Feb 29th, 2016 8:37 AM
A call shook my world. That call was made from the Hospital ICU. “We were trying to reach you since half an hour. Please come at once to the ICU.” I was busy thanking my new friends, Gods. Tension gripped me; elevated heartbeat, sweating and mouth went dry. I was unable to swallow the Tirtham at the temple. I searched for an answer looking into the stonely God, Chitragupta in Old City of Hyderabad. The statue was silent. The temple room fell silent. I pleaded “Please!”.
No response came. The Panditji broke a coconut and blessed “… sakala ayuraarogya aiswaryabhivruddhi siddhirastu. Kaise hein Paapa Ananth Vamsiji?” I told him about the call. He wished me luck and asked me to not lose hope. He was equally shocked.
There were at least ten people who should know immediately. But whom should I first call? Mind was so cluttered. I started to feel Dad slipping out of my fingers like that of the movie Cliffhanger.
I called Dad’s brother, Dr. Kameswara Rao. “Babai, just received a call that their trying to revive him since last half an hour and he’s not responding”. “Ok Ra Naana, let me speak to the doctor immediately” was the reply. I wished he didn’t call back.
I called his last brother, Jagga Rao, “Babai, I received a call from ICU. They say it’s critical. I need you at once”. “I will be there now, Vamsi” was the reply.
I called Amma who was alone in the ICU waiting area for attenders, “Amma, the doctors have arranged for a briefing with me shortly. In-between please don’t attend to any of the calls the nursing staff make. Go to the Vinayak temple at the gate and pray as usual”.
Mom asked “what happened?” I replied “Nothing much, they may ask about the pending dues now that the surgery is successful”. “Then why.. ok! I will leave the waiting area at once and be there. Come fast”. She wasn’t impressed with my explanation.
I started searching for a cab on Uber, Ola and Taxi for Sure, the closest was 9 minutes away. I waited. It felt like 9 years.
I called Mustafagaru, dad’s spiritual Guru and conveyed him the development. He was shocked and tried consoling me through explanations. I wasn’t looking for one. I wanted my cab to come at once! In between I gulped two teas. The hot tea hurt my tongue but it was secondary. I had to reach the hospital at once. I was 35 kms away from Gachibowli, Hyderabad doing a specific puja for dad’s good health. I hopped into the cab and started speeding towards the hospital.
I called Aditya to convey that the plan for Sujatha’s (my sister) wedding shopping was on hold and asked him to be at the hospital. “I will be there” was the reply. “Bring your mother” and I cut the call.
Thoughts plagued me as the cab snailed even at 70 kmph. I closed my eyes lost in memories and constantly assuring myself “This is not the way it should happen. We have seen many situations in a short span and have overcome. This is also a passing situation. Vamsi, don’t think emotionally. It clouds your imagination and next step”.
The cab took the turn towards the hospital and my heart was beating much faster. As it entered the hospital gate, found mom sitting there and reading her Lalitha Sahasranamam, waved a hand and asked her to be there. I rushed into the waiting area outside ICU. Left the prasadam and cleaned my forehead off the tilakam and Akshintalu that the Panditji put on my head blessing me.
I walked into the ICU. The security guards wore a stern look. The door felt heavy and I saw the ICU 3’s curtain drawn. My worst nightmares were now a reality. A team of doctors and nurses were rushing into and out of the room. Deafening silence broken occasionally with the pings of the monitors reading pulse and oxygen saturation. I concentrated on one, just one. I peeped through the corner of the curtain. There was an occasional pulse and the rest were nearly flat lines. The doctor saw me and asked for a second. Few seconds passed. Jagga walked into the ICU. Both looked into each other’s eyes. We didn’t need words.
When I peeped again the pulse went flat never to rise.
