Monday, November 15, 2010

I had my Father room painted Big B

I had my Father’s room painted Big B

Prateeksha , Mumbai Nov 13, 2010 Sat 10 : 41 PM

I had my Father’s room painted ! Fresh and bright and without all the stains that had accumulated over a few years. It got completed this evening and as I walked in to check if all was well, I felt I noticed a smile on his face on the portrait that adorns an entire wall. My Mother pretty in her bridal dress alongside him framed separately, garlanded, incensed and among the religious books that they spent their mornings with. Jaya has very artistically put up some of his old photographs on one of the walls, and on one, some framed letters in his own hand. He has begun one with a famous english quote that I cannot entirely remember, but refers to the most hard moments of life being one of ‘condolence and consolation’.

Does that one word define the anguish and pain of departure and absence. And does the other aptly define the ambiguity of consolation. What does one condole and console ? To whom and for what reason ? And do they adequately encompass the misery of the sufferer ? I wonder.

PC Sreeram, our DOP for ‘Paa’ and for ‘Cheeni Kum’ lost his daughter a few days ago and Deepak his Mother. PC, a guru to all the finest cameramen in the Industry, a gentle simple and committed human, sitting with his 23 year old daughter at home during Divali discussing how she will be leaving for the States for higher studies and how her future will shape up. She leaves the home to visit her friends for the festivities of the day and says she will be late in returning home. They are with friends at the 4th floor of this building, laughing and enjoying the moment. They all stand up at the balcony for a keep sake photograph. His daughter is handling a camera ! Designing the frame as must her Father have done on numerous occasions. She is getting all her friends for a keepsake photograph. They are not all getting accommodated in the frame. She pushes herself up on the ledge of the balcony to get a better shot, sits there to click, there is a little rain water left over on the ledge, she looses her balance, slips and falls ! Four floors ! Her friends watching on horrified ! She has gone, does not survive. Life over in a flash !

What does one tell PC. How does one console or even send condolences. They all sound so empty and unnecessary.

Deepak’s Mother, sitting with her son day before talking quite normally and telling him never to ignore duty. Gets uncomfortable with some acidity, has an attack of the heart and passes away. Her son insists on coming to duty even while they still have not cremated her. Says my Mother told me never to ignore it.

What does one say, really, to him in condolence or in consolation ?

My Father’s letter to a friend and the quote at the start are in anticipation of what follows. He has written about the passing away of a friend and how incomplete he feels in visiting the house in condolence. He makes reference to a dark moment in his own life - the death of his first wife, and the misery that she went through at the time and his own helplessness in coping with the situation. The inadequacy of the means to give her better care.

And as I read about all this, I reflect upon his own last days and his desire not to be ever taken to a hospital, for, he had had enough of them he had said. I had obeyed him, but built an ICU around him with all the facilities for any kind of emergency. In this very room. This room which I have just had repainted. This room where hangs a letter he has written in his hand on the tragedy of condolence and consolation. For months after he passed away I did not shift that chair where I would sit and watch him as he would breathe his last, holding his hands, soft as ever and warm, despite the coldness of death in the rest of him.

I donated that ICU for my Father, with all its modern equipment to a clinic nearby which could never have been able to afford such sophisticated medical care, with the hope that someone needy would derive benefit from it.

I did the same when my Mother left us. Her room remaining the same. But, time and elderly advice wished that I should not live within those circumstances. That I should release them and not allow elements of their memory to still remain. I have followed that. But no amount of release can and shall ever release me of them.

I have the quote in its entirety now -

” Of all the cruelties, those are the most intolerable that come under the name of condolence and consolations ” ~ Walter Savage

Another letter, framed and hung above in his hand and to the same friend, mentions on a letter head of our earlier rented house in the same vicinity, how I prepare to move into Prateeksha on the 2nd of May 1976 and how an Allahabady family shall now become a Bombaiya family - गंगा तट से समुद्र तट तक !! Ganga tat se samudra tat tak !! From the banks of the Ganga to the bank of the sea !!

I know now why Jaya put them up there ~


The lawns of Prateeksha and the solitary chair, my sun adventures begin here in the mornings. The window barely visible to the top left, is where I am now presently writing to you …


Another angle of the house … nothing changed on it from 1976 .. everything else around has, including the multistoried that you see and several others around us … the large tree in the middle is the ‘gulmohar’ sapling an inch in size that I planted when I moved in … grown now to uncontrollable proportions and clipped many a time to contain its spread, being devoured now by copious money plant creepers …


The type writer and quill are props for a photo shoot for Filmfare … but the two earthen utensils on the right on the lawn … seeds for birds and water for them to drink … pigeons, crows, sparrow abound in the mornings ..


The lawns, that have borne many a Holi celebration … wild and colourful ! The weddings of both my children Shweta and Abhishek and many a quiet stroll as I have recovered from my several medical adventures ..

Good night dearest dears has been a bit nostalgic and sad today, but..when were they never a part of our lives ..?

Amitabh Bachchan

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