As I sat in front of my laptop with my cursor hovering over the 'Cancel Event' button on Facebook I didn't know why I wanted to cancel it, I was turning 40 in the August of 2014 and over numerous evenings my friends and I had discussed my birthday plan. New York, London, Thailand, Goa all were discussed but eventually it was decided that as I wanted everyone there, including the staff, the party would be in Chandigarh.
And yet about 5 months away from my birthday I was really wanting to cancel the party. I did click on the 'Cancel Event' button only to receive emails, text messages 'why?' I didn't have an answer just something telling me no.
I would soon know 'why'
On the 13th of July as I walked out of my study in the afternoon my chest contracted and I felt something was not right and all I could think of was Daddy. "Let him live" was the only silent prayer I could send up to heaven. There was no reason for my fear. Daddy had just turned 80 on the 4th of July. He was healthy, active and forever on the move. He drove himself, met his lawyers, had his peg of whiskey every night. He didn't look or act 80, though he had stopped socialising after my mother had passed in 2010 and we all had found him silently crying in his room numerous times over the 4 years, he had changed, he was quieter but he was healthy and mentally strong.
"Uncle has fallen in the study, we are taking him to the nearest hospital, reach there fast" said Omkareshwari's friend on the phone as I had just parked my car to buy some clothes for my son, Shivendra who was due to leave for college in three weeks time to pursue a degree in Law.
As I drove to the hospital I rang a doctor I knew and asked him to reach the hospital. I reached just two minutes after Omkareshwari, her friend and Shivendra reached there. Daddy was already hooked up to numerous monitors, his heart, BP, vital stats all were normal, my doctor friend had one look at him and said 'it's a stroke' 'We need an MRI now' even though this hospital was close to our home it was a small establishment and they didn't have an MRI machine. The doctor in the ER room said "We will keep him here tonight and send him out for a scan tomorrow' 'Tomorrow? what about the three hour period' asked my doctor friend. "Give us an ambulance we are taking him to a full fledged hospital now" the way the doctor behaved and at the leisurely pace at which he made the documents. I wanted to punch his teeth out. I really did!!
The ambulance was wailing it's way through traffic within the next 10 minutes, Shivendra and I sat with Daddy in the ambulance holding his hands and telling him he would be just fine, with the other cars chasing us.
The doctor friend had already reached the hospital and the ER staff were expecting us, with the neurologist on standby. As soon as we reached they whisked Daddy away to the MRI room, but he kept moving and would not be still, the doctors telling him he needed to be still but Daddy was not someone who took orders, he gave them all his life, he was a ruler and even in that condition his personality remained the same. I explained to the doctors that this was not their average patient and he would not listen to anyone, the only one person he did listen to was his grandson, Shivendra, "send for him" I shouted at the orderlies, Shivendra walked in a minute later and the doctors explained to him that Daddy needed to be still, Shivendra held Daddy's hand and gently said "Dada please don't move the doctors want to do your MRI" what the 10 minutes of screaming and shouting doctors could not achieve, Shivendra achieved it with one gentle sentence, Daddy stopped moving and the MRI was done. it was a stroke, a major one.
Daddy was wheeled back to the ER and was for his privacy kept in the isolation room.
The turmoil was far from over, infact it was only going to get worse! The doctor said he needed to give him an injection to thin his blood to remove the clot but there was a chance that if there was a bleed he might not survive the night and we had to decide 'now' I felt everything slow down, all I could hear was 'decide now' 'not survive the night' the doctor kept saying 'we don't have time, tell me now do you want the injection, we don't have time' it all seemed unreal, everything seemed in suspended animation. There I was standing in the Emergency room of the hospital hearing the words 'now'
"I need 5 minutes to think" I heard myself say, for the first time in my life I 'heard' my own voice. "We don't have time tell me now" said the doctor.
"I can't, I need 5 minutes" and I walked out of the ER. I cleared my mind and was back in the ER before the 5 minutes got over. "What's the worst case scenario if we don't give him the injection" I asked. "He will be paralysed on one side, most probably forever" That was it, I knew what I wanted "No injection, I don't care if he's paralysed, I can't take a chance with his life" "You will have to sign papers saying that you don't want the injection" the doctor said. I felt he disagreed with my decision, "Tell me where to sign"
Papers signed, Daddy was moved to the ICU to be kept under observation. Nothing could be done except wait and watch. Surgery could not be done due to his age and because he was diabetic.
Shivendra and I moved into the Inn located in the hospital premises. I could not leave him, I just couldn't.
All night I could not sleep, I kept wondering if I had made the right decision by refusing the injection, what if I was wrong, what if that injection was needed, what if he's paralysed for life and it's my fault?
