2014 turned out to be a very strange year for me. There have been some great moments, in fact, there were mostly great moments (weddings, promotions, new friends). But everything seemed to be swept away with just one blow. The one that most of us are not ready to face: the passing away of a parent. My father passed away last month, just two days shy of his 74th birthday. At some subconscious level in our minds we all know that death in inevitable, but I did not think that it would come this soon. Why, my last blog post talked about the things I did in Nashville when my parents visited in September! He was hail and hearty and even gained a few pounds soaking up the fresh air and enjoying his time here. But we really cannot say what is going to happen tomorrow.
As somebody who lives abroad, far away from their family, you are always worried about “The Phone Call”…the one that is going to sting you with news of a death in the family. On Nov.18th at 10 pm, we were just about to retire for bed, when my brother-in-law called us up. After the initial shock and sorrow subsided, I was on the earliest flight out to India, and had a full 24 hours ahead of me to contemplate and absorb the news. The thought process started with denial, then anger, then regret, then questions like, why so soon? He still had a good 10 years in him! But at least there was some comfort in the fact that he passed away peacefully in his sleep. He did not suffer a long, drawn health battle. He probably did not even realize it. He had enjoyed dinner the previous night with the love of his life, my mom, and even had a glass of mojito. Talk about having a ball in your life to the end. Only a lucky few get this kind of exit!
So instead of moping about and crying over him, I decided somewhere between Paris and Mumbai, that I am going to write down the things that come to mind immediately when I think of my dad, or Papa, as we called him. I have to honor his memory with the legacy he left, not just with tears.
His most important legacy for me was his emphasis on Integrity: make your mistakes, but own up to it; don’t lie and cheat anyone; be straightforward about your thoughts and actions and live with integrity. And I can say with pride that I live by this motto every single day.
Papa also raised his three daughters like they were his sons: brave and not afraid to tackle any challenges. In a country that discriminates between boys and girls (it has improved a bit since) my father did not let us feel weak or lacking in any abilities. If anything he pushed us harder (sometimes a bit too much, which is why my fights with him were quite legendary in the family) But this made me strong enough to make a lot of gutsy decisions: move to another country, switch careers, fight for my love, move three different states in 4 years with a toddler in tow, start a creative business, etc. He was always proud of whatever decision I made, even if we disagreed on many terms.
And if something did not work out as expected, he would always remind me that everything is not in our hands…And this is what I am going to miss the most. This sense of comfort I always felt when he would toss this line. He always said, “Do your best, but if you are feeling anxious or scared, then pray to God. He will make everything alright.” Even if I argued with my dad about the logic of this sentence (I mean, how can God be the solution for every problem), and even if I never really ended up praying, I would always repeat his sentence in my head, in his calming voice. I really wish I had a voicemail or a recording of this sentence! In today’s world, you really do not leave anything to fate. We are so much in charge of our own destinies with our iPhones and Googling abilities..we can DO IT ALL. And when something doesn’t go our way, we are hard on ourselves and eventually, our loved ones. Instead, Papa always said that you do your best and leave the rest to destiny. A rather simplified, and borderline cowardly approach, I would always say, and yet whenever he said that to me, I always felt calmer inside.
There is some truth in that statement too: he left many things to fate, and when I look back at his last year, I am amazed at how everything fell into place. His youngest daughter got married ; he spent a lot of time with his grandkids; he got to visit the US, the one place he had not been to ...in fact, my parents were initially hesitant about the long journey, but since his visa was expiring on Nov.16th we forced him to come down. Talk about timing! After his return, he met up with most of his friends and relatives because of Diwali, our biggest festival. In a way, he had said his goodbyes to everyone. He had completed all his major tasks and responsibilities and was toasting to a life lived well with that mojito. Somewhere deep down he must have known, I feel. How can one explain the perfect timing of everything! But if I were to say this to him, Papa would have replied “I just did what I was supposed to. The rest is up to destiny.”
Maybe therein is a lesson for us as we move into another year of promises and disappointments, celebrations and missed opportunities, new beginnings and final farewells: No matter what, eventually everything will fall into place.