Sunday, May 9, 2021

Mesho. The forever gentleman.

Dying is a wild night and a new road.” – Emily Dickinson

It's funny how words fail you when you need them most. So forgive me if I sound disjointed.  My Mashi, (mother’s sister) was one of the most important persons in my life. She breathed love into a teenage tormented soul and made me believe that anything was possible, anything could be. I exchanged long letters with Mashi and she always replied with affection.  When she was struck down by Alzheimer’s, my Mesho (her husband) moved to India to give her the care she deserved. And she got it. In Jamshedpur with his mother and sister. We used to visit. Some connections are not forged by blood but by relationship and empathy. This was one of those. I remember while in college I would carefully articulate letters in the Bengali script for Mesho’s mother and sister, taking care my words were right... It is not that they did not understand English, it was me who needed the Bengali. Mashi languished. I hate to say it, she never got better but the connection stayed. After I was married, I made it a point to take my husband to meet Bamma and Pishimoni and Mashi, it mattered to me. After the girls were born too, I took them to Jamshedpur to meet the mother I never had, they were scared, by then Mashi was totally taken over by the illness. I remember telling them, it was nothing to be scared of, she was one of the gentlest persons on earth. Luckily, they accepted that. 

But Mashi passed away. The mother (Bamma) and sister (Pishimoni) too. (I would have to write a whole book if I even attempted to describe those lovely ladies.) Mesho lived alone. Over the years, we developed a deep bonding. As I said, some relationships have nothing to do with blood. In fact, I think blood is futile, it’s emotions that matter, how the person has treated you in their lifetime and how you have treated them. Mesho treated me with love. And for that I shall be ever grateful. 

So, what can I say about Provat Mitra, that you have not heard before? He was a true gentleman. He stood by me like the father I lost many years ago, doing everything that needs be done, when my mother-in-law died and my mother was jazzing about in Kerala on a vacation, he is the person who stepped up and ensured I did not lose face in my in-laws’ extended family. We took vacations together. He stood by us when my father-in-law died. I shall never forget his soft smiling face as he lit another cigarette or took that last drink to the room, ‘Cocoa’, he called it. If I have to pin-point a memory, it will be impossible. How can one encapsulate years of association? Shall I talk about the holiday in Bandhavgarh or the time we walked miles in Sikkim to buy horrid whisky, or the fort we climbed in Ranthambore chased by monkeys or the lazy days spent in Kolkata? There is no end to the stories I could say, and that is the consolation I have. 

In the December of 2018, Mesho was with us in Kolkata, it was a fantastic time. We even went to an unimaginably loud open-air concert with friends and somehow survived. Mesho was gung-ho about things like that, whether it was a long drive into the boondocks or a visit to the mall, Mesho never stepped back. He left for Jamshedpur, after a rip-roaring new year’s party. Unfortunately, by the end of January, Mesho suffered a stroke that would ultimately lead to his death.  Of course, I went, as soon as I heard. His son, daughter and I rallied around. 

Mesho’s spirit was astounding. Despite having lost use of the left side of his physique, he was mentally completely alert and tried his utmost with physiotherapy to move those limbs. I often wondered at his grit and determination. Speaking for myself, I would have given up long ago. But time passed, there was some improvement but not much. The COVID situation and the subsequent lockdown ensured we could not visit him for a while in 2020. When the trains started running again, I went back in February this year. Something had changed. I could not get Mesho to eat, he had lost his appetite, I tried making him the things he loved, but even Shepherd’s Pie or caramel custard would not tempt him. He spoke to me about his younger brother who had died years ago and told me he was calling him, to green open spaces and a golf course… Mesho was an avid golfer and lived those last years hoping to return to the green. 

But. COVID got him in the end. Despite all the caution and isolation, COVID won. From the time we heard he was unwell, I was antsy, wanting to go, but helpless. When we heard of his passing, the spouse and I rushed down, hoping to provide some succor to his son who flew in from Delhi. I have never seen such an undignified send-off for anyone, particularly such a dignified man. But COVID wins. When I feel sad, I console myself that millions are going through this every day. It hurts, but as my father would say, it’s not the end of the world. 

Yet, a world has ended, as far as I am concerned. My quiet sojourns to Jamshedpur are over, I shall not be returning to that house any time soon, if ever. A whole chapter in my life is closed. 

I like to think of a world, far removed from ours where the skies are blue and the golf course stretches beyond imagination, where Mesho is right now accompanied by Mashi and Bamma and Proshanto kaka and Pishimoni and other loved ones. And my father will join him in a toast and they will sit and chatter liked they did on earth and sit back and wait for when we will join them. And the circle will be complete, for now.