Dad…Get Well Soon…Please

Something didn’t feel right about this trip to Las Vegas even though we have always enjoyed this particular destination in the past. The tickets had been booked several weeks ago but the initial excitement had long since faded. A and A were looking forward to this vacation and couldn’t stop talking about the fun they were going to have. It was supposed to be all work for me and I was stricken with unease on top of it all. I put it down to general exhaustion and tried to appear enthused.

I arrived at the Bellagio on Wednesday, for the first time not in the least bit impressed with this glittering bubble of a place that rises right out of the desert, this one spot of tackiness in the middle of nowhere. I have spent the last two days in conference rooms, listening to dull speeches and panel discussions. I kept thinking I would try to enjoy whatever Las Vegas had to offer on Friday, but the unease remained. Friday morning, as I tried to force down a bite or two of the continental breakfast and coffee before the three hour long conference, my cell phone rang. It was from the 613 area code. All sorts of thoughts raced through my head within the seconds that intervened between my registering the number and answering the phone. A call from Ottawa, at 9:00 AM in the morning couldn’t possibly bear good news. It was my brother. He sounded shaken up. My Dad had been taken to the emergency room of Ottawa General Hospital the night before. The doctors had told him that my Dad’s condition was as serious as serious got. They had said he couldn’t possibly get any sicker. My brother had been asked to contact all family. His voice broke up; he was in tears before he could finish his last sentence. He handed the phone to my Mom who couldn’t get a single word out through her tears. I told them I would find a way to get to Ottawa as soon as possible.

I excused myself from my colleagues and called the airlines to see if I could fly today instead of tomorrow afternoon. I asked them to find me a flight to Ottawa but they weren’t able to. They were, however, able to move up my reservation to a 2:30 PM flight today, flying into Newark airport and landing at 10:13 PM. I am writing from the plane four long hours before I land. I plan to get home by midnight, pack a few things and then drive to Ottawa. I’ll be driving all night and will reach Ottawa by 7:00 AM Saturday morning. I keep repeating the mahamrityunjaya jaap to myself, with my Dad’s smiling visage in mind as I fly, I am not able to do much else. I am only writing because I am not ready to be assailed by the thoughts that will fill my head if I don’t write.

I spoke to my brother before getting on the plane. He said the doctors had induced a comatose condition and were doing their best to get him to respond to antibiotics. He has severe pneumonia. It’s as if his immune system has given up on him completely. I am hoping he will be awake and lucid by the time I reach Ottawa tomorrow. I can’t keep the tears at bay as I think of my brother’s and my Mom’s words spoken through tears. Then I think of the conversation I had with my Dad on Tuesday, before leaving for Las Vegas.

There was a tremendous sense of urgency in his tone. I had called to check on them and make sure they were doing alright before I left for 4 days. I knew there were problems with Dad’s kidney function; his creatinine levels were high at 342. He told me that the doctors had told him that if the levels hit 500 then there would be cause for alarm, until then there was nothing they could do but monitor the levels. He had also mentioned in passing that his White Blood Cell count was very low according to his latest blood test results. But none of it sounded alarming enough for me to anticipate a drastically altered condition of health within 4 days. He sounded strong although the nature of our conversation depressed me no end. He said he was going to India in two weeks with the sole purpose of putting up the Delhi home for sale. He said that it was the only way for him to be able to support themselves in Canada, in an apartment of their own. He had given much thought to his living expenses and believed that the proceeds of the sale could cover a less than lavish existence in Canada for fifteen or so years and that he didn’t think he had fifteen years remaining.

I had told him that I was saddened beyond belief at their decision to sell that home. I find it hard to put in words the feelings that I have for the home in Delhi, but they run deep and, in some far-fetched way, they stop me from feeling unmoored sometimes. I remember how we waited several years for DDA to finish building our flat while we lived in various rented homes in Malviya Nagar. It was a proud moment indeed when Daddy took possession of the flat in 1986. Our pleasure was immense. I recall our elation and have fond memories of the day Daddy, Somi and I went to a light fixture outlet in Greater Kailash 2’s M-Block market. We hand-picked the fixtures for the light above the front door, the living room, the balcony, the terrace, our bedroom, my parents’ bedroom and the dining room…the special light that hung low over the dining table. I remember the customized furniture built by Khemchand. I recollect with pride my painting the front door a rich shade of mahogany and being commissioned to paint permanent rangoli at the doorstep of our neighbor Mrs. Satyavati. I loved it there. I loved knowing all the neighbors and listening in on the conversations as all the neighborhood women got together every afternoon to gossip with my Mom. Every room was special; the colors of the walls picked out with care after reaching familial consensus on which shade suited which room the best. I had never imagined that my parents would consider selling this home in Mandakini Enclave. I am not ready to get unmoored in this manner.

Dad sounded chagrined at my expression of regret at his decision to sell. He said, “Well, what do you propose instead? You never talk to us, you never suggest alternatives. So your Mom and I discuss things and do what we think would be best. We talked to your brother too. He seems to be in favor of selling the home. He says we should wrap things up and make a permanent move to Canada. We had a discussion a couple of days ago about our current living situation. Your Mom brought up the feeling of banishment and he angrily reminded us that we would have continued a stressed and distressed existence had we not taken this step. He reminded us that we had our dignity, our pride and our independence now. He is right, of course he is right. So now we only have one choice, we must sell the house…unless you can think of an alternative.”

I wasn’t able to come up with an alternative; my mind was abuzz with all kinds of white noises and distress signals. I kept thinking of how we went about decorating and making a home out of the house at Mandakini Enclave all those years ago. We always tried to reach consensus. My parents always solicited our opinion. We moved forward as a family. Why has life now fragmented us so? I excused myself from this phone conversation with Dad, I needed to get back to work. He asked then, “Are you tired of listening to me? Ok then, enjoy yourself in Las Vegas.” It was an unforgettable conversation, one that I keep replaying in my head as I fly eastward and as my eyes keep clouding over with tears.

I can’t help but think of the story I was reading during my trip to Las Vegas – Paul Auster’s – The Invention of Solitude. He started his story remarking on how days go by, each one the same as the one gone by until the one day there’s a phone call from a familiar place, at an odd hour, on an odd day and you know in your heart it can’t be good news. His story was about the day he heard the news about his Dad. His news wasn’t good. I choose to believe my news carries hope and that 7:00 AM tomorrow morning will be a glorious new day after which life will once again return to “normal”.

10 Comments

  1. God Bless you. Praying.

  2. God strengthen and bless you, and will continue to pray.

  3. Pragya,I hope that by this time things are more stable with your father. Will add my prayers to the many that I'm sure are being sent your way. Much love,Sridala

  4. Hi Pragya,Reading this broke my heart. I know how you must be feeling. And the thought that you wrote this in the midst of agony makes your words all the more precious. I am praying for your dad and you. Hope he gets back to normal soon.Best wishes,J

  5. pragya, I pray that things will only get better from here. Best wishes and much love your way. Roop

  6. you have my support pragya… everything will work out for the best.jeff

  7. never lose hope,ever.my prayers and love for you.

  8. "SHRI HARIDAS VARIYA ,GIRIRAJ GOVARDHANAYA NAMAHA"He get well soon ..dont worry..RADHE RADHETake CareVikas{V}

  9. Praying that all will be well.VM

  10. My prayers are with you too, Prags. Hope things are better now.Ronj


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