I steadfastly believed that Rajan would come back. I always asked my wife to keep apart a bowl of rice and a plantain leaf for him. He may step in any time. He may be hungry. There should be rice ready at home for him. Yes, he will come back. Sure he will…
The above lines are from Professor Eachara Varrier’s autobiographical sketch. This is the story of a father who spent almost all his life in search of his son, who was killed in some unusual circumstances (largely political, partly inhuman). This book pops up to me again and again! Every time, I am tempted to read the lines again and again, with tears. While doing a Gmail search, in an attempt to trace an old email, I get this again! Oh! dear, this is a touching story of a father. Incidentally, I happened to study undergraduate BTech program in the same college (Regional Engineering college, Calicut, 1997). The incident (in the book) itself happened even before I was born, but we used to hear one or two stories about the horror days of the incidents during 1975 Indian emergency period.
I guess I had forwarded this to some of you. Just happened to bump across this once again. Couldn’t stop reading! Pained and saddened of course:-(This is like living to tell the tale, in a very simple way, yet…. How unfortunate a life can be?
There is a place in the book where I was completely taken to stillness! Here is that excerpt from the book (Book is freely down loadable from )
….He comes into my memory as shadows, moonlight and rain. One friend asked me, which is denser—the pain of the father at the death of his son or the pain of the son at the death of his father? I have no answer. My world has become empty. My sun has set. My stars have gone. Any father can cry out for his son, getting wet in radiant memories.…
Another one, when the mother (victims mother and authors wife) conversing with her husband:
“Please give this to our son Rajan. I trust only you.” She didn’t utter a word after that. Cold death had already touched her. The next day after her death, I had a nap on the couch. The weight of that packet of coins, which she entrusted to me, was still in my hands.
There are many such heart stopping lines in the book. They will make you straight to ground. Here is one more example. Here (In the book excerpt, subtitled The burden that the mother entrusted) the author illustrate the difficult time to console his wife.
People used to ask me whether my wife became mentally ill after Rajan’s tragedy. Actually, she had started showing signs of illness fifteen months after the birth of our first daughter. She recovered with a course of electrotherapy. She had to be treated seven times. Later, when she was pregnant for the third time, she again started showing signs of mental ailment, but doctors told us that since she was pregnant she could not be subjected to treatment. So we resorted to Ayurvedic medicine, and she got better. After the delivery we resumed allopathic treatment, but it was useless. “She has become shock proof,” said the doctor. Still we continued the treatment.
She was not aware of Rajan’s tragedy. Whenever I came to Ernakulam from Calicut she used to ask for Rajan. I told her lie after lie. It made her uncomfortable. She started loosing faith in me, and behaving oddly with her loved ones.
Of our three children, she was closest to Rajan. One of the reasons, I thought, was that Rajan could sing well, as could she. Whenever Rajan came back from college, he used to sing for her, and she enjoyed that. He used to sing only when his mother demanded. On holidays they used to have concerts till midnight. She always took care to get ready with new songs for Rajan. That Rajan was our only son was also a reason for her to be more loving to him.
Rajan’s continued absence troubled her, and I had to suffer as a result. She expected Rajan to be with me whenever I came from Calicut, and anxiously awaited him. When she knew that Rajan was not with me a colour of disappointment would spread over her face. The depth and darkness of distress on her face went on increasing. She stopped talking to others, and went into a world of silence. Sometimes she accused me of not loving Rajan. She confided to relatives and friends that this was the reason I was not bringing Rajan along when I came. She murmured in secret that I never loved her or Rajan.
Meanwhile, many of Rajan’s friends got married. One day when I reached Ernakulam she asked me, “All of Rajan’s friends have got married. Are you not a father too? Are you not worried that he is yet to get married?” “Oh, our son is dead,” I felt like telling her then. The sentence got choked in my throat. At that moment I felt vengeance against her and the world. Regaining the balance of my thoughts, I would say, “I am trying to find a suitable girl for Rajan. But it’s not that easy, you know?” Her response used to be a lone empty stare of disbelief.
Whenever Rajan’s friends came, she used to ask for Rajan. Unable to face her, they stopped coming to see her. Whenever I came to Ernakulam, she used to ask for money, but just ten rupees. Then she bought biscuits for Rajan, and kept them safe. Only when the biscuits got rotten did she give them to other children, who used to throw them away without her seeing.
She also kept small coins safe in a box, which she hated others opening. She had no more faith in anyone.
I kept Rajan’s disappearance a secret from my family for forty days. Whenever I went to meet Mr. Karunakaran I avoided them on my return.
On March 3, 2000, Rajan’s mother left me forever. A week earlier I had been to see her. As I bid farewell, she held my hands, still lying on the bed. There was a painful request in her eyes, “Will you bring Rajan along when you come next time?” I couldn’t look at her face. The guilt of telling her lie after lie had haunted me for years. Five days later I went to her again. Death was playing hide and seek somewhere near her, but she remembered everything.
She called me, “Will you do one thing for me?”
“Sure,” I answered.
She gave a small packet of coins to me. Those were the coins she saved in that box