06 May 2006

My father passed away on Tuesday 2nd May, in the morning. He was 93 and had been suffering from senile dementia since 2001. His condition had gradually deteriorated over the last year or so. In this last year, the number of times I have been able to have any kind of conversation with him can be counted on my fingers. All of us siblings watched in sorrow at seeing our brilliant father like this. At some point I came to terms with it and said a farewell to him because I realised the father I knew had left quite a while back.

When he started breathing difficulties, my mother called for me around 11.30 p.m. on Monday night. When I heard his breathing it didn’t sound too good. My mother didn’t want him to be taken to the hospital. So, I sat by his bedside the whole night, holding his hand and massaging his chest, while my mother sat on the other side of him. Sometime during the night, while I watched him struggling for breath, I realised he was nearing his end. I just prayed for him to get release. I said my last farewell to him then. When he finally passed away at 7.45 a.m., I was relieved for him and really glad I that I had been able to be with him.

I was never a ‘daddy’s little girl’. It is my mother who I am close to. My dad was a constant, but distant figure in my life. I could never confide in him, or joke with him or even just chat with him. He was a workaholic I guess and most of the fun things we did as children was with my mother & other extended family. My dad was the one who helped with maths and science homework, or the one you discussed serious philosophical points or the political scenario with—things like that. We rarely saw the lighter side of him I think, though I do remember him taking my brother and me to a disco in Delhi (it was 1970), because we couldn’t afford it on the allowance we had while in college. So I remember feeling surprised and touched when, two nights before my wedding he told us about him going pub crawling with his friends after passing his Bar exams in London!

He was very liberated in many ways. But I guess he could never quite forget his upbringing. So he was more old-fashioned in his treatment of us daughters. He treated us as helpless frail creatures, which used to irritate me then. Much later, around 10 years ago maybe, I had a big argument with him and told him that it was insulting to us, his children, to be treated as though we were incapable of looking after ourselves. Yet now, I don’t feel any resentment. I think it’s been a long time since I stopped seeing my parents as gods and started loving them as fallible human beings, which makes everything so much easier to forgive. Also, seeing them old and frail, but trying hard to be independent, made me realise how much I love them, warts and all.

My father was fairly well known in India in his heydays as a professional manager with great ideas and an undying loyalty to his country. What I admired about him was his willingness to help whomever he could, the fact that he was a consensus person, very good at getting people across the spectrum to come to an agreement, his ability to get to the crux of the matter very quickly. But the quality I most admired (and which influenced all of us siblings) was the way he treated his employees and those less fortunate than him—all equally and with respect, unfailingly polite to all.

Goodbye Achach! I’ll miss you.


  1. I hope you don't think of me as being insensitive by asking this, but would you have preferred that he depart earlier but still alert and the way you've always known him, or live longer (like he had) but "lose" him to dementia even before his physical self had gone?

    Condolences btw. You're very lucky though to have had him with you for this long.

  2. I don't know about me, but I know he would have much preferred to depart earlier. he used to say that all the time when he was fine.

  3. I am so sorry about the loss of your Father. I went thru helping my sister-in-law with her Mother who also had senile dementia. it is so sad to see someone who used to be so interested in life , suddenly not even knowing who is talking to them. This wonderful lady had clear times when she would recognize us and then there would be a day when she thought her daughter was her dead mother. So much heartache seeing those we love in that condition. my heart goes out to you and your Mother and the family.
    After reading many of your other posts, you have me thinking os those good old days when my own children were small and still living at home. Today, there are also grandkids and great grandkids stopping by to visit. I look forward to those days and love knowing all my kids keep in close touch with me.
    Yes, I pray that I never become a burden to my children as I get older. I lost my parents years ago, Dad was only 72, but Mother was 4 days before her 91st birthday.
    I hope your son is doing much better now. i wish you many more wonderful years with your Mom. I think it was great that you sang together for fun.

  4. I'm very sorry for your loss. My grandmother died with dementia. She lived with us for her last several years, which was wonderful. We used to get out all her old pictures to help her remember and she'd lay them all over her bed. I do not recall her ever losing her memory completely, as when she finally passed, she died from a heart attack. She had many health problems however, including osteoporosis.

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  6. Thank you for your kind wishes Dot. Yes it really is upsetting coming to terms with a loved one's senile dementia. My son is better & back at work, thank you.

    Thank you Mamaholler.I too feel my father did remember old things. I feel it was more depression at the state he was in that made him withdraw increasingly.

  7. this is my first time here. i am dotm's friend and i was at her blog tonight and read a reply you had sent her.
    i am so sorry to hear of your loss. my father is 84 now and like yours he did not do to much with me as a child. he was a good man though and i respected him and i love him but he was to busy trying to support his family. he had a lot of resposibilities on his job and worried a lot about it. my father would talk a lot about his mother but would not talk much at all about his father. his father, my grandfather, use to drink a lot and my father did not like him much. his father died when my father was 7 years old so i never knew him. i can almost bet that his father never spent much time with my father and my father did the same with us kids even though i don't think he meant to. so i kind of know how you feel.
    it is always good to remember the good times though even if they were few and far between. a couple of good memories can carry a person a long way.


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