Our ragged, yellowing telephone diary is one of the countless antiquated objects that have stood the test of time in our house. I must have been seven or eight when I first scrawled my friend’s name and number in it.
Most numbers, however, are written in my dad’s impatient, but confident handwriting. Over the years, he kept up with people’s changing contact details, cutting out and rewriting numbers (even thrice or four times in different coloured pens), drawing multiple arrows for reference. He swore by this diary for any contact and ignored my mom’s incessant pleas to start using a different one.
As old as it is, it is surprisingly up to date, with the latest entry being made by him just over a month ago. The day my dad passed away, I opened the diary to look for numbers of our near and dear ones. Every page I turned, his writing spoke out, loud and clear, of the ties he had built along the way. How we had always mocked his effort of noting down numbers in this age of cellphones.
My dad will not write in his favourite telephone diary ever again. With this thought whirling in my head, I made those heart-wrenching calls.
In the Book of Joy, the Dalai Lama says, “Death is a part of our life. There’s a beginning and there’s an end….In fact, as the Buddha reminds us, the very causes that have given rise to something, such as our life, have created the mechanism, or the seed, for that thing’s eventual end.”
Beautiful thought. Reality, however, is infinitely complex, as it is burdened by the web of emotions we carefully weave around those we love.
In a span of mere 12 hours, I lost my anchor, my guiding light and my rather vocal moral compass. The little girl in me believed my father would be with us forever; holding our hand, helping us to stand upright in face of life’s big and small hurdles. Giving us the strength to go that extra mile every time, just as he did. For me, my dad was capable of anything. His wise words and unwavering support have pulled us out of many a complicated life situations. Always hands-on, he would swing into action when any of us needed help. We never had to ask for it.
His dedication to his family knew no limit. I remember him diligently waking my sister up at 4.30 am when she was writing her PhD thesis. He would make her a cup of tea and sit with her, pasting diagrams, putting papers in order and checking for grammatical errors. It was as much his project as it was hers. Through his actions, he showed us that it is the little things which matter the most.
His quest for knowledge was admirable. I miss his animated talks on everything under the sun. A voracious reader, he could wax eloquent about the benefits of tulsi/ turmeric and seamlessly switch to profound musings on the purpose of our existence, the beauty of the Sanskrit language, or the ancient Druids of Ireland.
One of the biggest lessons he taught us through his passion for learning is ‘you can never know too much’. My inbox will be so much poorer without his customary emails, links and tidbits on topics of my interest, and stories around the world.
My dad’s quirky sense of humour (or sense of tumour, as he liked to call it) definitely needed getting used to. Even then, it was hard to decipher for some. While my mom and siblings would often be clueless, I knew exactly what he was sniggering about. We shared an instant connect here. Maybe I inherited his twisted funnybone!
As Mr Fixit, who was also prone to hoarding, he would repair or reuse anything that we tossed out. Our dog’s e-collar turned into a pretty lampshade, cracked mugs were used as tiny flower holders (can’t call them pots), and discarded dishes were hung outside as water bowls for the birds and squirrels. In his world, everything had life beyond life.
I believe that applies to him as well. He is now eternal, on a journey of his own. But he will stay with us through all the enriching teachings and memories he left behind.
As the Dalai Lama says, “We need to use our days wisely, to make our world a little better for everyone.”
You certainly did, baba. Love you. Rest in peace.
“... cracked mugs were used as tiny flower holders and discarded dishes were hung outside as water bowls for the birds and squirrels. In his world, everything had life beyond life.”
- Mallika Rale