(A Short Story)
It was a bitter cold December morning. I was outside a mortuary waiting to receive the body of my father whom, I had never seen. The wait seemed endless. My body became numb and stiff from the icy wind. My thoughts were on my father…..
He had abandoned our family when I was one year old. All I knew of my father was what I heard from my mother and uncle. He was a lazy man who avoided honest work, drank excessively and beat my mother and my two elder sisters. One day he disappeared taking with him all jewels and savings of my mother without caring anyone else including his three kids under the age of five.
My mother worked as a typist in a small private firm and with her meager income she struggled very much to keep us alive. Her brother, my uncle, helped her to educate us. As I grew into adulthood my hatred for my father became deeper. The more I heard about him, the more I hated him. The more I hated, the angrier I became. My anger turned into curiosity to know him firsthand. My mother and uncle stopped talking about him. My sisters didn’t care to know about him.
But I became obsessed with finding him. I constantly dream about meeting my father and confronting him directly. I became fixated on my hatred and on my desire to meet the man who abandoned his family. Repeatedly I used to speak to him in my mind demanding answers.
The only person who forgave him was my mother. She philosophically took everything as her “karma”. She would say: “Ashwin, forgive him and forget him. Hatred can never let you live in peace”
“How can you forgive him mother?”
“The question is not ‘how’, Ashwin. It is ‘why’. To live with peace of mind, we need to forgive. It doesn’t take a lot of strength to hang on. It takes a lot of strength to let go. Only by letting go the burden of hatred one can find peace, my son”
But I could not let my hatred go. I worked part time and finished my college. I got a good job with nice salary in a computer software company. My sisters were married. But with time my hatred did not fade. It only intensified. Frequently I dreamt about my father and awaken with a fit of anger.
In her death bed my mother held my hand and said, “Ashwin, past is a corpse. You must bury it. No sane person takes the burden of it with him. There's no need and it's no use……”
They were her last words. I tried to follow her advice. But I couldn’t shrug the burden from mind. Inspite of my mother's advice the past was not dead to me. It was still alive. Stored anger and silent resentment really made my life miserable. I still asked questions and made trips to my father’s relatives and friends living in distant cities. All ended in frustration only.
Yesterday I received a phone call from a friend of my father saying that he came to know just then that my father had died in Coimbatore general hospital. Suddenly I felt blank. I couldn't decide what to do.
I remembered my mother's words "“Ashwin, forgive him and forget him. Hatred can never let you live in peace...... It doesn’t take a lot of strength to hang on. It takes a lot of strength to let go. Only by letting go the burden of hatred one can find peace, my son........”
I decided to go there. After five minutes I made a phone call to Coimbatore general hospital and talked to the authorities. When I informed the news to my sisters they refused to come with me. To them he was dead long ago. I boarded the Coimbatore train alone.
I was curious to know whether my father had told anyone that he had three kids. Did he ever secretly try to find how his wife and children were doing? Did he ever care? Did he know about his wife’s death? Mostly I wanted to know how he could have abandoned his family. My anger at his behaviour still haunted me.
The hospital people informed me that he died of cancer. He had been admitted only a week before and nobody came along with him. They could provide no more information about him. Except his name “Chandran”, they did not know anything about him. They gave me his cloth bag. Except two old dhothis, two shirts and a match box nothing was there. No addresses, no phone numbers, no photographs.....
My thoughts were interrupted by the delivery of my father's lifeless body to me. My heart pounded with emotions I couldn't name. With frustration I stood looking at the body.... I had so many questions to ask him. I waited all those years for an opportunity to meet him. I wanted to hear his side of the story and what made him to live his life as he did. But fate never granted my wishes and provided any answers. Only God knew all answers.
I finally realized that by hating him I had given him power over my peace of mind. I deeply felt that time had come to abandon my anger and hatred. As my mother had said I wanted to be strong enough to let go. I had to accept what happened. His death left me no other choice. My heart began to soften. I said to him silently, "Father, I forgive you". I really meant it.
Two hours later I buried him in a nearby graveyard. As I came out of the graveyard, I felt a deep sense of relief and peace.