Where do they go away?

Just an old man crossing the road, shopping bags in hand, hesitating in front of the car,

Made my eyes fill up.

I wanted to walk with him while he crossed the road

He had to be more than 74.

Men more than 74 do live.

They shop, they walk.

They nag their children.

They call them all the time asking them to Google the new medicine they have been prescribed.

They trust their children more than the specialists.

Or they look for excuses to call them.

They call to ask if their married-and-mother-of-two daughter had got back home safely after her first drive on the highway.

They always have the answers.

They know what to do, when the steering wheel is jammed…

Once he called and mentioned some pain.

When he didn’t sound annoyed when I showed concern, I should have guessed.

But I never thought.

The calls reminded me to be more regular with the gym, not to inherit carelessness.

They force their daughters to get a paper and pen and write down the names of their great grandparents.

The ones who had to leave Kashmir in a hurry

Of a great grand mother who brought her baking skills and mouth watering recipes with her from there,

For a forever hungry grandson

Who years later, when he has restrictions on his diet,

Would describe to a non-foodie daughter

The huge oven in which she rolled arbi leaves

And stuffed them with …

I have forgotten what the stuffing was,

And now there is no one to tell me.

He had talked of how he had run after the tonga carrying his mother away, at the age of five…

All those December holidays when I had the first choice of New Year diaries and calendars

In exchange of copying all the addresses from the last year’s diaries

I continued to do this all my life;

Later I had to check his hotmail account,

And respond to his emails, response dictated over the phone

I did it out of habit,

I thought it was just a continuation of a chore I had done all my life…

I didn’t notice how I had never before checked his mail, only updated his address books.

I once chatted on MSN Messenger with my siblings pretending to be dad,

Who thought then why he had difficulty writing his own mail?

When he and his walking friend,

Like two little boys, tried making Grilled Fish in their never used microwave,

Me dictating the recipe over the phone

They made an absolute mess, finally eating a home delivered dinner of grilled fish and French fries 🙂

My vegetarian mom disapproved.

but I delighted in and defended his love for food.

He held ice cream eating competitions amongst the grand children.

How do you think of such a person as old?

When I locked the car keys inside the car,

On a hot summer afternoon, in a new city, feeling lost

He showed me how to open the lock with a 6″ scale, on the cell phone.

Once in South Extension a cow had come running, chased by someone.

And I screamed,

Dad came in between, as expected, as taken for granted that he would…

So wasn’t it natural that I never noticed he was aging?

Not even when I opened a Flickr account for him,

And loaded his collection from his young Photography Club days.

He said

You think you will keep me alive like this?

And I laughed, “What  a nautanki-party we are  Papa!”

I was reassuring him, because it’s all a state of mind,

If you think you will live – you will live.

But we read about how we fool ourselves the fastest?

It’s true.

He wanted to talk about his younger years…

He wondered if the way we didn’t know of our great grandparents, maybe my grand children will never hear of  him…

He was thinking of death.

And I told him some grandparents are never forgotten.

I told him what his grand children thought of him, how he was their hero..

I know I was always there,

There when he spoke so often of death.

Of friends no more.

When his sister died, he said she was younger.

He asked if it was going to be his turn next.

He was laughing I thought. I never thought he meant it.

I teased him about how many ice creams he would eat at my daughter’s wedding.

I wasn’t comforting, I believed that.

He called all the time,

He called when friends visited, while I shopped, drove, attended PTAs …

He knew what I cooked each day

And complained about how my mother won’t let him eat forbidden Butter Chicken or Gajar Halwa.

Or he’d call to say, like a naughty child,

How he ate salted, fried cashew nuts he wasn’t supposed to

Delighting in sincere concern!

He who was too proud to tolerate sympathy,

And he who had never any patience with advice,

Would discuss in detail my ideas of how to eat healthy but tasty sweets…

And yet I didn’t see the changes.

His talk of his childhood,

Of his regrets

And his pride,

And the things he gave up to raise us well…

His photography, rowing, athletics, horse riding, dramatics, reading and writing…

And I listed out which of his grandchildren had inherited which,

Especially the youngest who can eat without pause.

No regret there, I know I was always there,

And it was not out of any sense of duty.

So I heard his delighted laughter, at the mention of the youngest grandchild… while loading the washing machine.

I asked for advice while shopping for electronics

I called him when asked to pay a fine (He said throw the money on his face.)

