I was about 18 years at that time and loved to take a little nap in the afternoon. In Delhi’s scorching summer heat, there is no greater relief than a post-lunch nap in a well-shaded, cool room. It prepares you to face the rest of the day.
On one such afternoon, I felt someone coming slowly into my room. On seeing who it was, I wanted to scream but my voice froze with fear. My heart was racing so fast that I felt dizzy and imbalanced.
The person in front of me was my dead father!
I did my best to resist the idea that a dead person could appear and was still fighting my thoughts when I heard him tell me to calm down: “Pagal tu mujh se darti hai (Stupid, you are sacred of me)!” That word pagal was actually an endearment he often used for me, especially when I cuddled up to him.
He told me repeatedly to relax. I started crying and talking to him, “Daddy, aap kahan chaley gaye (where have you gone)? We miss you a lot. Everything has changed. Mummy keeps crying all the time.”
He comforted me and asked me to tell my mother to serve him food because he was hungry. We talked for some more time and then he started to leave. I tried desperately to hold on to him but he told me to let go as he reassured me things would be fine.
I saw two men, actually two black shadows, waiting to escort him. A cow and a black dog were also there in the background. The corridor of our house looked a little raised as if going upwards and I saw my father go into a white, smoky light. At that point, we looked at each other eye-to-eye as if that glance would connect us forever.
When I woke up that afternoon, it took me several minutes to realise it was a dream. The experience was so real that my eyes were tearful and I was dazed as to where I was. It took me a few minutes to connect with the real world.
I ran to my mom and told her about the dream. She too was stunned as she told me that over the previous week she had been talking to her brothers and sisters whether she should do daddy’s shradha (the Indian tradition of feeding the departed souls) or not. I was completely unaware of her discussion over this.
My mother is a lawyer as was my father, and she is a practical woman of scientific temper, which is why she needed a discussion with her family to do what most Hindu families do as a matter of ritual.
Even in telling this story, I am not trying to put forth any belief in the ritual but merely narrating an experience. May be, my father wanted to let us know he was there for us and the hunger he expressed was his desire to connect with us. Maybe it was just a dream…
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