‘Nanu, nanu!” exclaims C. He wants to meet his Nanu, my dad, his excitement rising as he inspects the family photograph yet again. It stands in a frame in his nursery, and also features his Nani.

‘Nanu?’ His voice is a question this time. When will I meet him, Mommy?


You won’t meet him, little fella. He is no more.

Guess what happened to him?

He lost his life to COVID, this dratted virus that has killed lakhs of people around the world. Your granddad, ever so fit, ever so obsessed with his fitness tracker, succumbed to the virus after spending his last days in a hospital, unconscious.

Well, dad is gone. Mum is gone. It is only me who is left to face the rest of my days alone, without parents, expected to be a good parent to a little fellow who is oblivious to everything that is transpiring around us.

Every morning, I wake up exhausted. Fatigue is my permanent state of mind and body. They don’t tell you just how hard it is to look after a toddler without an extensive support system. I face the sunlight, get reminded of the golden sunshine of winters spent in Delhi…days and nights that will never be mine again. I have lost my drive and motivation to do anything, be anything. Composure. Patience. Fortitude. These are mere terms that can no longer describe anything I possess.

Some days -most days- it is only the need to make breakfast for C that forces me to get out of bed. He cajoles me, pulls my hair, screams ‘Mama, mama’ in a super bossy tone, and I get up, shower him with kisses, suppress my need to cry. Sometimes, I think, he keeps me sane in this entirely meaningless world.

‘You won’t meet Nanu anytime soon,’ I tell my son. ‘But we will go visit Mama’s childhood home one day.’ Nanu’s memories are there, and so are lots of toys and books and dilapidated gadgets he loved to fix and takeout menus and cricket-match listings.

Tons of things irk me. The notion that mum and dad are together in some kind of heaven, that I should be glad they are one again. The idea that this is God’s will. The expectation to be ‘strong’ especially because hey, I am a mum.

Please let me grieve the way I want to. I don’t need placations and silly statements meant to make light of this tragedy. Every day that papa spent intubated in the hospital revealed to me just how lonely I am, how little I can bank on anyone, how absurd my notions of familial ties and shared sorrows are.

Perhaps, one morning will dawn when I will be able to smile at all the moments mum, dad and I shared and accept that everything must end. But for now, life as I knew it, as I had learnt to live it after mum’s passing, has collapsed again. I want to wallow in self pity and cry a bucket of tears and then cry more about how dad will no longer ask me, ‘Are you okay, beta? Your eyes are red. Have you been drinking milk every day? Are you getting enough sleep?’

COVID is a thing of the past, apparently. They are distributing vaccines with only a few cases of uh, adverse reactions. The death toll is majorly down; people in my locality roam around with masks covering only their beards. Just the elderly and the frail are dying, you see. People like my papa, ever so fit, still happily working at a job he loved, relishing his plate of chicken tandoori and walking several kilometers every day, are exceptions.

C, someday I will tell you more about your Nanu and Nani. For now, all I want is to close my eyes and let my dreams transport me to happier times when both my parents held me tight, steadied me when I fell, and had my back at every moment of the day. It was another lifetime. Oh, let me lose myself in the memories so; maybe they will blend into my reality and I won’t be sad again.


26 thoughts on “Papa

  1. Hi Debbie
    This is Kavya, not sure if you remember me from IF (left it ages ago) but I remember you very well . I am just learning about you having to deal with the loss of your parents, I know my condolences are late but I am so sorry about your loss. It just sucks, sometimes you just want to punch someone or something and hold them accountable for what’s happening to you. And you absolutely should not have to put up a brave face and be expected to move on , just because you have a child. The child is an important part of your life but your life existed before the child too and if you are feeling upset, it is completely okay. Virtually may be and I may be late to reply but just know that you can always count on me (you can PM me on FB). I don’t know if I am making things worse or better by talking about all this years later but I just couldn’t stop myself after learning about your parents. Once again, I am very sorry.

    • Kavya, oh my gosh, I am so happy to hear from you! You have no idea how glad I am to read your message. I fondly remember our animated conversations – what a fun time in life! Thank you for extending your support. I will reach out to you soon.

  2. I am so sorry for your loss, Deboshree. I can feel the unbearable pain in the above words. Losing a parent is excruciatingly painful. Words are futile in moments like this. Hugs, dear. ♥️

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