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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 37 New Delhi August 31, 2019

Gone Away! Lost Happiness

Saturday 31 August 2019

by Harish Chandola

Veteran journalist Harish Chandola recently lost his son. In the following piece he has written about him. It is being published here for the benefit of our readers. Chandola is a prolific writer with a wide knowledge of developments in countries like Afghanistan and those of West Asia and the Arab world. 

Bani (Abani), my son, passed away on Wednesday, August 21, 2019, in a New Delhi hospital of multiple organ failure. The machine monitoring his heart-beat started going slow and stopped at 6:58 p.m. A nurse came in to say that he was gone.

In a Chennai hospital we had taken him to earlier, a specialist had given him six months to live, and it was the sixth month to the day that he went away, leaving the family gathered in his room, lost.

Half-an-hour before that, I, the father, had placed my forehead over his, to beg: “Abani! Please do not go away! Do not leave us!”

Two days later, on August 24, when we took him for burial, we found a faint smile playing on his lips, exposing some teeth, as if he was happy in the new state he had entered, beyond suffering.

He was a wonderfully happy child! Memories of his childhood keep flooding my mind. I recalled the day we were flying from Kathmandu in Nepal to Patna in India. Bani, two then, kept asking me if his new shoes would fall off the plane when it was up in the air and be lost, asking me to tighten their laces!

As a child, he hated travelling in cars, which made him sick, making him vomit. His mother would clean him up and take himout for a walk on the road for a breath of fresh air. But he would not want to return to the car and kept walking, with me following in the car. Once we made a long, nightmarish journey to Kathmandu, where I was taking my car to sell, because I was not permitted to do so in India where I had imported it. I had to take it out of the country. The nearest foreign country was Nepal, where I was taking it for that purpose.

I then took my family to Singapore where I worked for some years. There, Bani took to playing badminton, was included in his school team to go and play matches in Indonesia, the champion of the game. He won matches and brought home trophies. I have a cupboard full of them and wonder what I should do with them, now that he is gone.

He was very adventurous, travelling all over the Garhwal Himalayas where I was born and my parents lived. For a while he set up a tea shop in the small border town of Joshimath, on the Tibet border, living off his earnings. Then he went away to Goa, spending almost a year there, making and selling sandwiches to tourists that arrived there in droves. We had to use a great deal of persuasion to get him back to Delhi to be with the family.

He then travelled to North-East India, opened a television service centre in Tura, in the Garo hills, where he married, built a house, and raised a family. I have many stories of his adventures, some of great happiness and others very sad. Once, when I was leaving Delhi when he was in college, he accompanied me to the airport to see me off. While returning, I gave him just five hundred rupees for his taxi fare home and pocket money. To this day, I am full of remorse for not giving him more, for the 500 rupees were just a little more than his taxi fare back, leaving very little for his pocket money! I regret that to this day.

He spent happy years in school and college in Delhi. Once he came to visit me in Damascus in Syria where I worked for some years and I took him on a drive all over the country, which he greatly enjoyed. In Damascus I taught him to drive. When he got older, he was the one who drove me around in his car.

He accompanied me to Joshimath, on the Indian border with Tibet, where I now live. I had land there and he wanted to come and farm it. He loved mountains and wanted to live there, when he was ill.But he passed away before he could do that.

We have many stories of the happiness he had brought us. Recalling them makes us cry.

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