Thursday, August 02, 2007

Farewell to Hari

My dear son:

This will be my last letter to you. I hope you will read it peacefully in heaven, where you are now lodged and completely protected by God. I wanted to say many things to you while you were alive, but never did say. This is my last opportunity to do so.

I knew you only for a very brief period – 16 months to be precise. You came into my life unexpectedly, like a meteorite, and disappeared equally unexpectedly. In the process you have left me in great sadness and agony, with me struggling to make sense of your sudden departure. Needless to say, I miss you and all the long chats that we used to have. Do you know I have never ever spoken over the phone with anyone for more than an hour! With you our talks often went beyond 3 hours. I loved the intellectual thrusts and parries from you and was amazed at the depth and width of your knowledge. From medieval days to contemporary politics, from literature to chemistry, you had a brilliant grasp on diverse matters. Some of your thinking, especially your opinions on Hitler and Gandhi were controversial, to say the least. I had planned to widen my knowledge of contemporary history so that one day I could be better equipped to talk to you. Alas, this has to be postponed till I meet you upstairs. Hopefully you will still be there when I arrive. I truly believe that is the case and that God took you away with firm intentions of keeping you there and not sending you back to earth. Otherwise why should He snatch you away at the tender age of 24? I remember a quatrain from Rubaiyat that aptly summarizes God’s play:

‘T is all a Chequer-board of nights and days
Where destiny with men for Pieces plays,
Hither and thither it moves, and mates, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.

In one decisive swoop God took you away, leaving us with the agonizing question WHY? Why not an old pawn like me instead of such a young one? Why snatch life at such a promising age? I know that there will be no answers, but I cannot help asking such questions.

I cherished the one week that you spent with us here in Houston. I also hope you enjoyed your stay. I know you were moved after your visit to the Holocaust Museum. So was I. Sandhya enjoyed every moment of her time with you. How you two used to sit in the back of the car and giggle and tickle each other. How can I ever forget you tricking me into buying a Hamster? How you convinced my wife will always remain a mystery to me, but I was left with no defenses when my wife declared that she has no objections to have a Hamster. And you with a mischievous smile lurking behind. Do you know that we all love Mr. Hammy now? I even allow him to creep on my arms and pet and fuss over him. Thank you so much for introducing Hammy to us.

How little did I know that that would have been the only opportunity to meet with you and know you as a person? Don’t you remember that I had given you a promise to attend your graduation ceremony? Couldn’t you have waited for some more time? I want to let you know that I did visit Lancaster University in July. I visited the classes where you sat listening to lectures. I saw your room, the kitchen where you ate with your friends. I visited the Cancer Research shop where you used to volunteer. I had drinks at the bar where you used to frequent. I even visited the castle where you had been with Chittu athai. But I felt totally empty and hollow, because you were not there. How I missed you. Again I ask the question, what was the hurry, the urgent need to go leave this world? Why did you not like to spend a few more months in that beautiful university?

My dear son, I am sure that you realized that we had similar characteristics in many areas. We both were introverts, and truly afraid to reveal our true feelings. Rather than pouring out our feelings, we both were effective in masking those feelings. We even had an unspoken understanding of how we will address each other. You called me Hi and I used to call you Hari, but never addressed each other as dear father or dear son. I don’t know why, but I now feel that it was most stupid of me to behave so. I should have opened the floodgates and allowed my feelings to pour out towards you. Alas, this knowledge has come too late!

I was hoping for a great relationship between you and Sandhya, and I could see that you too bonded very well during your stay here. Sandhya was very upset to hear about your death. One day she came to be and solemnly proclaimed “Daddy, when I grow big and have a baby boy, I am going to call him Hari”. What made you forget all about this girl and instead seek abode at a place where you are now totally unapproachable?

I learnt a lot about you after your death. Your friends talked about your razor sharp intelligence, your kindness and compassion, you ability to read multiple books in a day, and so on. This made me proud that I had a son with such great qualities, but also so sad that you were not there to hear these accolades yourself.

You made me do many things that I would have otherwise never done. I had talked earlier about our long conversations over the phone. You also made me write long letters. Imagine me writing and eight page letter, that too in small fonts! You made me get a pet for my daughter. You taught me how to avoid weasel words in my language. You even made me realize how stupid it is to have silly fights with others, though I couldn’t apply this knowledge in practice.

I must also say that I wish you had listened to me on a few matters. I was always baffled by the amount of anger you retained in yourself and its destructive potential. I requested you many times to start working on ways to discharge this anger from your system, but you never bothered to listen. I don’t know why you had to store so much anger.

I also beseeched you to get admitted to the hospital when you complained of sleeplessness. Again you chose to ignore my pleadings. If only you had done so, wouldn’t you have been alive? During periods of difficulties and pain it would have been better to share one’s problems with friends, relatives and well wishers. You however chose to cut of all communication and seclude yourself. I do confess that I completely missed all the signals that were coming from you over the hopelessness of your health situation, your pessimism about a cure, and your increasing isolation from the world. I just ignored it, hoping that you will be able to handle it. How wrong I turned out to be.

I want to tell you one more thing before I end this letter. I played no role in your upbringing. I didn’t attempt to see you while you were growing from a boy to an adolescent to a teenager and then into a man. I had earlier explained to you why I chose to do so. I feel terrible now about this decision. I wonder if this is the cause of all the anger that was stacked in you. All I can do at this stage is to say – please forgive me. I am responsible for all the consequences of my actions, and I am suffering at the moment, wondering if things could have been different. I will continue to bear this cross for the rest of my life. But I also want you to know that I love you wholeheartedly and that I had no hesitation in accepting you as my son. I will continue to love you and miss you, your gentle voice, and the long conversations. Good Bye my dear son. Enjoy the peace and serenity in your new surroundings, secure in the knowledge that there is no petty ego, malice and evil to deal with. I end this farewell with a poem. I believe you will like it and that it represents how you would like to be.

Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousands winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

Yours loving and grieving dad,
Raj Nagarajan

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