While we all are getting ready for the regret funeral, I wanted to for the last time share the deepest regret I hold within.

It’s more than just a regret, its a huge guilt. When Swamiji asked us to express our deepest regrets, I had so many of them. But the one that surpassed all of them is wishing I could save my father’s life. When its this big, it cannot be just a regret. It’s a trauma in which the regret is just one aspect.

I never till date wanted to share the details because I knew where the memories would take me. But today, I mustered the courage to after Swamiji said ” If you believe me then know this, you will experience a certain lightness in your heart and consciousness once we finish the regret funeral tonight.” I told myself, this is what I was looking for for a very long time. Grieved beyond imagination desperately looking for answers and not being able to justify or bring a closure to this topic has haunted me for a very long time. This is what happened.

Covid was in its peak, but me my mom and dad lived pretty secluded anyway. I had returned from the UK in Jan 2021, particularly for getting married. My father wanted to get me married marking it as his last responsibility. And you could say from his expressions, he was desperate to get this task done, after all he had just turned 71 in Jan 2021. I missed being with him on his birthday. I was in India at that time on 16th January 2021, but was under quarantine until the 15th. I just told them my quarantine was upto the 17th so I could spend some time with my then boyfriend (now husband). There was a sense of guilt I could feel so I promised myself I will be with him on his birthday for every year that follows. After I reached home on the 17th, I was very happy to finally be back living with my parents. A few days later, with Covid still peaking and causing the turmoil, I could sense a bit of restlessness and urgency whenever my father spoke about my marriage. The groom’s side was wanting  to wait for Covid to settle, which nobody knew when it would. Seeing my father so restless and worried about it, I too started insisting we get married sooner. Eventually, the date we agreed was 19th April. My father started his work, though he would frequently tell “I am unable to run around quickly like earlier when we got your sister married. Each day brings different physical challenges.” He would motivate himself by saying “I will muster the strength and do whatever it takes to complete this”

One day, my sister insisted on coming home as she had some work and also wanted to eat the food cooked by mom. It had been a very long time since she visited and she, at that time was 3 months pregnant. My father’s  life had been full of hardships and I thought it was finally time for him to live happily. With the news of Covid spreading so rapidly and taking a toll on lives, I requested her to not come. But after a while I gave in. That day, they had a minor car accident where thankfully nobody was hurt. My father asked her to keep a photo of Mother (Mirra Alfassa) with her always as he believed that would protect them.

On 4th April, a couple of days after their visit we learnt that my brother-in-law had developed a fever. All symptoms looked like it was Covid, but his doctor told it was just a viral fever. On 7th April, around 4pm, when my father would wake up after a nap to do his prayers and reading scriptures, he sat up and informed us he had fever. I touched him despite him insisting on not coming close and yes, he was hot. My father never usually got a fever. I ran to a local ayurvedic store to bring him a kaadha, which we knew was effective in treating fever. We decided on waiting for a day to see if the fever subsides and see a doctor if it doesn’t. On the 9th April, even I developed a high fever. By this time (I can’t remember so well the details) my father’s fever had reduced but he complained of weakness and a little difficulty breathing. We started giving him steam. Being old school, we always avoided visiting the doctors as they believed doctors bring more trouble than there is. Somehow it was only on 10th evening when we realized the situation was really bad and I took him to a doctor we sometimes visited. By this time, you could see the breathlessness he had evidently. I sometimes wonder, what was I thinking? Yes I remember being stressed and feeling depressed since a few days earlier, but how could I not realize the gravity of the situation? On the 9th, when my uncle got to know father is feeling breathless, he suggested we see a doctor. He even discussed with his doctor who suggested we do a Covid test. But my father refused to do the test, just because he thought it is not possible as he had never been outside or in contact with anyone. When the doctor saw him and checked him, he told us it looks like Covid, and suggested we get a CT scan done and that we should start meds anyway. He even told this “Ideally for his condition he should be hospitalized, but now you can’t find a bed, the hospitals are so full”. Scared and worried I asked the doctor behind my father, “There’s nothing to worry right?” He said “We’ll start the medicines immediately and we’ll see”. 

I did as told, quickly caught a rick from outside the hospital to he clinic where we waited for  CT scan. An old lady was brought there on a stretcher, she looked grave and almost as if she was dead. I felt scared and anxious and just then my father told, “It’s scary to see all this. The result shouldn’t be the same like earlier”. I was overwhelmed seeing his ignorance that he thought this was the same stress test he had taken 7 years ago when he was diagnosed with a heart condition and eventually had to undergo a bypass surgery. That was the only time he had been hospitalized before. I assured him this is just a scan and is not even related to any heart problems. When he was taken inside, I almost stepped in with him, when the lab technician reminded me I am not allowed to enter. We did the scan, we were also told to do an RT-PCR. However, with the numbers doing the test that time, the soonest we could do it was next day morning. Seeing that my father was unable to walk around and feeling breathless, I made him sit at the hospital entrance and ran around to get his medicines. I had to run around a lot to get one of the meds and I was scared and anxious at the same time. I felt helpless too. I then took an auto from the last chemist from where I took the meds and rushed to pick my father up and back home.

