‘Happy Durgashtami.’ The messages have been coming in steadily since morning. It is a day of celebration for Hindus all over the world. A day when Goddess Durga vanquished the demon, Mahishasura, and sent the message out that She will manifest whenever there is danger and save us from the hands of evil.
It should have been a happy day for me too, as the greetings that came in religiously bid. But it hasn’t been so much. A dull, but insufferable heaviness has been weighing on my heart since morning. A heaviness that I have been trying to disregard and get on with my day’s routine but haven’t succeeded till this moment.
I decked the puja up in earnest, said my day’s prayers and settled to write my column for the week. Despite the distractions, the sinking feeling stayed adamantly stuck to my consciousness. Ignoring it wasn’t working, resisting it was making it dig in its heels further and disrupting my fragile calm. So I just allowed it to remain, giving it space to expand as far it needs in my body and mind, and run its course. At some point, it will climax, exhaust itself and reach its denouement. Till then, I will let it be. Let the dull ache pervade me and claim its agency over my heart.
It was on the night leading up to Durgashtami six years ago that I lost a piece of myself forever. It was wrenched out of my being by force, and I haven’t been able to grow that part back again. It was a night that left me and my family in tatters, giving us no time to even make sense of what was happening or devise means to put ourselves together. Appa just left that night, without notice.
The world was preparing to celebrate Durga’s victory the next day, and I, mindless of the celestial festivity, was down on my knees beseeching her to bring appa back from the brink. Perhaps, she was too busy fighting the Asura for the greater good of the world. Or perhaps, She decided appa had to go, for reasons She alone knew best at that time.
When the eighth day of Navaratri dawned, my soul lay slain. Devoid of pain. Devoid of grief. Devoid of the faintest emotion. There was plain disbelief and my heart was replaced by an iceberg. The iceberg hasn’t melted till today. It is perhaps the weight of that frozen mass that is weighing on me today. I have lived in its freeze for six years.
But in these six years, I have come to reconsider Durga’s mortal decision with regard to appa. The first impulse would have been to accuse Her of utter insensitivity, of being inconsiderate and unkind, of being ruthless enough to snatch Appa away so randomly without heeding our prayers. I was disillusioned with Her decision, no doubt, but not once did I direct my ire at Her. I was probably too numb to question her. Or I was just stoic about Her intentions.
But now, as I look around me and see people in their twilight years go through unspeakable ailments and misery, I reconcile to Appa’s departure with a new perspective. It’s true that the night of his demise and the day of every Durgashtami will haunt me for the rest of my life, but somewhere down the time that has elapsed, I have begun to accept that Durga took him away from us for a good reason.
After his heart condition was diagnosed as almost irreversible, She didn’t want to reduce him to a man of limited mobility. She didn’t want to place fetters on his joie de vivre and make him a shadow of his old self. She didn’t want him to have an extended lease just to plod through its many deficiencies. She wanted to give him an easy release. A smooth passage from the mortal realm to where the angels tread. She wanted to spare him a life he wouldn’t have enjoyed living. He was man who laughed a lot and She wouldn’t have wanted him to deny him that. He deserved an easy passing.
As for my pain, it’s self-interest that is at the root of my suffering. It is ‘my loss’ that I take so subjectively that I am grieving and that is the ultimate sign of selfishness as I see it now with some added rationale. Today, I am determined to look at his departure as his gain; as his victory over the vagaries of old age; as Durga’s ratification of his impeccable character and goodness and there is nothing more gratifying than to realize that Appa won the battle of life so handsomely. He left like mist, unnoticed, without leaving anything behind. Not even a scrap of regret. In this redeeming thought, I will find my palliative.
Appa, I will not stop missing you, but today I know that you left gracefully and gallantly. Without a pain. Without a grouse. Without unfulfilled desires. You left, on this day, six years ago, with only the almighty’s name on your lips. NARAYANA.**
Durga Ma, For giving him a plain sailing without any suffering, for taking Him in Your arms on this auspicious day as you would an innocuous child, my salutations, and my gratitude.
(** 𝐼𝑡 𝑤𝑎𝑠 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑙𝑎𝑠𝑡 𝑤𝑜𝑟𝑑 ℎ𝑒 𝑢𝑡𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑒𝑑 𝑏𝑒𝑓𝑜𝑟𝑒 𝑐𝑜𝑙𝑙𝑎𝑝𝑠𝑖𝑛𝑔.)