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Bapa

 

My first movie that I can recall watching with my dad when I was a kid was Critters 3 (I think.. or was it 4?) at the old Rex theatre in Seremban (now it’s a dilapidated looking hypermarket). We also watched a couple of old Chinese Martial Arts movies. The Bruce Lee ones were his favorite. I don’t know why, but he had this thing for watching Martial Arts and Cowboy movies.

 

The first movie that I sat through in the hall with him was Chuck Norris’s movie (I forgot the name but he was a cowboy in it).  Found it a real bore, but I enjoyed his company and his reactions whenever Chuck Norris defeated an enemy. “Saw that?” he would say and he’ll give this smile of someone being proud with himself.

 

As the years went by, mum got herself an old school bus and dad retired. So he helped her out in the school bus.

 

I can still remember myself sitting at the backseat of that old school bus (it looked like this classic Hippie mobile, except the words “Bas Sekolah” on it to indicate it was a school bus). I remember sitting at the back and observing his silhouette as the sun poured through the front windshield of the bus, with mum on the steering wheel.

 

The thing I remember most of his last few years were his eyes and his face. He had this look. I can’t describe it, but it was a mixture of someone who’s worried, disappointed and given up on life. His eyes. Can never forget those eyes. They were full of… fear.

 

I don’t know what he feared. He never told me.

 

He would sit by himself at the front porch, as the wind blew, sat thinking. Sometimes he’ll read. But most of the time he just sat for hours pondering.

 

I would walk up to him and say, “What are you thinking about?”

 

“Nothing”. It was always the same reply. “Nothing..”

 

When I was 13, I sat in the library during one of my duties as a librarian after asking my fellow friends how old were their dads. Most of their dads were young. Around late 30’s or early 40’s.

 

I took a calculator and calculated dad’s age. He was 59 that year. And from that point in my life, I knew he was not going to live long.

 

From then on, I lived in this fear of him collapsing in the house, or getting one of those heart attacks. Or him passing away in the hospital. But nothing of that sort happened.

 

And I started working and I completely forgot about this.

 

Although, there were times when I would wake up to his sneeze in the middle of the nights, thinking something had happened to him. When I sat listening to him moving about, I would go back to sleep.

 

And then there were times when he takes his afternoon naps, I would observe him sleeping. Observing his belly. If it moved up and down, I knew he was alive. But there were times when he would give me a scare. The belly would stop moving, and I would sit for a few seconds, hoping they would move again. And when it didn’t, I would slowly place my fingers infront of his nostrils to see if he was still breathing.

 

And he did. And I thought he was okay.

 

And then I quit work and enrolled in Uni to do my degree. I had this little imagination where mum would call while I was in the middle of the class, telling me he was gone.

 

Now that, came true.

 

And that’s what I’m going to tell you about. I think it’s time to tell. Time to let it out.

 

I knew April 12th was going to be a weird day. I don’t know why, as I got out of the house, I saw his eyes, and they were wide. With fear. It was as though he knew he was going.

 

On top of that, the day started pretty bad. I woke up to my mum scolding my dad for buying pork. Ever since Sunday, he had been buying all his favorite food and all. Which was weird but I thought he was just trying to be himself.

 

I slept for only two hours the night before as I had an important exam and when I saw mum scolding dad, I knew the next person on her “Firing List” was me. So I sort of stoked more fire and scolded my dad as well for making mum angry.

 

As I got dressed and walked out of the house, he said, “All the best for your exams. Come back fast.”

 

I was still angry, and I replied, “Shut up.”

 

He never spoke a word after that. Never could. Never will.

 

Eight hours after that I would get a call from mum saying she’s trying to wake up him up, that his eyes were open, but he was just not waking up. She sounded calm on the phone, which was unusual. I mean, I never imagined it to be like that.

 

I had finished my exams and was waiting for the rain to stop when she called. I rushed, in the rain, and all the way in the bus. Praying nothing happened to my dad.

 

But I knew he was gone.

 

I sat in the shuttle bus, shocked, fatherless, stuck in the rain, in the traffic jam, clueless. I had this urge to get out of the bus and run to the train station to skip the traffic.

 

But I sat shocked.

 

But yet, somehow, I hoped for a miracle. I prayed that my father lived. I called my mother again to call the Paramedics. And then I rang Bala.

 

I arrived at the platform 30 minutes later, soaking, and I called my mum. And that’s when she confirmed, I could trace her voice choking as she tried to mask her sniffles, and she said these words, “Sonu, Bapa passed away.”

 

And that’s when I could feel my heart leaping out falling onto the wet pavement. My knees shook. I was speechless. My hands shivered. But I controlled myself from crying, I told her, “Okay, I’m coming.”

 

We both put the phone down. And I tried to fight off the tears that were forming in my eyes. I walked all the way to the end of the platform, where it was lonely, I lighted a ciggi and smoked three sticks one after the other.

 

I can’t write this…   I knew he would go, but not so soon. I was hoping he would after I got a steady job, but I guess… he was just in a hurry. I called Bala to let him know of the news. He rushed to my mother’s aid along with Sangkaran, Navin and Vanie.

 

The train came 30 minutes after that, with my shaking knees, I boarded the train like a lifeless zombie. I knew perfectly well what happened, but I was in trance. I felt like I was dreaming. I recall walking into the packed train, pushing myself into the packed train, people yelling and screaming but I felt emotionless. I walked to the middle of the coach and stood there. At one point I looked down and stared at my shaking knees only to realise that they were really shaking, so I had to stand firm to avoid them shaking. I fought another wave of the urge to cry. Despite people laughing, talking, smiling in the train, I felt alone for the first time.

 

Soon after a few stops, I had the chance to sit and I sat. God I can’t write this… And that’s when I called my step sister to tell her that dad was gone. But she knew already and she said they were coming to the house.

