On having lost a loved one

Everyone in the world has lost a loved one to life’s eventuality at some point or the other. Do you remember the first time you lost a dear one?

My elder brother Ratan was less than three years my senior. He finished schooling from Campion School, Bhopal and followed it up with an M.A. in Economics and topping it all up with an M.B.A. with a Finance major. With his wedding date already fixed, my family decided that even I had grown up sufficiently to get married. Things moved fast and my mother had to call to halt the printing of the invitation cards because there was a ‘change in some details’. The poor guy must have imagined a change in the date or the venue at most, but I am sure he must have had to hold on to something when he heard that another couple was being added to the same card. My brother and I got married five days apart. He, on the 11th February 1997 and I on the 16th. Our daughters were born six months apart with mine being the elder of the two.

Ratan was working in an investment firm in Mumbai and was contemplating a career shift to the publishing world with an offer from Mid-Day. A career shift is a big step for anyone, but it was a step towards a more fulfilling life as he enjoyed expressing himself with the written word. He was under a lot of stress as the investment firm was not ready to let him go and was delaying his relieving. This, and the fact that his married life was anything but happy, must have led to a medical condition that he was not able to identify.

On the fateful day, as we learnt later, he was feeling from what he felt was Acid-Reflux issues and took an antacid to little relief. In the evening, he traveled on the Mumbai local rail system for 75 minutes to reach Mira Road from Tardeo. He vomited near the entrance gate of his housing society, but again, thought nothing of it. He took the elevator to the seventh floor and asked his wife for some cold milk instead of his usual cup of coffee. In the 30 seconds that she spent in the adjoining kitchen to bring the milk, he had collapsed with eyes turned over. In a panic, my sister-in-law called the neighbors, but by the time they reached him, he had already died of a massive cardiac arrest. His five-month-old daughter was still in his lap.

I remember 29th December 1998 very well as my wife, daughter and I were returning to Indore from Bhopal after visiting my parents. When we reached home around eleven in the evening, there was a phone call from my father in law that my parents, elder sister, and brother in law were themselves driving to Indore and we had to rush to Mumbai as Ratan had taken ill. My initial fear was that his kidney was acting up again as he was born with only one functional kidney and had had been operated for some issue with his surviving kidney. With no more detail than that, I almost freaked out and rushed out to find a Public Call Office (mobiles were not popular in India at that time and I did not have a landline connection at home). I called Ratan’s home and reached my aunt that the unthinkable had happened. It was all a nightmare from there on. The few moments when I held my father’s hand when my family reached Indore, having to drive to Mumbai as it was impossible to find a flight, coming close breaking down myself during driving are etched in my memory forever.

Ratan was cremated on 30th December 1998 in the evening at 9:30 in the evening. Sixteen years have passed since and a lot of water has flown through the rivers, but on festivals and anniversaries, my parents’ eyes still cloud over. The sister-in-law severed ties with us, and has since remarried, and is living in Dubai. Ratan’s daughter is sixteen years old but we have not seen her in as many years.

Life goes on.