I am not sure if and how the two are connected, but we do seem to discuss death quite often during office hours.
The other day, K and R had a lively argument over the headline of my obituary – ‘Present-Continuous’ or ‘Gone, Finally’ - which reminded me of what Conscience Keeper said about Appa: ‘Mostly Harmless’. Douglas Adams can make me smile even at the funeral of the most important man in my life. Appa was mostly harmless, if I choose to forget how he announced my life’s worst grade (12/100) to a gathering of relatives; or when he told a friend to leave one evening because he had to sleep. Appa rarely lost his temper, and nothing disturbed his peace of mind except investments, home loan interest rates and doctors. Coming to think of it, these were harmful enough.
Amma always tried to market him as a strict head of family, a ploy that never worked with me. During my journalism days, I used to get back home at midnight after evenings of work or merriment, to find Amma waiting at the gate, with a frown, high BP and the Appa-is-Very-Angry warning look. Almost always, Appa would be found snoring inside.
I always feared losing Appa. It could be because of the shock of white hair he had since I was a child (which turned black in later years thanks to curry leaves. No seriously, it did!). Or maybe because of Munshi Premchand. Now when I think of it, my anxiety was unnecessary. He lived a healthy life for 69 years of his life, never visiting a doctor – not even a dentist! He loved walking, and could comfortably walk ten kms, from MG Road to Jayanagar, until two years ago. He drew a lot, making endless sketches of Goddesses, elephants and Tamil heroines. He knew he wasn’t good, but that didn’t stop him from being vain. Anybody who came home was made to go through his latest sketches. He was quick in picking up languages – he learnt to read and write Kannada after he moved to Bangalore in 2003 – and loved to experiment with musical instruments, including a veena (stuck together with cellotape), keyboard and flutes (which he made from steel pipes).
It’s been six months since appa died. I miss him most when I am riding my bike, when my head is inside the helmet. I have started taking a bus to work.
Sometimes, I struggle to shake off the memories of his last days, when he, in denial of his spreading cancer, tried to live. But I know that to remember him like that is to do grave injustice to the happy, healthy life he led. So I try to think of his broad smile, his quiet ways and the crispy dosas and ghee-dripping Mysore Paks he made. I continue my arguments with Conscience Keeper over his resemblance to Rahul Dravid Vs Kader Khan. All these, I find, strangely comforting.