Sixth of August 1985. The final nail to the already crumbling state of despair. The clock started ticking sixteen days prior to this fateful day.
I write about a lot of things, mostly things that has happened in my life. Writing helps me to heal, vent and sometimes just to delve into happy memories and reminisce. Life for me is not just doom and gloom, after rain there is the rainbow (I give credit for this metaphor to my cousin Roy, not sure where he borrowed it from, but I think it’s a goody). But, there is no rainbow when you lose some one close to you, just the torrential rain, eventually you are all cried out. You smile for the world. You learn to cope. You now know never to let it rain again, You lock it shut and throw the keys away.
Many a times I have thought about writing about my dad’s passing. I have touched on the subject a few times, but never could I completely submerge into it. Emotions are too raw and too hard to hold back. So, I retreat even before I start.
Nearing his 31st death anniversary, thought it is time, to talk about that phone call, the phone call that came late that evening. Beginning of the end.
Dad was a scientist at the Tea Research Institute of Sri Lanka. He was well liked and admired. Apparently he was really great at his job. There was even a stamp that was printed with his face. But, he was a gentle and a humble soul with a wicked sense of humour. Some of his jokes were really terrible. But we still laughed. The Joke being terrible was a joke too.
I remember Steve Irwin’s daughter at his funeral saying “every girl thinks that their dad is the greatest, but my dad was really the greatest”. I feel the same pretty much everyday.
Year 12 exams were nearing, unfortunately after the major riots in 1983, all the Tamil ( a dialect) teachers had left Kandy and retreated back to their home town of Jaffna. Our school was finding it hard to find replacement teachers. The day scholars didn’t mind it as they were able to attend private tuition. Being a boarder under the nun regime, I had no avenues to get ready for the exams. So finally my dad decided to take me home and educate me himself, or with the help of the rest of the scientists in the place. My subjects were Physics, Chemistry, Botany and Zoology. TRI (Tea Research Institute) was swarming with Scientists of all those disciplines. What better place to be in than here.
One of the fundamental things we all forgot to take into account was that I was studying in Tamil and most of the residents of TRI including my dad studied these subjects in English. It was really slow going and finally, he decided to send me to Colombo (the Capital of Sri Lanka), along with my mum to get some private tuition to prepare me for the exams.
Dad would come to Colombo on the weekends. I am trying to think back, the things we talked about or did, he was like the male version of “Lorelai Gilmore” on “Gilmore Girls”. (Well, he didn’t sleep around switch between Luke and Christopher like a yo yo, but ..) We talked and laughed about the most stupidest things. We had the most amazing relationship.
For his time and for his generation he was very progressive. There was no taboos and restrictions, mainly reasons explained why we could take a different path. Social justice and fairness was very high on the agenda for him. He found it hard to accept the community’s norm of the “Class” system. He didn’t think women were inferior. He found “dowry” appalling. He didn’t just think, he believed that I was amazing.
I could write the praises of my dad for days and nights, and how much of a great human being he was. But today’s task is to write about that day when the clock turned on my mum and me.
Dad was meant to come home that Friday evening. Dad calls to say that he was not feeling that well and has decided not to come. Which was okay by me. But, mum was not. She kept saying that, “no he didn’t sound right”. She didn’t sleep well at all. Next morning, she decided to take the train to TRI to see dad. My cousin and I laughed at mum, we both thought she was overreacting. But my cousin joked and said that it was true love and she should follow her instincts.
She found dad in an absolute state. She informed the staff and soon got him in the TRI ambulance and transported him to Colombo. Although it was called an ambulance it does not have any medical staff. It is just a glorified van. So, Dad arrived home. Although mum rang me ahead and told me that he was not well, I didn’t picture this, at all.
He was weak and stumbled when walking. He was still smiling and wanted to talk, wanted to talk a lot. But nothing he said made much sense. I could hardly recognise who this man was. I went into the adjoining room and started to weep. Give me back my dad. He was fit as a fiddle last week, what happened in just a week. My mum hugged me and said “he is going to be fine”, I don’t think even she believed what she was saying. But, she had to say something to console me, she had to be strong for her girl. She had much to do and she couldn’t take time off to drop the ball.
You wonder why this man was in the house and not in the hospital. Well, this was Sri Lanka. Even if you think you are going to die, you have to make an appointment with the doctor next day. So, dad had an appointment to see the specialist next day after lunch.