‘I Picked Up The Phone And The Epiphanic Moment Arrived’


She is 24, a journalist and lives in Delhi

Anonymous SORRY TO hear about your father,” he said and I stepped forward with a straight face. All that was taught to me was defied because even on the twelfth day of my father’s passing away, I still could not decipher a way to respond, to accept the condolences. Even when I was being tutored in the ‘thank yous’ and the ‘sorrys’ and the ‘excuse mes’ of the good conduct literature in the first standard, I had never learnt by heart a salutation for this occasion.

My father, within a month before dying, had dutifully settled all the bank loans. Both his and mine. Transferred all his money to my brother’s bank account and mine, leaving exactly Rs 132 for later formalities. The insurance premium for the rest of the year was well paid in advance and the chequebooks had already been populated with blank signatures. His last call was for an orange-flavoured bar, forbidden due to diabetes, which eased his passage to death at the age of 54.

The last call was for an orange bar, forbidden due to diabetes, which eased the passage to death

Accusations that I was selling the death had started pouring into my life. For using it to cover up for not meeting deadlines, not ideating for weekly meeting, for being inefficient at work. For a tiff with the landlord. For convincing the policeman why the car insurance was not renewed. For pleading to culminate a five-year-old relationship into marriage. For not having enough number of friends who could travel cities to donate blood to an ailing father. For switching to sleeper-class train tickets for the weekend visits to the hometown. For all that could not have been such a big deal. The safest way to behave had still not occurred to me.

My schoolteacher-mother had quietly decided to spend the rest of her life with the leftovers of the dead. Amongst the furniture bought by her dead parents and the clothes and shoes of the husband. Sitting in the school library attaching death certificates to the life insurance policies, copiously noting down the bank account numbers. At home, calmly filling one side of her king sized bed with random books, cushions, paper boxes as an antidote to the loneliness she feels at night.

Illustration by Samia Singh

My brother, at 29, had turned 50. Parked in a different time zone, matching his with the ones here. Frantically calling twice, thrice, four times a day to ask whether the mother has had lunch, to ensure that the LPG cylinder is refilled, sending movie tickets to make sure she watches each new movie as before. To find out whether the electricity bill of the house he grew up in had been paid.

It had dawned that the vacancy for a ringmaster to tame the unruly sister should be filled with immediate effect. Henceforth, dutifully every ten days he would tell me that even if I think that I have grown up, and am fiercely independent and intelligent, frankly, I am just an idiot and above all, still very young. Doesn’t matter if I am just five years younger to him. And I would indulge him– what choice did I have? I would tell him on the phone, “No dada,that’s not true. I don’t think like that. Honestly,” and chuckle inside my head.

One day, I picked up the phone to call my father and the epiphanic moment arrived. I realised that it is not possible any more. To ask how to file tax returns. To fake misery for an invitation to pack bags and take the next train home. Desperately trying to hallucinate to discover my father in the next auto. Hysterically attempting to dream of him without success. Pretending each affair that unfolds in life is a consequence of his recently acquired supernatural powers. Also, how self-introductions can never start with ‘my parents live in Lucknow’. How no more can I yearn for a rich father as an excuse to quit my job.

A power dose of catharsis is better equipped to teach surrealism than a Van Gogh painting.


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