I complained about Indian schools

And discussed Lalu’s Railway Budget and Cricket…

But I never got to say good bye.

Now that he is not there, I can see so much more of him,

In all that is missing.

I got a call from Reliance Communications, asking if I had some problem with the service.

I thought it was a sales call, but then she said,

“You’ve not been using the phone, ma’am.”


(This post started as a post about my mom, about how she was coping without dad, in response to Solilo’s beautiful post about senior citizens.)


55 thoughts on “Where do they go away?

  1. What a heartfelt post, IHM!

    I was just saying to the Guy last night that I’m so glad that I got the chance to say goodbye to my dad… Good for you, that you have no regrets, that he was happy spending time with you.

    Yes I remember that post Unmana… not being able to say goodbye will remain a regret, no amount of daily conversations make up for it…


    • 😦 {{{Hugs}}} again IHM.

      2 years back a friend of mine had returned from India after her vacation and her dad passed away 1 month after that. Her sisters left for India but she didn’t want to go because she said she always wanted to remember her father as this strong, talkative personality. She didn’t want to see him all cold and silent.


  2. Wow! That was a great post. You are missing what you had but you made me miss what I never had.What you had was really special. I haven’t seen many father daughter relationships like that. But after reading this, I will try to start communicating more with my dad before its too late.

    He wasn’t perfect tearsndreams, but he was someone I respected, my mom says we got our values from him, he didn’t say anything directly but he made sure we are proud of what we believe in.


  3. IHM. Just WOW! You know sometimes words fail to convey the emotions. I am in such a state. I can’t tell you what I felt after reading this.

    I always say this, a child and father’s bond is something rare and precious. The one I always feel with my Dad.

    Even now when I start my sentences with….you know Papa says, Papa is always, Papa this and that……and then before the other half could say something, I tell him to wait for the turn when Peanut will say the exact same things about her Dad.

    I love this amazing world of blogging where each day a new shade unravels and you know a person even better than yesterday. Waiting for tomorrow.


    Aww Solilo, thanks 🙂 This was too long, too senti, but I wanted to record how I was feeling today. I did kind of look upto him, maybe in some ways tried to be like him too, but towards the end it was more, as if I was the parent.
    My daughter is the same with her dad and, like you, I tell him it is because she has seen her mother …
    My dad was very fond of my husband, both Sagittarians, similar interests and all …


  4. Nicely written…

    Now that he is not there, I can see so much more of him, – true…

    I think we all notice the same things sometimes…. specially if there are changes.


  5. IHM! I can’t even begin to express what I am feeling after reading this.. .. I wish I could just talk to my Dad now – even though I talk to him everyday.. I have always been a Daddy’s daughter and can’t even imagine a time without him around… and it breaks my heart to just think of that… IHM, Can’t start to imagine how you must be feeling ….


  6. IHM ,your this blog is also very nice.

    i wanted to request you ,can you please review my blog ,give me suggestions as friend ,be free to say whatever you feel .
    and all are invited to review my blog and give me suggestions to improve my blog.

    “If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.”

    ty friends.

    SM you know I really like your blog, I comment here regularly, I am sure if others read your blog, they will love it too!!


  7. oh this made me cry … u and solilo are on a tear jerking roll here. I’m so sorry IHM.
    You remember how i was sitting and weeping for my mom. Now im weeping for my dad.
    I wish…i knew…how to create a better relationship with him. He’s so stubborn. like a child.

    I understand coffeismypoison… I guess we can just keep in touch, and talk to them, but I realise sometimes it’s the parents who are busy, my dad often called while in his car!
    This post is also about how he felt when he knew he was dying.


  8. I am in tears right now… i could feel them coming out somewhere in the middle of the post and it is sooo touching.. daddy is such a hero to every girl. i had a draft post about fathers and father figures since around a month. this one’s another one of your countless masterpieces.
    Kudos to you…

    Post your draft too Rohini, I would love to read it. I didn’t think of him as my hero…. I mean I never thought of it, but I guess that’s exactly what he was. He was an unusual person, Rohini.


