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

Posted: April 1, 2016

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 www.goodwyntea.com 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.

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.

THE FINAL TEST

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
breathing


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
alone
nothing to tell each other
she made me some tea
I combed her hair


my little one plays
stone-paper-scissor
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.

Pooja Sharma Rao. I am an avid reader and committed blogger. My soul speaks poetry while I edit and create content professionally. A tea connoisseur and sapiosexual, I blog at http://www.poojasharmarao.blogspot.com

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Comments

8 Comments


  1. This is such a beautiful and vivid piece. I can feel your pain and your strength in this awful moment of acceptance of the truth. It brought a big lump in my throat as any beloved daughter of a doting father can easily identify with the intensity of what you’ve so beautifully articulated. I am so sorry for your deep loss. But you seem to have found a remarkable way through the darkness and into the light! Yet again, the strength of the human spirit shines through and gives so much hope.

  2. Pooja, your writing touched my heart. Though, grieving, you were brave to face it….face the reality. Your writing reminds me that nothing is permanent, every moment is so very temporary. After reading this beautiful real writing, I want to soak in to every moment, be it happy, dismay, sad or funny. Congratulations and thank you for this writing.

  3. Dear Pooja
    Once again I connected my soul to yours. The tears which had run dry resurfaced from the eyes and,ran down quietly and disappeared.your description of losing someone who is connected to you in every way, heart and mind was so vivid.. I’m just speechless. Unable to express more
    In awe
    Kavita

  4. Chilling…I understand what you’re feeling, and it saddens me to a shocking extent that all daddy’s girls have to face this some day. I admire you for having found the courage to carry on with the wisdom from this experience and for sharing this poem. As a writer and a daughter, I look up to you for this!

    • Yes Keertana, this was written not only for empathy and reaching out but also for what I believe is every daughter’s right as much as it is every son’s.

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