My father’s passing marked the beginning of a new dimension of life. Since he was ailing with Dementia for a long time, and was no longer able to sit up for long, I felt his time was coming. I returned to US from Manipur with a heavy heart wondering if it would be the last time I saw him, as he blessed me, putting his right hand on my head. He was laying in the daybed, in the living room. I held his hands with both my hands tightly before I left. That was the last time I saw my father.
After some months, I was woken up in the early morning with my brother’s shaking voice at the other end of the phone line, sharing that our father has passed away. It was agreed and decided, that they will proceed with the fire cremation funeral ritual that day itself as per the local norms and traditions in Manipur. Then, I had agreed too, but in coming times I questioned myself on “Why such a hurry?” during the sleepless nights where I couldn’t quite get closure to my father’s passing, as I didn’t see him go. The question of “Where did he go?” kept floating on for a long time.
My mother and brothers were busy with the preparation of my father’s rituals and couldn’t come on the phone. And I was feeling so helpless knowing that Baba was soon going to be cremated and I wasn’t there. I made my offering of light and burning incense stick, and hastily called my cousin brother. I requested him to keep the phone line open, so that I can hear what is going on in the background. I sat quietly and heard the instruments and songs played as part of the rituals.
Suddenly out of nowhere, I remembered the vicious raw words from an unknown person who commented that I will not make it for my Father’s funeral in retaliation for writing the Poem “Students in Manipur”.
I was deeply pained and saddened and had written “A Funeral for my living Father” then.
A Funeral for my living Father
You mock about my ailing father,
Who is old and frail,
Who is battling with his memory,
Taking time to recall my name,
And yet greeting me with such profound expressions giving me the peace that feelings cannot be snatched even by Dementia,
Living his second childhood with his days numbered.
You curse about my living father,
Mocking about his funeral when he is alive,
Judging that I won’t make it for the funeral,
A funeral which you pitied the Leikai (community) will perform without me,
Such vicious words,
Such hateful words from someone I don’t even know.
You, hiding behind a fake name,
You have won in wounding me,
It’s true, I sleep every night with the biggest fear that I will miss his last moments,
It’s true, that I have failed to be with him at his hours of need,
It’s true, I have played out in my mind of every tiny details of how soon I can reach,
To be on time to hold his hands.
And I wish you would never have to feel the pain and helplessness of the separation and distance,
And remain blessed to be serving your Father living under the same roof,
Blessed to know for sure that you will light your Father’s funeral,
Blessed to know that you will be there holding your father’s hand as he crosses to the other world,
Blessed to be sleeping peacefully throwing words of mockery to the failed ones,
The failed ones like me.
As the cremation is going on in Manipur and I was sitting in US, I tried to concentrate and be present with the faint sound of the rituals coming from the phone, I tried to think of Baba, but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t, the words, the unknown person’s vicious raw words kept coming again and again and I just couldn’t get it out of my head. I couldn’t stop my tears and I started falling into those words, that narrative, making me feel that my writing has brought upon the situation of me missing Baba’s funeral.
And I couldn’t quite write the way I did for a long time. But now it’s time, time to write, write on what matters to the heart and soul. I am ready to celebrate Baba’s life, carry him within me, spread the love and strength he has instilled in me.
Now you know how raw vicious words can bruise one’s soul, will you think twice before you hurl it?
Born in Manipur (India), based in Maryland (USA) patent holder for identifying Caller ID, with Computer Science Engineering background, you will find Monica Ingudam crunching numbers and data as an Analyst. During the weekends you will find her hosting FindingTheVoices talk-show featuring authors, artists and people who inspire, empower, educate and entertain with the vision to connect and spread positivity. You will find her reading, writing and painting in her quiet time.