Born and brought up in a small town in Punjab, I was not used to the culture of having walks after evening meals. But when I would come to Chandigarh (to my parents), we would walk – my father, mother, me and Archit (my younger brother).
I recall when I was a kid of around 4 years, we were having a customary after-meal walk in evening. Me and Archit just nudged ahead on footpath, with dad and ma following us. The objective was to have a stroll after meals, and as the two brothers gained pace, dad said – Ahesta-Ahesta (slow-slow).
These are the first words that I remember from dad. Since I was a Punjabi, I would not understand (it often happened when I was a kid) what does Ahesta mean? He said it again and as Archit would slow down, I matched my steps with him.
Ahesta-Ahesta may be the first words that I remember of my dad. But this is not the oldest that I remember about him.
I used to go to our fuel-station when I was about 2 years (he was a co-owner of a fuel station). I recall that we used to bath together, I would get ready first, have breakfast first and would get restless first, to go with him. We would walk to bus stop, board a bus, and travel for few miles to reach there. He would talk to some manager/attendant there on refill terminal and I would sit and play on his revolving chair.
Going further back… I was at my maternal grandparents home (it was on first floor) when I heard somebody coming upstairs. I remember very clearly that I did not know how to walk properly (that means I might be around 12-18 months old) and as he entered, I crawled on floor towards the bed, and just managed to *climb* on the bed and reached the window to see him enter the door. Yes, I saw him crossing over the window, entering the room, to meet me.
Yes, this is my first memory of him.
If Ahesta-Ahesta (Slow-slow) are his first words that I remember, I am not sure about what he said few days back in February 2011. And I failed to understand when it mattered last week… probably it was regarding the tax, our house, his medications, the driver… He had lost his ability to convey what he wanted to say.
On 21 February 2011 (Monday last week), he tried to say something, I could not help. All I could offer was some water on his lips. On 22 February (Tuesday last week), he conveyed me something with his eyes, he tried to speak but could not. He was breathing heavily. It was a torture to so many people – himself, the family, and the relatives who would come to see him in hospital.
I do not know what he wanted to say during 2-3 days last week, before he quit on 23 February 2011. I could not decipher his glance. His helplessness. And he Quit. Quit. Quit.
For 15 years, I could decipher his silent glare/stare at me, I decoded what he silently expected from me, I avoided conflict, and replied back in silence. I wonder if I was paying back in silence? Was it required? Was there any alternative? He often stared and expected quietly, all I could give him was my silence. The silence was deafening but it remained. For last many many years, he would speak for hours on phone or with guests/friends/clients, and talked a lot. But very few words were required between us though we stayed together.
I extended my hands when he asked but I could not when he did not ask for. I answered his questions but could not answer when he could not question. I offered him water when he asked but I could not when he could not ask.
To list whatever I learnt from him, and whatever Special he taught me is not humanly possible. I doubt if WordPress can handle that volume though I do not challenge it either.
I am sad today. Probably I will get over this feeling, with time, Ahesta-Ahesta (Slow-Slow) <Full-stop)>
PS: For the complete series of memoirs, please see: https://vinishgrg.wordpress.com/memoirs/. Thank you.