  9. Very touching and heartfelt, IHM…I sometimes argue with my father these days (I’m going to stop now) but I also subconsciously compare my husband to him…I always wanted a husband who demeanor was like my father’s…

    Sraboney I didn’t want a husband like my dad 🙂 Dad was a great father but a spoiled husband. My mom even took out what he was going to wear everyday, I even used to tell her she shouldn’t… My husband although basically equally ahead of his time (I don’t know what would be the right word….), tolerant good natured and all – is more of a today’s man.
    But I never argued with my father, because I almost always agreed with him, maybe he moulded our thinking…I argue with my mum, a lot.


  10. last night i was absolutely short of words and too choked to even think let alone leave a comment. trust me IHM you have jolted me out of my reverie. we ab solutely take for granted that our parents are always going to be around. and me i cant even imagine my life without my papa. and i have always taken it for granted that papa is going to be there when ever i need him. with a snap of fingers he’s going to solve all my problems. after reading this i actually went up to him, hugged him and told him that i love him. and that he will always be my hero and that he has to be there with me when my children are born so that they know what a gem of a person their grandfather is. he’s promised me that.


  11. Oh IHM…it brought tears to my eyes 😦 I too dont seem to realise that my dad has aged a bit and needs help lifting bags. It was always my daddy is the best and strongest! This hits too close to home 😦


  12. IHM,you’ve got me all misty eyed!How touching a post is this!
    You know,your father reminded me my father-in-law.He is 73 and by God’s grace,he is hale and hearty and what amazes me more is his zest towards life.When my mom-in-law expired in 2003,he was a shattered man,understandably so.But within no time he composed himself and learnt to move on and take life as it comes.
    Just as you opened a flickr a/c for your dad,my husband opened a yahoo a/c for him,just about 4years back.And now it has reached a stage wherein he would update us about Google and the likes:D!
    Although he is based in Bangalore with his sister and family,even in this day and age he shuttles his time between us and his other son.My heart goes out to him when I see how much he craves for the company of his grandchildren and how,he makes full use of whatever little time he gets to be with them.
    Its been a long ramble..but your post has really urged me to share my bit.And now I’ll need another long space to share my feelings about my father.I’d rather keep that for another day.Wouldnt want to jam your network:D
    Thank you so very much for sharing,IHM. May your father give you the strength and inspiration to live your life the way you want to.
    Hugs to you:)


  13. WoW! I don’t know what to say. I liked the post BUT I”m lost for words. I can’t imagine my parents not being there. I want/expect them there until I’m old and wrinkly. so minimum 40 yrs (as i’m only 22).


  14. very touching post IHM.
    Dads are so special and help us out in everything. My dad for instance still thinks i am a small kid. They are so caring and always there for us whenever needed.

    Your dad may not be alive today and you haven’t got a chance to say good-bye to him, but he continues to live in your thoughts and invisibly in your acts.


  15. You made me cry with those words… very very touching post, reminded of my grandpa all the while.
    Sometimes the biggest regrets in life is that we didnt get a chance to say good-bye.. i have this regret that i couldnt see my grandmom when she wanted to see me one last time, coz i was away..

    Now though i am not at home, i do call my grandpa whenever possible, its not that he tells me to call, but i know that he do expect that.. I always saw those enthusiasm in his voice, though he is sick, tired and he is getting so old that attimes his voice breaks and sometimes i have to wait for him to remember many things, its all worth, coz somethings u can never replace..

    Yes Devil we can never replace ourselves for them and them for us.


  16. ur last line of every post makes me wanna read it all over again.
    ur dad must have been such a gem of a father to have his kids so crazy about him 🙂
    i’d kill for a dad like that. have no emotional connect or any good memories of my relationship with my father, its been bland and indifferent through my childhood till adulthood. fortunately, its made me a tougher person. have made peace with it, but cannot help envying ppl with awesome fathers…

    may the almighty bless your father’s soul. after this post, I treasure him too 🙂

    Crafty Shines, you are wise to find strength in his indifference. Today I received an email with a link that will show you a father who doesn’t deserve fatherhood, we should all blog about this wonderful mother, and her two loving daughters!!


    • wow IHM! that was quite inspiring…thanks for the links 🙂 my mother’s an angel too. and my ultimate goal is bring her peace and happiness, in whatever way I can 🙂

      God bless you Crafty Shines…. she’s lucky to have a daughter like you.


