DEATH OF MY MOTHER
My mother joined us at Ranchi some time during 1975. She used to bathe in the early morning, take a walk in the colony, visit a makeshift siva temple and come back for coffee. For some time she had been complaining of an uneasy feeling in the stomach. We tried some Ayurvedic medicines but that didn’t help. Finally we took her to the plant hospital for a check up. After examination, the doctor told us that she probably had cancer of the cervix. A biopsy confirmed this. This was a bolt from the blue for all of us. The cancer was in an advanced stage and any treatment could be only palliative, not curative. She was referred to the Patna Medical College Hospital for X-ray therapy. But we had no one at Patna and staying in a hotel for prolonged periods for the treatment was expensive. I explained the situation to my Accounts Officer who put in a word to the Chief Medical Officer of the Plant Hospital. By his intervention mother was referred to the Chittaranjan Cancer Hospital at Calcutta. The family of my friend with whom I had practised shorthand was in Calcutta. Members of the family were also relatives of my wife.
Mother was told that she had cancer and had to be treated at the cancer hospital in Calcutta. She had heard of cancer. The youngest brother of my father had died of mouth cancer brought about be tobacco chewing. But she had no idea of the nature of the disease. Three of us, my mother, my wife and I reached Calcutta by the Ranchi-Howrah Mail. We took mother to the Cancer Hospital. It was a traumatic experience to see the cancer patients waiting to be examined. Despair was writ large on many of those faces. Mother was to be given X-ray therapy for forty days. I had exhausted my leave for the ICWA examinations. My wife agreed to stay back and take my wife daily for the therapy. My wife’s relatives were large-hearted enough to provide food and lodgings to both of them for the duration of the treatment. We couldn’t thank them enough for their help but for which we could not have managed so many days in Calcutta.
Back at Ranchi my mother seemed to have recovered. For a month or so she did not have any pain. We paid a second visit to the Cancer Hospital but we were not given any hopes. It was a terminal case but mother didn’t have a clue. We returned to Ranchi and reconciled ourselves to the inevitable. Mother was kept on pain killers. My wife bathed her, fed her, changed her clothes, made her bed and helped her to the toilet. She had to do all this in addition to her usual chores for running the household.
Mother’s hair had become matted and it was impossible to wash and clean it. One day my wife took a pair of scissors and gave mother a close cut. Lice in large numbers were coming out of the hair. Mother was then given a hot bath after which she felt very much relieved. She blessed my wife for unburdening her of her hair.
My second son used to get pain killers for his grandmother from the plant hospital. It was heart-wrenching to see her condition, a skeleton huddled on the bed waiting for the end to come. I wrote to my brothers to come and see mother immediately as she was not likely to survive many days. They came for a few days. Mother talked to them and she seemed to be happy. During one of those days it looked as if she would breathe her last but she pulled on for some more days. My brothers could not wait any more and had to go back to their respective places. Daily I prayed to the Lord to take her to His abode and release her from physical and mental agony. I used to recite a sloka from Narayaneeyam where Bhattathiti says
Marudgehaadheesha twayi khalu paranchopi sukhino
Bhavatsnehee soham subahu paritapye cha kimidam
Akeertiste maa bhoot varada gadabharam prashamayan
Bhavatbhkatottamsam jhatiti kuru maam kamsadamana
मरुद्गेहाधीश त्वयि खलु पराञ्चोऽपि सुखिनो
भवत्स्नेही सोऽहं सुबहु परितप्ये च किमिदम्।
अकीर्तिस्ते मा भूद्वरद गदभारं प्रशमयन्
भवद्भक्तोत्तंसं झटिति कुरु मां कंसदमन!॥
‘O The Lord of Guruvayur! Slayer of Kamsa ! even those who are indifferent to you are healthy and happy while I, who loves you, suffer too much. Let not your reputation be blemished, please wipe out the suffering from my disease and make me the crest jewel of your devotees’
I used to recite the above sloka with a slight change by adding ‘matuh’ before ‘gadabharam’ to mean that the Lord should save my mother from her intense suffering.
One night, watching my mother, my wife said that the signs were not good. We were keeping awake but I dozed off to sleep. My wife was awake and she realised that mother had quietly breathed her last. We did not shed tears, on the other had we were relieved that Death had put an end to her suffering.
Friends and relatives offered condolences and helped in the funeral rites. As the eldest son I lit the funeral pyre. My brothers could not make it to Ranchi. They had seen her only a few days back. The after-death rites were performed at Banaras. My wife and I left for Banaras with the ashes of my mother in a small earthen pot to be immersed in the Ganges. At Banaras we went to the Kerala Mutt at Hanuman Ghat where I had stayed with my mother on an earlier occasion. We were given a room right above the Harischandra Ghat where dead bodies were burnt. We had to cook for ourselves as we were not supposed to eat outside. We prepared simple food, sooji upma in the morning, rice and dal for lunch with curd, fruits in the evening. At Banaras we could get good thick curd. Cows roamed about in the ghats of Banaras feeding on things offered by pilgrims.