Dad breathed his last. The doctors put up a valiant fight with the Yamadootas for nearly an hour and a half. Dr. Srikanth came out and asked us to wait in the visitor room for a briefing. This wasn’t a normal one. I and Jagga went inside the room. I was looking at the ceiling and walls. I felt they were converging on me but Jagga had his composure intact. Dr. Srikanth came inside. “We did everything we can to revive him. Unfortunately, we couldn’t save him”. “Your dad put up a valiant fight against a rare condition ‘Acute Pancreatitis’. 65 days is in no way a small thing but unfortunately he’s no more.” he choked.
I patted on Dr. Srikanth’s shoulders and said “You did a good job. I am happy we all fought together for him. Could you please ask the hospital staff to cooperate with me while I make necessary arrangements for the last rites in Vizag?” He assured the hospital would cooperate.
I shook hands with Babai and said “We have all done our best. Now before emotions takeover us we have two new assignments. One, making necessary arrangements in Vizag. The other, dealing and closing hospital affairs.” He agreed.
Jagga and I approached Mom. I asked her to stand beside me at the Ganesh Idol next to the hospital’s gate. It was the only source of inspiration and sparring for both.
“Dad is not with us. He left for higher worlds.”
I saw my Mom turn into a small child. Tears, shock and grief took over the 62 yer old at loss of her 40 year friendship, life partner and husband. Jagga wrapped us both in a hug. We cried. None of Mom’s questions could be answered. “Why? How can this happen?” I had no answers. There was no downplaying of Dad’s critical condition anymore. He was just not there for me to spin a story and assure her. We three felt the emptiness. It was unfathomable. Sobs dominated words.
She was barely able to walk. Jagga and I made her reach the hospital lobby. We had to immediately act. Vizag was the choice for the rites. Rest of the Nadimintis, relatives and friends were in Vizag. Scared and hoping to see their brother for one last time. I asked Amma to permit me to complete the jobs. She kissed my forehead and asked me to complete them.
Aditya and Aruna aunty walked in. A welcome respite as they can attend on her. Jagadamba (Jaggi), Jagga’s wife followed enquiring Dad’s condition. She had to call off her official duties to rush to the hospital. Jagga didn’t yet convey the news to her. I told her calmly that Dad isn’t with us. She stopped in her tracks. Words couldn’t come out of her mouth. I held her until I found Jagga and left her in his care. She was an angel who took care of us in the 65 day episode. I didn’t have time to know what happened later, asked them all to attend on Amma and left. Later Aditya joined me in finishing hospital affairs. I found a responsible brother in him.
I called my sisters, Sujatha and Neelu. “Dad is not with us. He left for higher planes”. Neelu burst “How can this happen, after all we did?” Sujatha was sobbing and listened to the news. I demanded from them one thing, “Be strong both of you. We need to be strong for the rest of the family. Dad’s relatives and friends are all old and we need to put up strong balanced faces. Later when all are done we can go to our homes and cry our hearts out. This is just not the time.”
Ramani (Neelu’s husband) called. “Sorry Naana.” were the words. i didn’t know how to react. I couldn’t speak much and put down the phone trying to focus on the job at hand.
Vizag preparations were made by Chayanulu, Viswanath and Ranga Prasad. The hospital staff ensured all possible help from their end for safe transfer of Dad and us from Hyderabad to Vizag. They attached us to an agent.
After preparing him and making him wear his favorite clothes, he was brought into a private area within the ICU for 10 minutes. Mom held his face and I his feet. My Dad was a Guru and friend to us more than a father hence my choice of feet. There was emptiness.
Mom sobbed “Ram, why this abyss for me? How can I?”
Dad was sent to the mortuary for the travel preparations, embalming and other procedures. Mom was taken to Jagga-Jaggi’s place. Pradeep (Deepu) came. He was shocked and hugged me. He stayed with me for a while.
Necessary permissions were taken by the agent but one No Objection certificate from the local Gachibowli Police station to transfer Dad (which was a standard procedure) was remaining. I and Deepu went there along with the agent. The Sub Inspector made us wait for 2.5 hours! Apparently he wanted to teach the agent a lesson to show respect (maybe) to him as he confidently sauntered into the Police station and demanded an NOC. Actually I was taught one.