  17. You made me cry IHM. This post reminded me so much about how my dad is now. Tears started rolling when I read about your dad talking about his old days, about opening a flickr account ( I have done the same for my dad too as he craves to see me and his grandchildren). My dad now talks about his passion of teaching and how he was so good at maths ( as if I don’t know that!) and how he can give a strong base of Trigonometry to my son so that he will never forget any formula, when I mentioned that they have started teaching geometry to Bugsbunny at school. He called my son and asked him to give him a missed call after my son gets back from school so that they both can log in Google Talk and he can teach him maths. He is becoming a bit stubborn too and uses his sense of humour a lot to dodge any health related questions. My other sister is looking after him in India and I can’t help but think how lucky she is that she is still so close to dad and her son is getting so much from his nanaji. I can go on and on but I am too choked to write any more…its been three years since I have seen/visited him.

    My dad also wanted to steal every extra moment with us. He wanted tell me everything, it seems now… I didn’t realise why.
    …how many times he talked of his grand parents, he couriered me old photographs to upload into his Flickr account, so that they are not forgotten… I am just glad that even though I did not understand why atleast I did do all those little things which meant so much to him.


  18. My heart is beating so fast, I can hardly breathe!

    My DaddyDearest is 70 years old. He is my hero in so many aspects, and suddenly he seems to have aged. When, how, I don’t know. All I know is that I seem to hover around him a lot more…

    This was so beautiful and touching IHM. Really.

    They age so gradually we just don’t realise, or maybe we don’t want to realise mamma mia me a mamma… I found myself spending much more time talking to him, towards the last few years…and that is one comfort I will always have …


  19. Nice post. Somehow, after we become ‘big’ we seem to forget everything that is past. I really don’t understand where all this is going to end. Perhaps, when we are given the same ‘treatment’ by our kids?

    Destination Infinity

    Most children reciprocate, not all but most do. If parents have built close bonds, and set good examples, there is a hope that the kids will be like the parents. But I realise good parents may have uncaring kids or vice versa, it’s sad when that happens…


  20. I came again to read it IHM.I don’t remember when my dad called us near to him with love.When i read what u have written,the whole afternoon was trying to recollect any happy moments with him.He had problems with mom and that effected our relationship as well:(
    When he realised it,it was time for him to go:(

    Sad Varunavi, I think many fathers do not realise how much they lose by not being involved with their children. Some actually don’t care….
    Working mothers find the time and patience for their kids, and lucky fathers do the same. The loss is both the children’s and the father’s … But see how close you are to your mom? That’s a bond to cherish 🙂 I admire her for her openness, her wisdom and deep closeness with you, whenever I read any mention of your mom on your blog.


    • My mom is coming here on 30th for a month.

      Awww aren’t you all thrilled!!!
      🙂 You must read your blog post about her to her… it gives much more joy than we can ever realise !!!


  21. I am wordless now, to write anything here. Became too emotional. You have expressed your feelings so nicely. I feel most of the fathers are close to their daughters. My father used to call me ‘baale’ (baby), till the day of his death. He was bedridden for sometime and I had gone home to be with him for sometime. Later on, my mother used to say that though his speech was down, his eyes were following me, wherever I went, it seems. And so many other memories. He used to admire my husband and my sons.

    Now, I feel I should have been with him for some more days. I stayed there for 16 days when he was not well. On the 17th day, I thought I had to go back because my husband had been alone for a long time. I reached home in the evening and the news about his death was awaiting me……Sorry. Can’t write anymore. You are making every person, who reads this, to cry. Will write later.

    I am sorry about your dad Sandhya… Those 16 days must have meant the world to him. We all feel guilty no matter what we do… but I am sure once he had spent that precious time with you, your dad was at peace.


  22. *hugs*

    I am speechless. What do I say ?

    74.. is a number isnt it when all think of death? My dad is 74. And I think of it all the time.

    Its like this persistent worry on the back of my mind. If I come home and he is sleeping, I rush to see if he is alive.

    If he doesnt wake up every 2-3 hours, during the day, I nudge him awake.

    I dont wanna say anything more.. too emotional right now 😦


  23. “Now that he is not there, I can see so much more of him,

    In all that is missing.”

    Sometimes, IHM, it is like that isn’t it? They are always with, and never away, especially at these moments, at all moments!

    This was such a touching, moving post, and it reminded me so very much of my own father, who at 74+ quite a few years, :), and still is my hero. No doubt on that! But, of course, I could never even attempt to articulate, and get across, in the manner you have, in the simple, trivial, and the so so uncommonly common aspects of the relationship you shared, and still share I am sure, no matter that your Reliance phone is not used so much these days.

