Wednesday, September 29, 2010
I wanted to tell you how many of them came for your last journey, although I wish your face hadn't become altogether unrecognizable. It did occur to me get your dentures, which were lying gingerly on the chair next to the bed, but I discovered them only the next day. I couldn't recognize you at all and the entire exercise of going to meet you in that room full of corpses is something that will remain with me for a long time. I have tried to shake it off but it comes back. With time, the frequency of this imagery haunting me will reduce, perhaps, but I am looking forward to many more years of having to close my eyes, grind my teeth, and clench my fists to shake it off. Yes, you weren't a very pretty sight dead, but none of the other people lined up before and after you were pretty either. I distinctly remember all their faces although your last look is fast fading from my eyes. Anjanda and Chayanda were with you all through the day, Puja and Joy were there all through the night and so were Kaku and Jayanti di. And that day, as you had wished for, you were brought back to the cooperative society where people put some flowers all around you. You have probably seen all that from wherever you are, but because I don't believe in the concept of a trapped spirit hovering around, I am not taking chances and writing you this email. If not anything, you are definitely going to be online to check your email from time to time. Have you had the opportunity to meet Mr Russell up there? You got me, although everybody around me connects the name Russell with Russell Peters, the standup comedian. I bet Mr Bertrand Russell isn't any good with computers, so you have a good chance to impress him. I bet you are looking for one Mr Tagore whom you had worshipped all your life and more so towards the end of it, but then, I don't have any messages for him. Do tell him if you get to see him that I love his song Fuley Fuley used in Charulata. He has probably already met Mr Ray and the others, so am sure you will find that space rather crowded. Do they have a coffee shop too? Tell Mr Bishnu De that I'm reading his An Acre of Green Grass. Although I'm reading it more out of respect for you than for him, you don't have to tell him that. There are many things that are best left unsaid. Like I couldn't tell your publisher from Sumitra Prakashani that I don't like the quality of his production. Oh yes, he had come to the crematorium to see you. Initially I thought it was out of love and respect for you, but I have a sneaky feeling that he has some other reasons. He was really looking for that last manuscript you promised him. I wanted to tell him that his holier-than-thou attitude was highly suspect. And yes, I always wanted to tell you that all these holier-than-thou pansies that you had sucking up to you aren't the kind of people I can respect much. I think all those pseudo-intellectuals from Bengal should be given a free tour of how the rest of India has progressed. How long can you discuss Tagore's views on self-sustainable villages or his art? Or his cautioning of the world of the vices of nationalistic feelings? Well, Europe was ready to listen to him but then we had Hitler too. You despised that man, I know, but then the whole world did. I remember the paintings of Hitler that you showed me as a child and all those books on Nazi Germany you had. You never rated him highly as an author and didn't keep a copy of Mein Kampf either, but then I am an objective kind of man. I am not too passionate about anybody and am always ready to change my opinion. Something you should have tried doing yourself. It helps. It helps sometimes to accept that what I held as the sole truth all my growing years can crumble with one huge sweep of Perestroika. It helps to accept that I am wrong. I can do that from time to time. I can accept that my views on someone or something yesterday has changed today. And that yesterday I was wrong. Have you ever, in your lonely moments with yourself (I know you incessantly spoke with yourself), ever accepted that out of so many things that you stood for all your life, many weren't worth it? Were you always right? If you died thinking that, I guess you were very wrong. You weren't right in my eyes for various reasons. You weren't there as a dad although you were there for all the others who cried at the memorial service we held for you. I was your son, with no intellectual pretensions. I am a plain guy, but then you couldn't accept that, could you? Or that I married a plain woman who can't engage in a lengthy discourse about Abanindranath's water colors or Dinu Thakur's notations? But then, I am not complaining. I wish I could be there to at least give you an aspirin and make you come back because I felt you had many more years to go and many more books to write. Even if I didn't read them, people called in from far and away, just in case you are wondering. I saw you through their eyes and was left bewildered. What are they talking about, hello, I mean, he was MY dad, so what do you know better than me? They all knew better than me. They knew who you were and they said so. I, in the melee, forgot to ask you who you really were.