Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Dad has a Blast


I can't help thinking that Dad's visit to Delhi was framed by the Delhi blasts. Before we set out from Goa, for the Sunday Mass on 14 September (Dad's birthday), Fr Antonio Da Costa, the parish priest at St Andrew's Church, Vasco had prayed for the victims of the serial blasts in Delhi the previous day - and for the victims of the violence in Orissa against the Christians. Soon after he left Delhi, the Mehrauli blast made news on 27 September 2008. And I was thinking it was so easy to die . . .

Being with dad was a moving experience. We travelled together and I was moved from within. This was a role reversal for me. Not so long ago, he held me up with his strong hands over his head when I was a baby in '67. Now, in his 80th year, he was the one who had to be cared for. I looked after him, I looked out for him, sometimes beyond his impenetrable silences - I hung out with him.

Here in Delhi for the week he was here dad became a child once more. Like a little boy out to explore the marshes - with his customary hands behind his back - he took Delhi in his stride. Tucking heartily into his beloved breakfast at the YMCA, he made short shrift of the itinerary I had laid out for him. Yes we did Agra and Chandigarh in that short span of time, but we took care to build in thickets of sleep and rest at wayside sarais - like that of the gracious house of Mrs Ahuja in South Delhi which gave me succour since I came to Delhi in 1998.

Dad loved the visit to the rail museum on 18 September. He sat in the toy train with glee and looked in awe at the huge trains on display motioning excitedly at the trains his dad used to steer in 1938-42 between Godhra and Cambay. He also did duty on the Bombay electric train line in those days. Even now when I visit the museum, a little bit of dad - his presence, and our family heritage - linger on. Rapt in wonder in the rail museum galleries, dad even pointed out that the photograph labelled Victoria Terminus looked like Churchgate!

Displaying an energy which amazed all Dad lived it up to and fro on the 2011/2012 Kalka Shatabdi to Chandigarh and back on 22 September. While I hopped across to the Panjab University nearby to meet my Professor friends in the Department of English, dad found time to recall old times with his dear friend Vats. The love Vats's family showed us touched us all - from the sharing of the sattvic thali at the onset of the Navratras to the beautiful gifts his family showered us with. What struck me was that after all these years they were still so grateful to dad when he took them under his wing at Bharat Petroleum in Goa in 1984.

As time rolled by and time and space melted into serenity I took refuge in the beautiful commentary under a picture of Lord Krishna playing the flute, which hung in the elegant and peaceful Vats residence in Chandigarh:

Lord Krishna's flute establishes him as the upholder of life. When played, it is symbolic of the supreme Lord filling up the human body with a breath of life. The eight holes of a flute represent the mind, the ego, the intellect, and the five senses. The reed represents the perishable human body.

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