A couple of nights earlier, I had a dream. I dreamt that Mumma and I were boarding a train to somewhere unknown. When I asked her, "Where are we going?" , she merrily cupped my face with her hands and said, "To see Babu." I was ecstatic. I haven't seen you for such a long time. I don't remember how you even look like anymore. Photographs are blurry, and perhaps they don't do justice to you. When a distant relative shows up at our doorstep (a rare occurrence) they tell me, "You are an exact replica of your father." That's when I try to search for you in the mirror. But I can't find you even there.
To miss you, to be aware that I will never hear your voice again, and to know that you knowingly left us is something which becomes unbearable at times.
Back to the dream though. I boarded the train and started sorting out the luggage. The whistle blew but Mumma didn't board the train. When I ran towards the door, she started pulling me down. "He's not there. Get down. He's not there anymore." I didn't believe her and refused to get down. The train started moving, and Mumma started running after it, still shouting, "Get down, he's not there!" I don't remember what happened next. I just remember waking up, lying in a pool of my own sweat, dreadfully realizing that Mumma's back at home while I'm far, far away, and you are not there. Not anymore.
How long has it been since I last saw you, Babu? A decade and a half perhaps, if not longer? The last time I saw you, you were lying on a cot, eyes closed. If anyone didn't know better, they would think you were blissfully sleeping, only to wake up fresh and ready to take on the world. But everyone, including myself, knew better. And as I finished those cumbersome rituals before saying the final goodbye and seeing you off in your last journey, I kept hoping that you'd wake up, hug me and tell me everything was going to be all right. The flowers they had placed around you had a sweet awful smell that was making me sick. I wanted to shout at the priest and every other man who was present at the crematorium that day. I wanted to tell them to stop everything they were doing. The person they thought was dead and were planning to cremate so efficiently, was my Babu. No matter what happened, he always got better. It had always been like that. But that fateful day, neither did you wake up, nor did they stop. In the end, I came back home to a heartbroken Mumma, who hugged me and told me, "Everything is going to be all right."
Fifteen years have passed, and the world you knew has changed so rapidly. No one calls or see each other much these days. Instead we text. No one waits for other people to take their pictures to make a memory anymore. Instead we take selfies. Our lives now revolve around our smartphones and the applications they hoard. For every single task in our lives, mundane or exciting, there's now an app. Whatever I want to do, I can get it done with the help of my phone.
As I struggled to escape my depression, I started to realise how you got engulfed in your own.
My phone and the internet can now connect me with everyone and everything when I need to. But when I miss you, I look at my phone in the delusional hope of calling you, but it stares back blankly at me. There's no app to help me miss you less.
You know Babu, I've changed too. I've changed my city, the place I call home—multiple times in fact. I've grown up from being the shy, curious girl you knew to a selective communicator, always hungry for knowledge. I've left the secure gates of schools and colleges, and have entered a life of professional responsibilities where I trade my skills for money, to make a living. It's respectable and surprisingly liberating at times. I've loved more than I could ever imagined, and lost. And I've fallen, many times, only to get back up again and try harder.
I wonder whether you'd be proud of me if you could see me now. People who knew you, and even those who didn't, say you would have been. I feel joy to think that it might be so.
I also wish to go back in time, to those tumultuous years, when life stopped making sense to you. I want to hold your hand, and tell you that everything falls into place, and everything, eventually, becomes okay. I want to give you a tight hug, and make you feel all safe again, just like you had made me feel when I was only a year or two old, and got scared upon hearing the thunder roaring at rainy nights.
But above all, I really, really want you to be happy. I just don't know how that is possible anymore.
Even after all these years, your death continues to be the single biggest loss of my life. I had always missed you ever since you left home. But I always had hope. I lost all hope on 14 November, 2003.
Over the years, I have come to hate you for what you did. Why did you lose hope so quickly?
It's painful Babu. To miss you, to be aware that I will never hear your voice again, and to know that you knowingly left us is something which becomes unbearable at times. Over the years, I have come to hate you for what you did. Why did you lose hope so quickly?
But something changed in the last year and a half. You see, over the years, I had started to live in your legacy of hopelessness, dejection, and loneliness. Depression became a part and parcel of my life, and no matter how much I tried, it would always tie me up in its chains. As days rolled into nights, I realised how hard it really is to escape, to be happy, and to live.
And as I struggled to escape my depression, I started to realise how you got engulfed in your own.
This world can be a very cruel place to endure. There's a lot of sympathy but not enough empathy. Often people don't even realize the difference between the two. And in such a misguided world, suffering from a mental health ailment is a cruel joke bestowed on us by circumstances unforeseen.
I am still made to feel inferior or inefficient because of an illness that am fighting against. I am judged for accepting and speaking out about my condition. Even doctors at times are not supportive, and people who mattered the most to me have alienated me because at times my illness got the better of me or them.
But I still think I'm now faring better, and I'm privileged enough to receive the necessary healthcare. I shudder to think how difficult it must have been for you. Suffering from an illness which was never accepted by our society, especially 25 years earlier. I find it disturbing to realise the medications available at the time worked not by effectively numbing the pain but by numbing emotions altogether. This is not cure, it's pure lunacy.
These last 15 years, I have been only living in what ifs... These what ifs are now proving to be harmful to my right nows.
My heart broke the day I realised how real your struggles were and how awful it must have been for you. My eyes became watery and I got all choked up when I tried to imagine how lonely and pathetic you must have felt when you decided to part with the world.
I'm sorry. I truly am. I'm sorry that our society is not considerate enough to understand. I'm sorry that it is still brutal enough to judge. But I feel sorry all the more so because a life as promising and precious as yours was so badly damaged that you decided it wasn't worth nurturing anymore.
I meant it when I wrote that I'm now living in your legacy. The void that has been created after you left is still not fulfilled. And every day I feel like I am being sucked into this vortex of despair out to which there can be no escape.
Hence, I have decided to end this. Right here. Right now.
Babu, I love you! Not just because you're crucial to my existence in the first place, not only because we have the same blood flowing in our veins. But because you have loved me, sometimes more than you loved yourself. The brief period we did get to spend with each other, you had made me dream, you had shown me hope, and you had brought me infinite joy.
If I have to live in peace, then I need to believe you're in peace as well. I'm going to have to leave it at that.
I love you so much, Babu! Which is why, it's now time for me to let you go. These last 15 years, I have been only living in what ifs. What if that night you hadn't taken that drastic step, what if the doctors were able to save you, what if I could have seen you for one last time, what if you were still alive and proud of having me as your daughter or what if you were not...
These what ifs are now proving to be harmful to my right nows. And if I have to live in peace, then I need to believe you're in peace as well. I'm going to have to leave it at that.
Being an atheist, I don't believe in heaven or an afterlife. I don't really know whether you achieved the peace you were searching for so badly. I sincerely hope you did. I also want you to know how proud I am to be your daughter, and how I will always be so. And more than anything else, how I will always love you, and cherish the memories, few as they are, for eternity.
I guess, this is goodbye. The one I never really got to say. Thank you for everything, Babu!
Rest in peace.
Forever lovingly yours,
Your little girl