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Saying Goodbye To My Father. Winning Entry By Pooja Sharma Rao For The #GoodwynTea Writing Contest

Women are not permitted many things in our society. This woman had to fight for her right to perform the last rites for her father. #GoodwynTea contest winning entry.

Women are not permitted many things in our society. This woman had to fight for her right to perform the last rites for her father. #GoodwynTea contest winning entry.

This month, we invited you, our readers, to participate in the writing contest sponsored by Goodwyn Tea. You had to write a story either fiction/real, in response to the cue: “A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong she is until she’s in hot water.” A quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt.

Here is the first winning entry, by Pooja Sharma Rao. Pooja  wins a gift hamper from Goodwyn Tea. For the taste of a perfect steep, visit and try out one of their high quality tea bag collections.

Saying Goodbye To My Father

Just a day after my 36th birthday, I was in the worst space I had ever been in all my years. The doctor from across cities wanted my consent to make a last attempt to save my father’s life and put him on life support.

The chances were dismal, but I took them, almost like trying to grasp one more breath for him. He didn’t wait, not even till I could reach his deathbed and see him alive one last time.

It was not an easy battle struggling for my right to perform his last rites being his only child, or to come to terms with the fact that my grieving did not fit the clichéd loud public display of emotion.

I was labelled cold-hearted, insensitive, haughty and what not just because despite being a married daughter I stood my ground to perform all his last rites alone. Not to prove a point to anyone, but to keep a promise to my late father and myself, that the equality of gender with which I had been brought up I will stretch it to the last test.

I was determined to even put my colossal grief aside for a while so that I could exercise this right of mine to perform my father’s last rites the way he wanted me to, not ‘like a son’ as the cliché goes but as his child, his only child.

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Of the many gifts in life from my dad to me and his only grandchild is also his passion for tea. Somewhere in our home in Shimla lies an old chipped mug with this inscription –

“A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong she is until she’s in hot water.”

Now I know for sure what it really means.

This is the account of my journey on that tough day and a few days after that.


from the cold, hard
deathbed in a hospital
he uttered a monosyllable
into the phone
I knew it was
the last fragment
of his voice for me.

No I was not
hoping against hope
as the kilometres lessened
I knew the distance
between papa and me
had extended
to a fixed forever
that would never change

The sunset that day
was special
he had not waited
long enough for it
and it was the first
of the many for me
without him

I walked in
he lay there
a corpse for the world
for me my dad still
I was thinking about
was mom’s medicine
and phone calls to be made

I didn’t stop my tears
there weren’t any
I was aware he was gone
but all I felt
was a deep hollow
inside me
emptiness and calm

His body was being bathed
ritual after ritual
tie the toes
fold the hands
the smile gone
the eyes closed
I ran my fingers through his hair
one last time
I am sure he liked it
so did I

My child touched his forehead
kissed his cheek
she had been told
he will always love her
I know she will
always know
Karmic connections

the van was shaky
I had put my hand on his chest
the chanting
was the only rhythm
my heart was
as still as his.

He was placed on the pyre
He had once told me
about the five elements
I knew what I had to do
fire was the final test.

Most people had left
two more pyres were afire
I kept looking at the flames
long and close enough
to feel the ash
on my skin
in my breath
peace, peace, peace
I knew much later
I was chanting.

The beauty of the moment
of letting go
is the clarity
about who I am
and what I want

I had read somewhere
nothing ever goes away
until it has taught us
what we need to know
I washed a few pieces of bone
and put them in a pot
I learnt the meaning of life

thunder and lightning
a journey within a journey
darkness and flickers of light
every one travelling
none of them know

all that remained
of his eight decades
was a mud pot
and a handful of remains
I was not listening to the priest
the stairs on the Ghat were cold
with my freezing hands
inside the water
He and I touched freedom

The house was the same
the world wasn’t
I lay in his bed
I packed his medicines
touched his papers
his clothes
life had to go on
I kept asking why

Yes I was smiling
laughing aloud
because he liked me that way
and I wanted him
to know
I was fine

some fond memory
and mummy would smile
for a few seconds
before she broke down again
he knew I was trying

rituals, visitors
cheque books, bills
lawyers, offices
papers, decisions
only in the pauses
I closed my eyes
and we met

finally me and mom
nothing to tell each other
she made me some tea
I combed her hair

my little one plays
a death is a litmus test
so many real faces revealed

grief is a long lonely road
I look for Rumi, Buddha
they were right
the wound is where
the light enters
the journey is
actually the destination

one journey has ended
another lonely one continues
in a sacred fire
all my fears melted
memories cling
like a fragrance
now I know
everything is temporary
so why worry

Congratulations  from the Women’s Web team, Pooja Sharma Rao. You win a gift hamper from Goodwyn Tea.

Published earlier here.

Image source: sad young woman by Shutterstock.


About the Author

Pooja Priyamvada

Pooja Priyamvada is an author, columnist, translator, online content & Social Media consultant, and poet. An awarded bi-lingual blogger she is a trained psychological/mental health first aider, mindfulness & grief facilitator, emotional wellness trainer, reflective read more...

102 Posts | 534,670 Views

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