 

I can’t continue this. Really.

 

I arrived in Seremban around 8 and Bala came, I got in the car. He looked at me, placed his hands on my thighs and sighed. I fought my tears and I told him, “Lets go.”

 

I tried pretending I was strong. But deep down I was broken.

 

I got myself a loaf of bread and water (mum said I should eat something before I come).

 

And 30 minutes later I arrived at my house, my aunt, my cousin brother, two of my mum’s friends were there. I walked to my dad’s room and saw him sleeping on it. His eyes closed.

 

I told everyone to leave the room. I wanted to be alone and they obliged. I closed the door, hugged my dad and cried like a baby. But yet, I tried muffling the cries. I didn’t want anyone to hear me lest they thought I was weak. I kissed my dad on his cold cheeks and observed his calm peaceful face. He had died in his sleep. Poor old man..

 

Relatives poured in like endless stream of water after that. Soon, by 3 in the morning, there was no place in the house to even sit.

 

In the hall, the women mourned. Outside, the men talked about how to conduct the funeral. I didn’t know where to fit myself in so I stood standing by myself at the same porch he used to sit.

 

I can’t write no more. I’ll continue in the next post.

 

We had to go and get new clothes for my dad’s funeral so I rushed with my cousin brother. I had to fight off tears again. Pretend like as though nothing happened. He drove and we talked like things were normal. I got him this red collared shirt. Cousin brother wanted me to buy the white one, he was adamant. But I wanted the red and at one point I was about to blow my top but I calmed myself. I was just so frustrated. Frustrated with everything. But yet, I was thankful for having good relatives and friends like him.

 

We got the shirt and pants and socks and drove back home. By then I was feeling better. I just needed some fresh air.

 

Waves of people came and told me their condolences. And then they left leaving us to get ready for the funeral tomorrow. The only thing I remember my uncle telling me was to get some sleep and get ready for the next day.

 

I told my mum that I was going down to 7/11 to top up my phone.

 

Few of my friends called and messaged, but I didn’t had the motivation to reply or accept the calls.

 

I walked like a zombie, bought myself a box of Dunhill red and a can of 100 Plus and sat outside 7/11 by myself.

 

I didn’t like people coming to my house. Especially on an occasion such as this. I felt really insecure. Felt really uncomfortable. I just wanted to be left alone. But these people, they kept saying the same things over and over again, “You’re the man of the house. You got to take care of mum and brother now. Dad’s no more.”

 

I’m 25, it doesn’t take a fucken genius to know this shit.

 

I smoked two sticks, gulped the 100 plus and slept in my dad’s bed for only 2 hours.

 

The next day was the hardest. I had to wake up to bath dad’s body.

 

As everyone said their prayers, we took dad’s body by pulling onto the bedsheet he was on.

 

A week ago, I recall myself laughing silly, pulling Zoheir who played the dead Caesar. A week after that, I pulled on my dad’s body. Only this time I wasn’t laughing.

 

We couldn’t bath him in the toilet as the toilet was too small so we placed him on the dining table (covered with plastic), got a hose and some soap and bath him. He was starting to stink already by then and I can still remember the smell of his decaying flesh.

 

I was scared to bath him. I was not afraid of his body but I was afraid of seeing him dead. But yet, I wanted to bath him so I put some soap on his hands and legs and chest.

 

We rinsed him and we placed the new clothes on him.

 

Two hours later, I sat at the front seat, clueless, while women and men threw coins and sweets behind us as a ritual of sending him off.

 

We drove to the crematorium, and they instructed me to place ghee on his chest and lips. I did as instructed.

 

We pushed the body to the fire chamber like things. They placed his body inside and closed the door and lighted the stick. I held the stick while two of my uncles guided me, and we three lighted the thread and dad’s body burned before my eyes.

 

I could see his flesh melting away through that tiny window but I stood, staring, emotionless.

 

As I walked out, I felt nothing. It had started to rain. It was as though the Gods were blessing this ceremony.

 

I walked a few feet and saw Bala and Sangkaran. I walked to them and I cried as they hugged me.

 

The next day, we drove in my mum’s old Datsun (dad’s favorite car) for one last sending off. What was a moving, talking, person had become a dead corpse. And now he was just ash.

 

In the movies, they always depict the ashes as black and very fine. But honestly, it’s not like that.

 

Dad’s ashes were a mixture of grey, white and black. Mostly white and you could see his bones. And they still had the decaying smell but the smell of milk masked it.

 

We threw his ash into the sea and the last I saw of him were white matter floating in the sea.

 

***

All I’ve been doing in the span of these few days ever since his funeral was getting up around 10, sitting with my brother, sitting with my mother, going to Salmah Bheevi to smoke, coming back, sitting with my brother, sitting with my mother, going to Salmah Bheevi to smoke and back again to sleep.

 

And I thought. A lot.

 

Here could be the possible reasons as to why he passed away:

 

i) He worried too much. Lessy’s death was a huge blow to him because other than my brother, he spent a lot of time with Lessy. Two month prior to his death, his younger brother passed away.

ii) Maybe he did get a heart attack

 

I can only think of these two.

 

I don’t know how to end this post. Honestly, I’m not going to read whatever I wrote up there and check for grammatical or spelling mistakes. I had written enough.

 

I loved my dad very much and I miss him every moment. I just wished But I do wish to thank my friends and my family members for being there for us. I don’t know what would we have done without you guys.

 

Life has to go on. Soon all these would be a distant memory. But if I do become a father, I want to be a father like my dad was.

 

God Bless his Soul.

 

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Kaka Singh s/o Gurubak Singh

2nd May 1941 – 12th April 2011

“People come and go, Sonu. This is life.”

Miss you..

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