Have you ever broken a promise to someone you love?
How did that feel?
I’d promised to stay with them on 12th December, as I travelled from Amsterdam to Chennai in December 2019, with lots of joy in reuniting with all the people that matter most.
I was at his home, when he got discharged from the hospital. He struggled to walk from the main gate to the door. The old man who I always knew to be a swift walker. I made odd shaped dosas for their dinner that night & left home.
I can’t remember the number of crispy dosas he made for me when I was younger. It was 1 month of summer holiday spent at their home every year, for almost 15 years. I used to get irked then by the regular question at 9 pm during those days, asking me what I needed for breakfast the next day. Even when I woke up at 12 noon, there was breakfast served as per the menu I gave.
I believed the Dec 12 visit will happen as planned as I reached their place, along with my kid. The door was locked. I took an autorickshaw to reach the hospital. They said it was a check-up & dint know when it’d be over. I changed my plans & left home again. That was the last time I saw him.
I called up & informed them that I’d be there before I left to Amsterdam. I took a train to visit a relative’s place & it happened to be the wrong train that went round about, crossing the station close to his home. That was totally out of the way. But little did I realise that universe often shows us the signs.
The day I’d promised to meet them arrived. For some reason, I couldn’t make it.
As I boarded the flight back to Amsterdam, I spoke to him, only to hear a very feeble voice. That was the only time that I dint feel the smile in his voice. I still remember how he taught me to smile when I talked, whether it was in person or on phone. He would always ask if my voice was sobre. But on that day there was just loads of sobre in his voice. That was the last time I spoke to him.
I reached Amsterdam & went about checking the photographs I’d captured in the trip. It was he, who always carried a camera & inspired me to take to Photography.
A day after, I received a call that he was no more. He was related to me as my mom’s brother-in-law. But he connected with us as Mana, a word invented by my sister. A word that had technically no meaning. He gave meaning & life to the word ‘Mana’. It was a unique relationship filled with love & hope.
He’d always say I’d go places. I flew back to Chennai to see his mortal remains. I held his hand. It was cold. The soft hands that held me when I crossed roads as a child, were now freezing cold.
As a child I saved the money they gifted during every visit. I seldom exchanged those notes for things. And then I got a 5 rupee coin from his freezing cold hand, for the final time.
It’s been 3 months. I wake up every night hearing his voice. I feel the regret of a lifetime. A regret of making promises that I never kept. And a huge sense of fear about life’s ways.
I can not reverse this & with time may be I’ll learn to live with it & see beyond.
The more I miss him, the more I try to live by the values he taught – ‘Calm, Content & Smiling’.
Miss you Mana. I hope you are calm & content somewhere beyond this World.