My heartfelt thanks to all of you who sent your sympathies and condolences, and my apologies for not acknowledging them individually.
Yes, I do know that Father's Day was two weeks ago. Although it was the first Father's Day without my father's physical presence in this world, it was all about him and it also became his wonderful gift to the SRE. Because we were holding the Satsang marking his demise on this Sunday, all four of our children came to honour my Dad. The older son actually cut short a vacation in Iran to be with us all. This was the first time since the younger son turned eighteen (in 2008, when we flew to Delhi for a day to surprise him) that we were all together, and the first time that all four kids were with us in Kolkata. We did miss our son-in-law, but it wasn't possible for him to get away.
My sister had come in earlier on the Thursday, and we immersed our father's ashes in the river on Friday. That was a heartbreaking, final moment. The children all came in on Saturday evening, and much hilarity ensued, as we tried catching up with each others' news. After feasting on the kebabs that the SRE had ordered in, as well as the vegetarian kebabs I'd made, and some delicious cake from Kookie Jar, all dinner plans were shelved. Our younger son and daughter decided that the local chaat-wallah had to be visited, as his gol-gappas were not to be missed. What was most amusing was that we started out at the dining table, camped for various periods in all three bedrooms, and then finally at the dining table once again, when the SRE and I decided that a little dal-roti was required. ( My dining table deserves a blog post of its own- it was bought in 1985, has had the top changed, the chairs re-caned a couple of times, and is fairly battered by its travels across the country. I wouldn't want to part with it, though, as long as it's remains standing, as it has been the heart of so much family time, and the seat of wonderful conversations with family and friends). Somehow we decided that we had to go to bed if we were to function the next morning.
The SRE and I were up and thinking of having our tea when the older daughter walked in, with a cheerful "Happy Father's Day." The older son joined in soon. The older daughter discovered that an old bread-wallah came to our building with fresh brown 'bakery' bread, which was absolutely delicious. A little while later the bell rang. It was a tall, beautiful arrangement of golden lilies with a handwritten card for the SRE. The younger son and daughter had gone and ordered this while ostensibly out for puchkas! The older daughter slipped four gift-wrapped packages into it, and called the SRE. There were four body washes from The Body Shop, one from each child. The older son took some photographs, which he hasn't uploaded yet. We had planned to go out for an early lunch and come back early to make the necessary arrangements for the Satsang, but since the older son and the SRE were up and about, we decided to use this available man power and move all the furniture that we had to, so the maid could clean up while we were out. In the meantime, my sister and the younger siblings woke up, and by noon the family was ready to leave.
We had an early buffet lunch at the Floatel, which was new for most of us. The view of the river was spectacular. However, I could only think of the traces of my parents' ashes meeting somewhere in that grand sweep of water, and had to concentrate on the food to banish my gloom.
We got home to an expanse of an empty, gleaming floor in the drawing and dining room. The man power and I once again spread out every rug and carpet in the house, including two beautiful durrees that the older son brought from Iran on this visit, and covered them with various bed covers. Then the SRE and I went to get some flowers. Garlanding my father's photograph seemed like the final acknowledgment of our loss. We snoozed for a while, while our trusty driver went to collect the boxes of prasad. I wore a beautiful handloom saree which I'm sure Daddy would have liked. ( He used to travel a fair amount during his working life, and would pick up lovely sarees for my mother from the various places he visited. He also loved to see us dressed in sarees. My mother had spent the last few years mostly in housecoats, and my sister rarely wears sarees. I'd try and wear a saree whenever I visited my parents in the few brief years that we were staying in Noida, while they were in Delhi).
The first guests arrive. There are several local satsangis, part of my natal religious community, friends and relatives. My sister's husband has flown in specially for this.
The room fills up with some 40-50 people, while the Satsang commences. The prayers are beautiful, and it is hard to curb my tears. Once it is over, prasad is distributed and the satsangis leave. The friends and family stay on for a while, catching up with our children, while tea is made and served. There is much merriment and laughter, and I'm sure my father would have really enjoyed this celebration. We get the house back to normal, and a couple of friends, who could not come earlier owing to a previous engagement, come to pay their respects.
Finally, it is just the seven us for dinner. I had made preparations for minestrone and baked corn and spinach a day earlier, which I quickly assemble, while my sister makes a salad. Ice cream follows, followed by a sprawling all over the room session in front of the TV.
Everyone leaves over Monday and Tuesday, including the SRE. I'm quite exhausted with all the excitement and three trips to the airport, (made so that I can spend each possible minute with the family) that I have no problem being all alone at home.
A week later my sister tells me that her daughter's marriage has been finalised. I am, in my heart, quite sure that this is a blessing from my parents.