    I remember reading that post about having to go home when he left, and your meeting your niece, that first time… Just fills me up so much. The tenderness, the certainty of the knowledge that his love will see you through anything, just anything.

    I wish I could write more, about how very very much emotions are churning within, and the fear I feel sometimes, thinking about my dad, but I wont. I do not want to take anything away from this heartfelt and heartwarming post 🙂

    Love you for this IHM… truly do. Thanks, from the bottom of my heart 🙂

    Thank You Usha Pisharody … your response moved me. I didn’t think that I thought of him as my hero, but maybe in some ways, without realizing I did. And now little thing, just out of the blue, trigger a flood of memories, not unhappy really, just sad, with regret because we had always assumed he would live to be 90+ like his parents.


  24. IHM this was just so heartbreaking to read…it touched a chord….I feel so strongly about this…

    the first time I realised that my parents were mortals and not superheroes it scared me like hell..it terrified me to know and realise that they would age too…
    I am my father’s daughter completely …

    I am trying to see the lessons I can pick up from here so that I try to have fewer regrets…I want to be able to tell him how much he is loved….what he means to me…and how special he is….

    thanks for this post IHM….

    for once I have no more words to write ….

    Indyeah, I am sure you express your affection, and it really does matter, to us as much as to them.
    That’s one regret we need not have, I am all for PDA in the family…


  25. A very touching post…

    every daughter adores her Father and he remains the special man in her life forever…even for their faults..


  26. i had sneaked in to read this post 2 days back but could not comment. loved it. i moved in to live with my parents a year n a half back and it’s a decision we siblings had taken consciously. my bro returned from US, I returned from Bangalore while my other bro was already here.

    I am not sure about children living with the parents in the same house Masood. I have never seen any woman who has been happy to live with her in laws. How many men will we find agreeing to live in their wives’ homes and taking care of her parents? And most of the times it’s the daughters in law who are expected to take care of the husband’s parents. Who takes care of the girl’s parents?? Our joint family system is at the root of our depleting girl:boy ratio, with smaller families and fewer kids I feel couples should take responsibility for both the sets of parents. It is not possible for a girl’s parents to come and live with the joint family of her husband… we need to think very seriously about this.
    My brother’s wife is an only child, she is the only one who will be taking care of her mother if she is really sick. Her parents say they were prepared for an old age where they will be busy on their own, socializing and traveling etc, because they knew they only had a daughter!! You will find most boys’ parents do not think of independence like this. In my family on both the sides we are very, very close, but (or because of) we all live in our own homes.

    You know, sometimes we may not always be good to them, take them from granted and don’t realize it. your post made me think about how i ‘could’ do certain things and how i ‘should’ do certain other things.

    Nothing like regular contact Massod…

    bottom line: it was an eye opener. thanks for this 🙂

    But Masood, also see it from a daughter’s point of view, what do girls in India do? They love the parents as much as Sons do… Do take a look at this post


    • I do agree that living with parents is not the easiest thing to do. And I also agree that with sons and their wives tending for his parents, what happens to her parents? Specially when there’s no one else to take care of them.

      I know of a case in my family where the girl’s parents are not very independent or financially secure thus are dependents. Being the only child, she takes care of them in her house. But I think that worked out only because his parents stay separately.

      Living in a joint family is quite challenging. But we compromise, plan ahead and try very hard to work it out. For the simple reason that the parents want us to stay together. They want to see their children and grandchildren in front of their eyes. And at this age, abandoning them is not something that I can live with. Someday they will go and we can’t do anything about it. And there’s not gonna be any more joint family thing after that. Atleast till that day, this is the least I can do for them. I hold similar sentiments for my wife’s parents and she knows it. Moving in to live with my parents was actually her decision.

      I remember reading that post earlier. It was shocking and saddening.

      I realise there are no perfect solutions to some situations Masood… we just do our best!


  27. Hi, good post. I have been wondering about this issue,so thanks for posting. I will certainly be coming back to your blog.

    Oh Thank You I am so glad you liked the post!!!!!!!!


  28. Hugs, IHM. I just read this post and my eyes hurt. Feeling restless within myself. I donot even know why in the first place an aweful thing like ‘death’ should occur, leave alone at the age of 74. I am feeling rather speeechless. Hugs!!


  29. Pingback: The Changing Role of Dads | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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