The next morning we went to the ICU. Daddy lay in bed with a feeding tube in his nose and was hooked up to all kinds of machines. The sounds of an ICU are the worst, all sorts of beeping, buzzing and mechanical sounds! He was responsive, I held his hand and asked him "Are you comfortable" he nodded yes "Any pain?" He nodded no. That made me feel much better. "Do you want me to call anyone?" He nodded no but gestured towards his pocket which I knew meant his phone, "I have it, don't worry, we are answering all your calls and letting them know you are not too well and can't take calls but will get back very soon"
The doctor signalled me to come on the side. He spoke to me as he held his MRI "I'm glad you didn't give him the injection, there's a bleed in the brain, if the injection had been given he would not have survived the night" after hours of wondering I knew the universe had helped me in reaching that decision, the correct decision.
I went back to Daddy and told him "I'm outside, visiting hours are over" a tear rolled down from his right eye, I wiped it, kissed him on the cheek "You will be fine, I love you" as I walked out of the ICU, I wanted him to be well more than anything else in the world but something deep inside told me he would not be.
I could not go back after that, every time the doctors called me to sign papers I stood at the doctors station signed the consent forms and looked at Daddy from far, I could not go back to him.
Shivendra sat with him all the time and kept telling him repeatedly "Dada I love you, I need you, I can't stay without you, please get well, I'm not going to Delhi to study, I will stay here with you and we will do all the things we've always done"
From the moment that he had the stroke he kept saying 'Bhaa Bhaa' he loved Shivendra more than anyone and had always called him 'Bhaa Saheb' it's been a family thing not calling our favourite people by name, my grandmother always called Daddy 'Prince' or 'Saheb' and Daddy all his life called me 'Sir' never did he take my name, when ever he had to he would say 'Call Sir' 'Tell Sir' and Shivendra was always 'Bhaa Saheb'
In the ICU he would raise his right hand and gesture to hold his hand if anyone of us held his hand he would feel it and leave it and gesture again, the moment Shivendra would hold his hand he would feel his hand and hold on to it.
Daddy and Shivendra shared a bond like no other, they had lunch together, dinner together, went out to the market every evening at 6 to have 'tiki's and chaat' watched tv together, they were like twins and every free minute that they had they were together.
By the 4th day he was not responding and the doctors put a central line for his medicines.
On the 5th day the X-Ray showed a patch of pneumonia and the doctors said that he had to be put on the ventilator, I had heard some horror stories of people going on the ventilator and never coming off but the doctors said that was the only way left. If they didn't put him on the ventilator he would drown in his own fluids. I agreed.
On the 6th day the neurologist called Omkareshwari, Shivendra and me to his cabin "Its not good, there's more bleeding and there's been a midline shift and swelling till the brain stem" How when something goes wrong with our loved ones we become doctors, a midline shift is when one side of the brain pushes against the other side due to swelling. "He's most probably not going to make it, his BP has been dropping and his heart is fluttering and making more clots, his cretanine levels have gone up because his kidneys are not working properly, it's highly unlikely he will survive and if he does he will be in a vegetative state. What would you like to do?" There wasn't a doubt in my mind about my answer "Everything that's needed for him to live, even if it means he will be in a vegetative state, we will take care of him, he just needs to live"
"We can't perform surgery on the brain due to his age, diabetes and non functioning of the kidneys. We can do dialysis and take care of the issues as and when they come up"
"Yes, anything and everything"
"The dialysis can not be done right away as his BP has fallen to 90/50, we stabilise him first and then do dialysis but let me prepare you that he's not going to make it"
The same day we found out about an air ambulance to air lift him to a Delhi hospital. We were not going to give up on him, even if we had to fly him to the UK or US, we were not going to give up.
Early next morning, exactly one week after he was admitted, Shivendra got a call from the ICU, "The doctor wants to see you in the ICU" we both hurriedly got up and dashed towards the ICU, my heart beating as if it was going to burst out of my chest, a million questions and just one fear.
As we walked into the ICU a nurse gestured for us to go towards his bed, I knew the worst had happened by the way the nurses and doctors were looking at me.
The curtains around his bed were drawn, I hoped against hope.
The doctor was standing next to his bed, with a file in her hand, I looked at Daddy, he seemed to be breathing. Hope!!
"We did dialysis last night but his heart fluttered all night, in the morning his heart stopped we did CPR and gave shocks to his heart for 45 minutes, his pulse and heart beat are zero, he is gone, I'm sorry"
Time stood still.
All I could do was press Shivendra's hand. "Go see him, say your goodbyes" He leaned over and kissed Daddy on his cheek, "I love you Dada" with tears rolling down his cheeks, it broke my heart.
"Do I need to sign anything" I asked the doctor, "Nothing, we just wanted you to see him, I'm sorry"
The same evening he was cremated, dressed as a Raja should be for his final journey, in his dark blue achkan, his turban with his favourite diamond aigrette from London and his favourite Basra pearl strands around his neck.
Shivendra conducted the rituals just as Daddy had written, he was a man of letters and wrote everything, everything even down to how things were to be conducted once he was gone.
As his pyre was lit a strong gust of wind came with a drizzle, a sign of auspiciousness.
He was, exactly four years later, with my mother and I knew he was happy.