Appa And I

Today marks 14 years since Appa passed in a road accident in Bangalore, India. I was 24 and had finished grad school recently and was 2 months into a very prestigious management consulting job in the US. Shruthi, my sister was 17-18 and my mom was a 53 year old retired housewife. I was in Dallas when I received the news and remember not crying at all, my friends who were arranging for the logistics to fly me out were concerned that I didn’t show any ‘grief’. And I didn’t cry even when I met my widowed mother after landing from the airport. I finally cried when they pulled out his ice cold body from the mortuary to bring it home for the Hindu rituals we do for the passing of the soul to the other world.

And we took him to the crematorium, where only men are allowed to the wails of my mother and sister as the hearse van drove away. I don’t even remember looking at them then. The next day, they handed his remains to me in an earthen pot, mostly ashes, and some bones which we took and dispersed in the river Cauvery. And just like that Ranganathan, aged 54 went back to where he came from – the elements.

While one would be given to eulogize someone who passed, especially his own father, I want to talk about what a flawed human being he was, who, nonetheless loved his kids and wife dearly, at least the way he knew how to. He was the reason I contemplated killing myself as a teen, ran away from the house once and in those same years took a knife and tried stabbing him.

He was a great father, jolly as hell, I haven’t seen anyone with a better belly laugh yet. He could never finish a joke, because he would start laughing right in between it. He was liberal for his times, when (even now) drinking is considered a taboo in India, I’d started having beers with him even before I turned 18. His unconventional upbringing of me still gives me the courage to attempt things which most people think are foolish. Yet within this and also very him was a man wounded from childhood, who harbored deep insecurities and treated his family as subjects who had to be conquered, disciplined and kept in line. He would lose it if he ‘lost’ control of us and that would manifest as his rage and anger. We don’t even treat or talk to adversaries like that today and this was his family. Of course, he acknowledged none of his mental health issues and not like he would have gotten any support anyway.

Even years after his demise, while I still respected him, I despised him in many ways and would scrub away his topic when any relative or someone who knew him would reminisce “Oh when Ranga was around…”. He was a very kind and generous man and loved sponsoring the education of those who could not afford tuition, which was one among his many charitable deeds.

Now through my awareness journey I know that the reason I would hush away his topic or why I didn’t cry on receiving the news of his passing was because that was my way of dealing with trauma, by blocking it fully. A defense mechanism I had developed subconsciously as a child. And it is also through this journey, I was able to see him in a completely different light and forgive him. Which first happened in Burning Man 2019 at a Kali ceremony when I got the message that he did what he could.

Which further led me to understand & feel his trauma he was inflicted upon as a child by my grandmother, who I’m sure was a victim of some other ancestor and so on. My destiny was to break the chain, as I purged the traumas of my lineage in near death Ayahuasca ceremonies in the Amazonian jungles. And it was before the first ceremony, Appa came in my dream, didn’t say anything and hugged me dearly, like I don’t even remember getting hugged by him like that as a child. That was his peace offering, the offering for him and me to be in peace. I have seen him several times since then in my dreams. He doesn’t say much, which is so unusual for him when he lived, he was such a loquacious man. Happy to say he is at peace, happy and content

His contentment revealed a reason behind his death which didn’t come to me until recently – He tapped out. He didn’t pass immediately after the accident, he was in a coma for 7 days before he died. Everyone who knew him knew he would fight this out, he was a fighter, while no social worker, and I have many memories of him speaking up for people who didn’t have a voice.

Now I know that he was tired, dejected, depressed of course, and had no real path for his healing. I don’t know if he ever contemplated killing himself (pretty likely since I did) but he definitely lacked the courage to do that. This whole accident coma thing was his chance to end it and he decided “Screw it, I’m done”. Although I appreciate the confidence he had in me to figure it all out even though it would be 12-14 years later. Thanks Appa!

While the years past his passing were very emotionally very hard for us. I know that he passed when he did and I don’t think without his passing when he had to, Shruthi, Amma and I would have been able to heal our traumas and we would have risked passing as wounded souls, worse inflicted trauma on others before passing.

For everyone out there who is going through the process of healing and forgiving their parents, lean into it, let the wounds open, let it all come out, it can & will be hard at times, but  I guarantee you will emerge lighter on the other end. If you are in a place where you cannot forgive, I know from experience how hard it is, I kept my bitterness in for decades, but do consider initiating the healing in some way. I believe my journey and healing not only set me free, but it also set my father’s soul too.

The divine sees us all and blesses us all. Jai Mahakali. Mahadev.

1st July, 2021