The after-death rites were spread over 12 days from the date of death. On the 13th day it was the custom to wear new clothes after bathing and the whole house and every one was sprinkled with water sanctified by Vedic mantras. Friends and relatives were invited for lunch. But we were at Banaras and we could perform only the religious part of the rites. After the rites we returned to Ranchi. There were rites to be performed every month until the first anniversary of death. Thereafter on every anniversary of death the son was supposed to perform shradha to propitiate three generations of forebears.
I wrote the B.Com degree examination of the Ranchi University in April 1976. There were two groups. Group A comprised Business Economics, Economic Development of India and Money, Banking and International Trade. Group B comprised Business Organisation, Mercantile Law and Accountancy. I passed in the second division securing 513 marks out of 1000.
In 1976 I was promoted as Junior Manager (Systems) and I continued to develop accounting and costing applications. When the Janata party came to power in 1977, IBM was asked to leave the country. IBM 1401 was replaced by TDC-312 computers manufactured by the Electronic Corporation of India. The programming language was ECOBOL in which we from the Systems Department were given training. Autocoder programs were being run on the ECIL computer using a simulator provided by the suppliers. In 1979 Mr. Rao resigned from HEC and joined as Director Finance at Indian Telephone Industries, Bangalore. They were streamlining their Management Information System and advertised for persons having 3 to 4 years of experience in system analysis and programming. Three of us from HEC, including me, applied for the jobs through our departmental head at HEC. Since Mr. Rao was aware of our skills as analyst-programmers, all the three of us were selected. I was offered the post of Deputy Manager (MIS-Finance). Of the other two, one was offered the post of EDP Manager and other one the post of Manager (MIS – Production) but he left the Company soon afterwards since he got a better offer from Wipro.
We had not moved out of Ranchi for the past several years. We therefore wanted to avail leave travel concession from HEC and visit all the holy temples in Tamilnadu. We ( myself, my wife and the four children} travelled to Madras by the Bokaro Steel City - Madras Express. From Madras we travelled to Chidambaram by train. At Chidambaram is the temple of Nataraja, the cosmic dancer. We Offered our prayers to Nataraja and His consort Sivakama Sundari. From there we went to Vaitheeswaran Kovil, the seat of Vaidyanatha Swami. We prayed to the Divine physician to rid us of all our ailments. From there we went to Kumbakonam. There we offered prayers at the Chakrapani Temple, Sarangapani Temple and the Ramaswami Temple. Our next destination was Tanjavur. There we went to the Brihadeeswarar Temple. This was one of the very large temples built by the Chola kings. The lingam here is one of the largest in the whole of India. We visited the nearby town of Tiruvarur where we paid our humble respects to Thyagaraja, the great devotee of Rama who gave Carnatic Music a treasure-house of compositions dedicated to Lord Sriram. We also went to the Uppiliyappan Temple. We stayed for the night at Kumbakonam and proceeded to Tiruchirappalli by bus.
At Tiruchirappalli, we stayed at the house of the friend with whom I used to have combined study while preparing for the P&T Accountants’ Service Part II examination. During 1977 the management of HEC had terminated the service of four officers before their date of superannuation. One of the officers was this friend of mine. The reason given was that they had crossed fifty years and they had not maintained their efficiency. This was the first time such terminations had happened though provisions existed in the Rule Book. The terminated employees were paid their provident fund accumulations and their accounts were finally settled. But none of them left Ranchi. They wanted to fight it out in the courts. It was a protracted affair. Finally the wives of the employees met with Indira Gandhi during one of those days when she used to listen to the complaints of the general public. After hearing them she ordered the Ministry concerned to look into their grievance. Ultimately all were reinstated. My friend was asked to join BHEL at Trichi to avoid any victimisation by the management of HEC. His son who was studying for B.Com stayed with us at Ranchi until he wrote the B.Com examination.
At Trichy we prayed at the Uchipillayar Temple at the top of a hill and at the Tayumanavar Temple. We also went to Samayapuram where there is the famous Mariamman temple. We also visited Gunasekaram where there was the temple dedicated to Mahavishnu. It was believed that persons mentally afflicted could be cured by praying at this temple. We could see a number of such people who had been brought there by their guardians or relatives. Next on our list was Madurai the seat of Goddess Meenakshi. But we had to leave my second son at Trichy with my friend’s family since he was running high temperature. After offering our prayers at the Meenakshi temple we ( four of us including my wife and two daughters) went to Swami Malai and Tiurpparamkundram the seats of Murugan (Kumara, Kathikeya). It was the Navaratri festival and in all these temples there were special decorations and worship. It was also raining continuously. We wanted to go to Kanyakumari but because of the inclement weather we were dissuaded from going there. We therefore went to Palghat and from there to our native village. My uncle’s sons were still in the village. Two elder sons had not married. The younger one was married and had two children. My wife and I had performed the marriage rites on that occasion as his elder brothers were not married. On our return journey the roads of Madras were flooded because of heavy rains. Bokaro Steel City Express was starting from the Beach Station. Autorikshas were charging exorbitant fares. Somehow we reached the Beach Station and boarded the train. That day there was a great cyclone and tidal waves rose to the height of palm trees in Divi Taluq of Andhra Pradesh. Our train had passed that location only half an before the cyclone struck. Otherwise we would have been caught in the cyclone. That was yet another instance of the protective hands of the Lord.