We returned home and he had his dinner. By this time my sister was recklessly calling and I kept snarling at her out of stress. When I told her the doctor suspects its Covid, she got very scared. Next day, 11th, we continued his medicines and he rested, but there was no improvement. I kept playing God’s songs beside him and often out of pain, he would say “Krishnaaa..” He kept telling us he keeps staying awake and is not able to sleep properly. He never complained feeling breathless though. Meanwhile, our RT-PCR reports were out. Mom and I were positive, his reports came out negative. It was 14th by now, Tamil new year’s day and that day he had to do ‘Tarpanam’ (an offering to ancestors). That day morning he almost fell in the toilet and called out so we rushed. He said he couldn’t breathe properly and was extremely weak. My mom gave him some milk and fruits to eat and I was recklessly calling the doctor to ask him what should be done. He couldn’t do the Tarpanam and was very upset about it, he was telling my grandmother that he is unable to do it due to his health and asking her if it was okay. It was the first time in his entire life that he skipped doing the Tarpanam. When my uncles were leaving after the Tarpanam, they came to ask about his health. I told them he wasn’t okay. Just 10 minutes after they left, something really shocking happened.

He was as it is not talking much saying he would feel breathless if he spoke. He was resting in the room, he got up, wore a shirt and pant and came and sat in the hall breathing very heavily. I remember the chills that ran down my spine. I realized it was him telling us he is not able to bear it any longer. From then started our real problem. We knew we had to take him to the hospital, but which hospital would take him? When I asked the doctor he asked us to go to a hospital nearby and request them to admit him as he did not have a positive RT-PCR report. I couldn’t go along. 2 of my uncles took him in the car, I couldn’t even see him go from the window as I had quarantined myself in the other room. Then started the desperate hunt for a hospital. By noon, he was still at a hospital he was to be taken and they had only put him on O2. The hospital condition was bad. My brother-in-law later told us, he frequently kept asking for water, but they refused to give as it was not okay for Covid patients to consume a lot of water. With heavy weakness taking over me, I informed my sister about the situation and my brother-in-law too rushed there. Me and my sister kept the hospital hunt on by calling various helpline numbers. In the noon, they told he would need Covid specific treatment and that he cant be kept in that hospital as they didn’t have enough facilities. We didn’t know what to do. My uncles tried going to a couple of hospitals but nobody had vacant beds. The struggle was real. I remember,  I even had a little food that noon because the weakness was so bad. Usually in a situation like this I couldn’t have imagined me sitting down to have a meal. The hunt was on until evening when finally my sister could beg for a bed with O2 to someone she knew and they assured he would be given that. We took him to a hospital in Kurla which was about 40 minutes away. When they reached there, the worst happened. They refused to admit him and told them, his condition needs a ventilator, just O2 will not help. We never felt as helpless as we felt that day. We literally were ringing up all the doctors we could find and requesting them to arrange for a bed with ventilator, nobody could do anything. At around 10 pm, my sister finally could find someone who told her he can be taken to Seven Hills hospital in Andheri and that they have a vacant ICU bed.  We were relieved finally that our desperate prayers were answered. That was the last time we spoke to him, when my brother in law did a quick video call before he was being moved. All he told us was “I am staying strong, you all be too..” I just nodded and let mom see him. 

The last lap :

After they took him to the Seven Hills hospital, he was immediately taken to the ICU and they put him on a bipap, an hour later they told us that his saturation is coming up. That was the only way to get an update as nobody was allowed to stay there. After one hour of getting the first update, everyone returned home, relieved that atleast he is now getting good medical help. An hour later, around 1am, we were told his condition is not too good. While I kept pacing out of restlessness, half asleep and weak because of Covid, I kept praying to every God I knew. Begged them, bribed them and did everything I could think of. Another hour later at 2 am, we were informed his condition is getting worse. At 3.45 am on 15th April, my sister rings me up and tells me she was informed that he is no more. I might have screamed something which woke my mother up and when she asked me what happened, I told her without a slightest hesitation “Apa has gone away”. Amma screamed and banged her head to the wall, I wanted to stop her and hug her, but I couldn’t go near her with the fear that I’d infect her. What had just happened? I couldn’t cry, because I couldn’t realize what had just happened.
My sister came rushing down home. A few hours later when my uncles and brother in law were going to collect the body and do the last rites, which happened only because someone was kind enough to get the body outside, they asked us if we want to come. Out of fear or what I don’t know, we said we wouldn’t come. We saw the last rites being done on the video call. While his body was being burnt, we screamed out to him as if he could come alive, but it was the reality then that he was no more. The period after his death was worse, it was so emotionally draining as we couldn’t even hug and be with each other. With Covid, we knew it could wipe families out at once. I was very scared for my mom and sister and her baby and was desperately trying to protect them. 

The pain is real when I sense it, more than mine, I felt for my mom, grandmother and sister. I suffered not just my pain, but the pain my father underwent while I was not around him at the hospital. It never happened that I wasn’t around him when at hospital, why this time? Why did he have to go like this? Where nobody could see him, he couldn’t see anyone. And if this is what God can do to a pious man who religiously prayed day and night and followed the scriptures as much as he could, then how will I even have faith in that God? I had too many unanswered questions. Somehow I started feeling, if only I had taken him to the doctor on time, we could have saved him. Or somehow if I were more headstrong about his safety during Covid, this could have been avoided. 

If you have read this far, please know that it means a lot to me. I share this only with the intention of healing myself and everyone around me, as they too suffer with guilt from the trauma of this episode. And the fact that all the rest of us are now leading a happy life with the regular ups and downs is a fact that time heals.

Jai Shri Hari