It was a sultry midsummer afternoon, and my lips were probably as dry as the Sahara. I mentally cursed the sun and glanced around to see if everyone’s actions were mirroring mine. Sure enough, it almost looked as if the others had begun to melt. Their clothes were soaking wet, their faces were streaming with sweat, oh wait; those were tears. I looked in front, casting my eyes towards the house. I could see my mother serving cookies to people she didn’t even recognize. Old people, young ones, they were all there. There were so many of them. It was disgusting. Most of them barely knew him.
Thinking of him, I walked up to the priest, and made an incredulous request. He looked at me for a bit, and then led the way. I was ushered into a room, where his final carriage was placed and was all set to take him to the next leg of his journey.
I lifted the lid, and stared at him. There he was, looking peaceful in the wooden coffin, all alone. I looked at him, scrutinized his face, rather.
His eyes seemed cold. My father! His eyes were always warm; twinkling with laughter, hope and joy. They definitely couldn’t be this body’s, no, they couldn’t.
I peeped in again. His face showed a strange kind of anger. But, my father! Even if he got angry, there was this tenderness attached to his fury and that was always shown on his face. It couldn’t be this body’s … no chance of my father’s face belonging to this body.
I wasn’t being able to identify my father with the corpse lying before my eyes. The word ‘father’ is associated with connotations like warmth, love, safety, compassion, care, tenderness, life etc. I couldn’t feel it. I couldn’t feel any of that looking at the body tucked inside the coffin.
I remembered my sister fainting at the moment my mother broke the news. I didn’t feel anything. Should I be ashamed? Am I bad person? I remember asking myself those questions. I look at him again, and the room is colder than ever. Does one lose his humanly titles once he’s dead?
I look at his body, and can’t identify him to be my father. My father was never lifeless or cold, nor angry-looking or lethargic. He wasn’t someone who would be caught in bed with hookers at the time of his death.
I decided to walk out, and take some long breaths. I was beginning to feel claustrophobic. My tummy started to squirm, and my mother chose that moment to inform me that the funeral was about to commence.
I controlled my urge to puke, and walked towards the burial ground.
There he was, again. I could see him through the wooden panels of his carriage. My father would carry me on his shoulders, run to pick me up whenever I would fall down, and hug me tight to scare all my fears away. My father would be the last one to scold me if I committed a mistake, and the first one to kill someone if he/she harmed me in the least way possible.
He sang to and for me, calmed me down, taught to me brave and strong. I could go on. My father was my hero. This was definitely not this body; not the man in the coffin; not the one who murdered my mother for giving birth to me – a girl; not the one who stuffed me inside a polyethene bag at the dump yard, hoping that I would die; not the one to come of jail and try to rape me after finding out my current location; not the one to enter jail for a second time, coming out along with a new family by his side. The “changed person”thing was all bullshit. My half-sister might faint for him, but I won’t.
Because he didn’t deserve it! Because he wasn’t my father!
No, my father was the one standing beside me – the man who chanced upon my suffocated state and rushed me to the hospital. The man who accepted me into his life as his own, who made his wife the only mother I knew; the man, who was my hero, and will always be. I felt hot tears on my face, tears of relief that he was finally dead. It was searing ease. My real parents held me tight; they knew how I was feeling. And that day, a bloodline didn’t triumph – but inner satisfaction did.
Sketch By: Ashna Panesar