The Loss of a loved one
by Md. Sha Alam
It was like any other day. The clock was a lazy 11 am. I had just wrapped up my work from one site and travelling to the other. An easy commute of 10 minutes. I called up home to speak to my wife and parents. The phone kept on ringing yet there was no answer from her. Frustrated, I disconnected the call and called up my brother.
My brother picked up on the other side. I told him that since morning I was having an uneasy feeling hence I had called up to enquire about them. My brother went silent for some time. After a while he said that it was on that holy day, 27th of Ramadan, when our father had expired. My brother was leaving for the market to arrange for his last rites. Our sister was arriving in the evening to offer her prayers.
I sat in the lorry and cried my eyes out. I couldn’t believe that a day which had started so mundanely could have ended like this. My friends consoled me. They assured me that everything will be okay. I informed the lorry driver about my situation and requested him to take me back to the hostel. On arriving there, I came across my boss. I was too overwhelmed to speak to him. I headed to my bed and started weeping. I could hear my friends informing my boss about what had passed. My boss summoned me to his room. After exchanging a few pleasantries he told me not to think about the one who has passed away but rather to concentrate on my work.
I told him that if my leave was sanctioned earlier, I could have gone back home the last time my father was ill and seen him one last time. He asked if I needed any leave now. I told him to grant me 3 days so that I could at least mourn his departure. My boss agreed.
My friends and I left for the masjid that night and offered our prayers. On returning home, lying on my bed, my heart swarm up with memories about my father.
I was the third child in the family, among three brothers and one sister. My father loved me the most in the lot. He used to lovingly call me Alam Saheb (Alam Sir) in the house. Due to my work I had to leave home and reside elsewhere with my wife. But every weekend my wife and I would go back home and visit the family. We have a lot of fun then.
Wild thorns and berries would cover the pavement of my house and my father would painstakingly clear them for me. I always shared a very special bond with my father and it was on losing him that I realised I had not only lost my father but my best friend too.
Six months after this tragedy, my mother fell ill. She had a paralytic attack that left her immobile. She lost movement of the tongue and developed a stutter.
The validity of my work permit was 2 years and 10 months. With two months left to go, I informed my boss I was going back home. I wanted to visit my father’s grave and pay my respect, meet my ailing mother and spent some time with her, see my wife and son. So I would return back after 3 months. Whatever I had managed to earn while working in Singapore was spent on paying off my debt. So I returned home empty handed without a single token or souvenir for my family.
My wife and youngest soon along with my relatives came to receive me at the airport. When I exited the terminal, I saw my friends and family standing far away. My youngest son, Bhuvan could hardly recognize me and kept on staring at his mother to affirm who I was. I smiled at the cruel joke of destiny; a son doesn’t remember his father. My wife Ellie, pointed a finger at me and told him who I was. It was then my son ran into my arms and hugged me.
We stayed at my uncle’s home that night. Next morning we boarded the bus to my home. On arriving, I saw my mother and my mother-in-law, dressed in white, waiting for my arrival. At that moment, the fine line between son and son-in-law melted away and all that stood before me was the image of two mothers, eyes filled with tears, waiting to just take me into their arms once. In that moment I felt truly blessed.
Later on I visited my father’s grave and offered my respect to him. I apologised to him for not being there when he needed me the most. How much his tired weary eyes must have searched for me while he drew in his last breath? How much must he had hoped that from somewhere I will land up before him? And how unfortunate was I that I couldn’t grant my father last wish.
One day I called my brothers and sisters and handed them whatever money I had managed to save. I asked them to use it in according to their requirements. A sum of that was spent on the household and some of it I gave to my elder brother who is a farmer. He is blessed with two daughters who are of a marriageable age and hence he needed the money. Soon those three months passed away and I retuned back to Singapore on 11th October’ 2011 to start another chapter of my unexpected life.