Most people have one person in their life whom they look up to. That one person who makes them believe in themselves. That one person who tells them to never lose hope. For me, that person is my father.
To me, Appa was one of a kind. One year before I was born, he was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), which means that his body’s immune system started attacking his joints, thereby causing inflammation. For Appa, it had affected six of his joints; knees, elbows and wrists. He also had a permanent bend in his knees.
I don’t remember those initial years much but I do remember that he had undergone some Ayurvedic treatment. I remember sitting and watching as he used to apply oil on his limbs. Even now, if I come across those vapours, it takes me back to my childhood. As I grew older, I got to know from Amma that things were not like how they were then. There was a period, in the beginning, where Appa was on a wheelchair and had to learn to start walking again.
Whenever I had a problem and was on the verge of giving up, he used to say, “When I couldn’t walk, I used to look at you playing and I used to think, I have to get up and walk again for the sake of my daughter. You made me want to get up and walk again and today you’re telling me that you are going to give up.” And he lived by those words till the end.
I remember seeing him for the first time after he got sick. He was in Pune. I had flown down from Kerala and I had no idea that he was in such a bad condition till the time I saw him. When I entered the room Amma told him, “See who is here” and he just looked at me and gave me a small smile. That was the last reaction I got from him. Three days later when I was going to leave from Pune they admitted him to the hospital again. I remember going up to him, holding his hands and saying “Appa, You can do this. I know you can do this. You just stay strong and don’t give up”. He didn’t respond properly. I flew back to Kerala. It was my final semester and I was in the middle of my exams when I had to fly one weekend because his condition had deteriorated and he was in the ICU and on the ventilator. When I saw him there connected to all those tubes and wires and sedated, I couldn’t hold back my tears. This was not how he was supposed to be. My father doesn’t get sick like this. He was the one who never gave up. And to see him like that crushed me. One week later, we lost him to a cardiac arrest.
When I got the news, I didn’t have any reaction at all. It was as though there was something else that was controlling me. I had to fly to Pune so I went about doing whatever was needed for that. It was only when I reached home late at night and lay down next to Amma that all the tears came flooding.
His funeral was the next day. It was the most beautiful service I have ever attended. But there was a small part of me that was hoping that he would wake up. There was a small part that kept saying “Appa, come on!! If you don’t start breathing now they are going to bury you!” But that didn’t happen and I had to say goodbye to him.
Three days later, I was with my aunt in the car, returning from church and I asked her the one question that was on my mind, did he feel the pain during his last moments. My aunt said that he was already unconscious by then and that he did not feel a thing. I don’t know if it’s true but it made me feel so much better.
It’s almost two years since he went and not one day goes by without missing him. But I know, wherever he is, he’s looking out for us and that’s what keeps me going.