The Police administrations in Telangana don’t have a humanitarian side to handle with situations like these. In the hot sun, losing Dad and growing pressure from the hospital to pay the final bill before providing clearance to transfer Dad, my situation was getting worse. This behavior of the Police was a shock to me. I took help of Jaggi and things were sorted instantly.
Apparently in the confusion, I blurted out a figure to the finance department of the hospital that I will pay to clear the papers. That was reported and the bill was adjusted to a higher value. Dr. Santosh intervened and Vissu helped to negotiate. The negotiations continued until late night. I apologized to Santosh and Vissu for messing up things at the last instant. Felt I was in shambles and started talking deranged exhausted from the day’s activities. They asked me to take rest for a while. A final amount was agreed and Dad’s papers were released. Neelu and Ramani made sure the funds were available instantly. It was not a small amount.
Later in the night, when I and Jagga were resting on the couch with eyes wide open in the darkness and reminiscing the past 65 days, an occasional tear left my eyes and rolled down my cheeks. There was emptiness everywhere. The voice which spoke to me every morning and evening fell silent. There won’t be any more calls greeting “Good Morning” and “Ok Ra Nanna, Digvijayamasthu”. Emptiness filled us. I saw my Mom and Jaggi lie on the bed tired from the same emptiness.
Mar 1st, 2016, 01:00 AM
The agent made a call late night saying “The name of your father is printed wrong in the Police Station’s NOC. I had asked you to verify and review. That SI is off duty now. What can be done?” Earth stood still for me. Frantic calls were made to the Hospital security supervisor. One of the friends I made at the hospital. He assured “I will personally go and get it rectified.” Tense moments passed and at 2.40 AM we received a call that Dad was being shifted from the hospital to the airport. The mistake was rectified. I thanked him.
All five of us were at the airport and boarded the flight. This time Dad was in the luggage compartment in an ice box while I, Amma, Jagga and Jaggi were together but alone inside the cabin. Jagga was lost in his thoughts. Jaggi was composed not breaching her emotions so that Mom can be given the strength and Mom was lost. I sat observing all these moments.
8: 30 AM
We arrived in Vizag and Dad’s brothers received us. They have arranged for the entire proceedings already. The coffin box had a Christian cross marked on it. I smiled and let it go. I was greeted by sobbing relatives. I had an apology written all over my face. I couldn’t save their brother and friend.
The ritual started and none of us were given enough time for a wholehearted last glance. The Pandit was like that. He guns for detachment. Else, the loss will overwhelm us. In the midst I saw Pramod (Now Sujatha’s husband), his brother Prashant and their mother Nageswari garu. I broke down looking at her. Held her and said “I could only do so much for sisters in Nadiminti and Jonnalagadda family. I’m sorry.” Emotions took over all of us briefly.
I performed the prayers and rituals. Within an hour was back on the van transferring Dad to the crematorium.
After a brief puja there, I and Dad’s brothers lifted him onto the pyre. I lit the Karpur (Camphor) placed it on his heart. I was ordered not to see the pyre and followed the instructions. Bidding his mortal remains one last Good Bye I said “You’ve been a good Dad my friend. I will miss you.”
As the flames rose, his Aatma finally got its ‘Great Escape’.
I hope it reaches higher Astral planes and becomes one with the ParamAatma and gets free from the cycles of Birth and Death. Om Shanti Shanti Shanti!
We are still those small kids who held those front grills of MIG C6 house waiting to hear the revving Bajaj Chetak scooter. ‘One small ride Dad’ is all we ask. We know you can’t respond now and we have to live with it. We sincerely hope our discussions and your enthusiasm work for us for the rest of our lives.
We miss your voice which was full of advice, humor and fatherly concern. You did Good, Dad. We love you.
Vamsi, Sujatha, Neelu and Rama.