18 January, 2009

Knocking On Heavens Door: Adios Pappa

Pappa or Bhalchandra Govind Mavalankar was my father-in-law, my wife Gauri’s father; a complete study in contrasting extremes. An architect by qualification but a marketing man by vocation. He was intelligent and naïve, very vocal or moodily silent, opinionated or obtuse, very sensitive to feelings but abrasive in conduct with people whom he didn’t respect. A voracious reader who loved classical music, good food & films, you could either like him or hate him but never ignore him. He had a totally quirky sense of humor and a phenomenal memory which made him a raconteur par excellence. When he would narrate a story, one would listen spellbound at his ability to make you feel the emotional spark in it or have you in splits with his sensational timing in tickling the funny bone. He could quote an old Sanskrit verse, or a whole passage from a play or book from ages ago effortlessly which would be absolutely apt for the moment or analyze a rendition of a classical raga in its minutest detail. There was nothing superficial about him & when he wanted to know something he would refer all to get to the bottom of it. A generous soul he had to compulsively share what he knew or had learnt and proudly wore his heart on his sleeve.Totally transperent in his persona he could at times be called a flake but a fake he was not.

What does one do with a man like this,and how does one deal with him? I wondered after meeting him the first time.One who talks nineteen to a dozen…hmmm.. one just listens and becomes his audience, a pucca guarantee was that you would never be bored. I had my own opinions and in laying those across we had many a good natured argument, you could even call some of them spats if not fights, so vivid and loud they would be. But at the bottom of it while arguing, we connected and both of us sensed it and respected the other for it.

All of the decade since I knew him, our interactions were on a sublime level. He was a charming rogue and knew it. His passion apart from the two women in his life (my ma-in law and his daughter-my wife) was his idol the music maestro Pandit Jasraj. These three could do no wrong in his eyes.He loved his smokes and liked the liquid spirits too at one point in his life. The spirits had been given up a few years ago, but this kind of an indulgence especially when one has diabetes, had to take a toll and it did. Luckily though for him, the painful part of the last leg of his journey was not greatly prolonged. The lifestyle and diabetes opened the door to a terminal anomaly which was diagnosed as Portal Vein Thrombosis; a condition which restricts the blood flow to the liver.From the time it was detected he was living on borrowed time. It was as if his one way ticket to the other world was reserved and booked, only the schedule of the train to take him there had not been declared just yet.

On 15th Jan at 11.30 pm that too happened and like the corny Hindi film’s (the ones which both of us would love to take potshots at) he passed away on my lap in the hospital. Does life imitate art or vice-versa, I wouldn’t know but that’s exactly how it played out. It was my turn at the hospital in the night and my ma-in law was next to me reading holy verses in prayer. As he faced slight difficulty breathing, I was patting his back sitting on his bed and his head rolled on to my lap. The spark which is called life, the beat of it felt by my palm on his naked back just stopped and went out. That one moment shall be with me always; his eyes opened once connected with mine and a lot passed across in that one look. It may take me a while to figure all that he may have wanted to say but it was like he had handed over the baton to me. In that moment it hit with crystal clarity the awesome responsibility the spirit leaves you with and that you are chosen to be entrusted with it is in fact a privilege.

Later,the same night after his brothers and sisters had reached his home in Dombivali from Pune, we committed his mortal remains to the pyre. Lighting the pyre my vision had blurred as his life flashed before me (his ten years with me). He would leave a void that may be hard to fill. But he shall live in the memories always. This was evident from the number of people who dropped in to pay their respect in the first two days and many who have conveyed their condolences and are on their way. All the people in whose life he had stepped in, some briefly & some at length, to share space and enrich it with his boisterous personality.

For the immediate family and friends there shall be rich memories and as we move on, we shall cherish those times he made special just by being there. Where would he be now, probably knocking on heaven’s door where else? Engaging St.Peter at the gates of heaven in a wild yarn or a joke and laughing uproariously while smoothly enquiring almost as an afterthought…Does this place have a smoking section?

8 comments:

dotcomgirl said...

I am very sorry for your loss as well as your wife's. Wish you all the strength you need during this trying period of your life.

Kau Kau goes the Crow said...

Thank you very much.

Tanvi said...

My sis-in-law's father, a very close relative indeed, did I really ever get to know him? My answer is no; sad but true. I could say I have actually known him for less than a week. Through his absence he has touched my heart in a way beyond words.

Kau Kau goes the Crow said...

Grazie Yash urf Tanvi..he was quite fond of u too..with some people we dont get to spend some time..but thats only geography which prevents it..

abak said...

Of course I never met him... but the way you have put it, you almost introduced me to him......

My heartfelt condolences to both of you.

Kau Kau goes the Crow said...

Thank you very much.

Suhas said...

I can say now that I came to know him through you. Take care

Kau Kau goes the Crow said...

Thanks Suhas.