• Vijeta Gawdi

Some superheroes are called PAPA


I have been sitting at the computer, looking blankly at the screen. Its been sixty days today, the first sixty days of my life without my father. I have a million thoughts running through my head, so many memories bittersweet. For those who have known me closely the last decade, know that life changed for us on the 21st May 2006, the most dreaded day in our fate, that ripped open the ground beneath our feet and tore the sky over our head to shreds.

21st May, May you would have never happened. If only we could go back in time and change our destinies. What a life we could create for ourselves, perfect! Isn’t it, if we could only right every wrong but then I guess it wouldn’t be called living life after all.

Nigeria May 21st, 2006: Its 9:00 pm, Sunday-You have just entered the home, the movie was a big flop you tell mummy ”Humko Deewana Kar Gaye”. Well for lack of nothing better to do, Mom is happy at how the day has ended. A heavy afternoon lunch followed by shopping for groceries and an early evening movie, the perfect way to end a midsummer Sunday. Only, if we knew that the day was not done with us, yet. Destiny had its own plans and had consigned its doer to put the plan in action.

“I can’t find my phone! Did I leave it in the car?” My brother darts across the hall into the car park, he looks under the seats, in the glove box, in the coffee case, in the bottle holder, all door rests. There were so many places you could have been that day, you imprudent, godforsaken cell phone, but you chose to be under the seat in the theatre. By now Dad, you realize you must have dropped the phone in the theatre. You ask the driver to get the car out because it is important for you to get the cell phone since all your important contacts are in it.

How I wish! the driver had left for the day, I guess he was around a bit longer that day because destiny had cut out a role for him, he was part of destiny's script. You and Ashu(my brother)drove out. You weren’t destined to leave us that day, so Ashu had come along. You have reached halfway and suddenly you hear the sound of gunshots being fired. The doer is a local, who has casually opened fire on the road. The driver runs off, out of fear of course but mostly out of the fact that his role is now to run back home and inform Mom about what has happened and where it has happened. It’s only you and Ashu in the car, ducking under the seat. Everything goes silent, not a stir in the air, there are a few cars around, but everyone seems to be driving off now. You think it is safe now to look out, you get up and the bullet finds its mark!

The doer flees, he has played his part to perfection. I remember we had named Ashu, Ashwin because he was born in the INS Ashwini hospital. Ashwin means the doctor of gods. Now I know why he was truly meant to be called, Ashwin. He had to save you that day and bring you back. My brother had just finished his Std X board exams and was in Nigeria for his summer holidays.

We humans think it is we, who plan, decide and execute things. How timid and childish we are to think we are the directors of the play, He has already so very well scripted for us. By now you have fallen into Ashu’s lap, blood dripping from your head, you have been shot twice in your brain, its oozing. Ashu keeps you pinned down, you are lying so still. He is not sure if you are alive or not. He checks your pulse, it's ticking. He lets some time pass before getting out on the dark empty road. His knees shaking, hands trembling. A person on a motorcycle passes by, peeps into the car and decides to help this poor boy, all of barely 15 years out. Yes! another doer who has come, to act out his part. May you bless him with all the happiness in life! A million things are to happen in the next 48 hours. You spend the night fighting for your life. You have survived for over 30 hours now, no ventilator. Arrangements are being made to airlift you to the Milpark hospital in South Africa. It's a small medical plane, mummy has the passports ready. She quickly throws a few things together. Of all the things she packs, the one thing she does not forget to take are your shoes.

The human race is a resilient species. We fight tooth and nail for our loved ones, we pray, we beg and if need be are ready to put down our lives for them. We live on hope and hope is what gets us through. We fall and then again we get up and fight the battles of life with determination:

hato va prapsyasi svargam
 jitva va bhoksyase mahim
 tasmad uttistha kaunteya
 yuddhaya krta-niscayah || chapter 2, verse 37||

Translation: O son of Kunti, either you will be killed on the battlefield and attain the heavenly planets, or you will conquer and enjoy the earthly kingdom. Therefore get up and fight with determination.

Johannesburg: 24th May:10 am, Machines beeping, the smell of antiseptic fills the room. I am standing by your bedside holding your hands. Your head is covered in a thick bandage.”The surgery will take 5-6 hours, Keep praying, it will all be fine, he is a fighter” Dr Moenge is checking the papers before they wheel you in. I place the small Ganpati Bappa idol over your bed.

वक्रतुण्ड महाकाय सूर्य कोटी समप्रभा ; निर्विघ्नं कुरु मे देव सर्व-कार्येशु सर्वदा॥

O Lord Ganesha of the curved trunk and massive body, the one whose splendour is equal to millions of Suns, please bless me to that I do not face any obstacles in my endeavours.

I kiss you on your forehead and give your hand a squeeze, the left side of your body has been motionless since the accident. At this point we just want you back, alive and breathing.

After the most gruesome wait, that has lasted over 7 hours now and seen us pray fervently, we hear some news, ”He is stable, but still unconscious, the fragments have been removed, it’s a wait and watch.” We brace ourselves. Mom, my Masi, my Masa and I are looking at each other. We can barely see the fear in each other's eyes, the room is meant for resting and is dimly lit. Now after so many years, when I think about that room, it was our little home for those 27 days, we spent in the hospital. My masa is the first one to speak ”I think this is good news” he says, shrugging his shoulders. How do I remember every detail, I guess it's your body's mechanism when you are in a state of shock, subconsciously you are hyper cognizant of everything. I mean 14 years later, I still remember that the room had green and blue upholstered sofas.

The days drag and then not so anymore. You have come out of being in a comatose state after 27 days. The 27 longest days of my life, the longest wait I ever waited. Standing by your bedside, talking non-stop, singing to you, telling you about what’s happening the world over, celebrating your 25th anniversary as you lay unconscious, crying but not once hopeless. After 2 months of rehabilitation and hundreds of sessions in therapy, we are back to Mumbai. Yes, you have lost control over the left side of your body, you are unable to walk independently, you are in a state of shock and so are we, but you know you have to be strong. You know in your heart that you have to get through another 14 years of “vanvaas”. As it is written in the Ramayana

उत्साह-उत्साहो बलवानार्य नास्त्युत्साहात्परं बलम् ।

सोत्साहस्य हि लोकेषु न किञ्चदपि दुर्लभम् ॥

There is nothing impossible for a person who has the Spirit to fight.

Something my Mom gifted my Papa 18 years ago

You lived to fight for 14 years, by our sides in our ups and downs, you completed all your worldly duties. You made sure we were all taken care of. You taught us so many things, never complain even in the most difficult situations, never give up hope, love freely and life can be enjoyed even when nothing in it seems worth your while.

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन । मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भुर्मा ते संगोऽस्त्वकर्मणि ॥

You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty. - Bhagavad Gita, Chapter II, Verse 47

You are there, I know, right beside me as I write. You will continue to be there for us always. We shall meet again someday, somewhere, Papa. I’ll be up in your arms eating your share of the pedas, yet again. For now, I want the world to know that you were the bravest person, I have the privilege of being the daughter of. You could never wear the shoe that mummy had packed in her bag that day, or any shoe after that but you have marked your stride, the stride of a man that knew only one way to go-upwards. From a small village boy to the CTO of some of the best consumer companies, you were a success in yourself.

You were called VIRENDRA-The bravest and Nobel one!!

Can’t see you but hugging you with my tears and love.



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