanted to ‘contribute’ to our household – he prided himself in that. He made a lot of friends in our neighborhood in Fremont, CA and through them got to know that some of them were working in schools part time. He made me fill up a form for him and apply as a Lunch Duty Superintendent. Once he got the job and his first salary in the US, he took us all out for a grand buffet lunch and paid for it. It was a truly special moment for him and us as a family. In fact, when he was admitted recently in emergency for the bout of pneumonia, the 1st question that came to his mind was – what does it take for someone to get a job in that emergency ward.

THAT spirit is what epitomized the man – simple yet confident of his abilities, always willing to learn and making an impact. He is no longer amongst us but his memories will always be fresh. I know it sounds odd but instead of being sad on his demise, I would request you to celebrate his life and cherish your memories with him. Knowing him, he would have only wanted that. He is probably sitting in heaven right now, with a newspaper in front, sipping filter coffee, with a pen in his hand thinking about his daily word jumble and sudoku and probably listening and humming to “Jo Waada Kiya Wo…Nibhana Padega”…

REST IN PEACE APPA. We love you very much.

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