By Ashvinderpal Singh Raipatti | PENANG, MALAYSIA | OPINION |
Each time Father’s Day is around the corner, we think of all the Dads and fatherly figures who continue to inspire us, and those who have left us for Heavenly abode.
It’s very difficult to not recall and appreciate the undivided love, devotion and uncountable sacrifices that fathers shower upon all their children, in an equally loving manner as mothers do. As we grow into manhood, and one day assume our role as a father, we will realise that fatherhood is truly no easy task. While acknowledging the role of mothers in nurturing their children, parallel credit must also go to fathers who in their own natural way, contribute equally in raising a good family.
I sometimes envy my cousins and friends, who still have their fathers around. There is this unexplainable feeling, somewhat like a vacuum within you, when the yearly Father’s Day comes around, when you don’t have a father to celebrate the day with.
I had the privilege of being the longest with my Dad, being the eldest among the 3 children, and I can still freshly recall those wonderful childhood days growing up with him. The family grew with the arrival of my brother and sister within the next few years. He used to take us out every weekend, without fail, either to playgrounds, shopping malls or to watch movies, just like a beautiful family. My dad didn’t have a mobile phone, at that point of time, as it was just launched and no one knew our whereabouts, during weekends, as we spent quality memorable times together.
Harjit Singh Raipatti was fair-skinned, tall and well-built, and was firstly serving with the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU), then transferred to ‘Polis DiRaja Malaysia’ (PDRM) – the official name for the Malaysian police force.
Mum was working with a prestigious law firm, and her working hours were rigid and lengthy which often extended into overtime, thus giving her little time to spend with the children. On weekdays, Mum was around from late evening till our bedtime, catching up on us and helping us with our homework. Dad on the other hand had flexible working hours, and so was able to devote more time to the children.
According to my mum, he was extremely happy, when we came into this world. He would take his annual leave to take care of everything during my mum’s period of confinement. He enjoyed bathing us when we were babies, plus attending to all our baby needs, as a doted caring father. Apart from that, he mostly handled our daily needs like food intake, transport to school and our general well-being.
Life was relatively good and happy for our small loving family. We were very thankful when Waheguru’s blessings were generously showered upon us.
We lived in the police barracks, a humble and cosy dwelling. We had a motorbike and a car to move around, and as both parents were working, we had enough cash flow to live decent lives. The years passed by, each day filled with joy, laughter and happiness. We were indeed truly blessed as a happy contented family.
Dad was a man of few words. He spoke only when it was warranted. The saying ‘actions speak louder than words’ aptly described Dad. There was no stopping for him when it came to looking into the needs of the family. The family always came first, come what may. He hardly complained about work, household chores or ill health. To us, he was a Supercop. No one could do harm to him, and no harm could come to him. Or so we thought.
In May 1999, we were unexpectedly woken up from our dreamland paradise, to which we had grown accustomed to. Dad was suddenly taken ill, and had to be hospitalised. We thought it was just an ordinary ailment, and Dad should be home soon.
A day earlier, as he was fetching us all to school, and walking up and down the stairs, he did not even complain of any shortening of breath or pain. Being hardly 11, I didn’t quite understand what was really going on.
The adults, Mum included, were in deep discussions and making decisions. Mum immediately notified her understanding boss about being unable to come to work upon my Dad’s hospitalisation.
In those trying days, our hospital visits became more frequent, and the house crowded with relatives and friends. Prayers were recited non-stop, both at home and at the Gurdwaras nearby. We needed Divine intervention for his recovery, and we prayed very hard.
Dad was not his usual self. He no longer spoke, as he was heavily sedated. Numerous machines were attached to his body, which had taken over his bodily functions, as Dad was managed by several specialist doctors at the intensive care unit. Many friends & relatives, visited Dad every day, without fail, trying their level best to help in whichever/whatever ways, that they could.
Many years later, I understood what was happening, during that unfruitful days. From Mum’s recount, I found out that Dad’s heart was beating very slowly, less than half than that of a normal person, and the doctors were intensifying their efforts, within their capacity, to find out exactly what was wrong.
Dad was subjected to various medical examinations but none could exactly diagnose the actual cause of his ailment. A couple of surgeries were also performed, but unfortunately, Dad didn’t respond to any of the quick treatment.
He was in deep slumber. Our voices called out his name, but he was too frail to respond, only tears dripping from the side of his eyes. His condition continued to deteriorate, day by day, and all of us felt so helpless. Mum was informed that Dad was having a multiple organ failure, and only a miracle of God could bring him back. One by one, the bodily functions stopped, and were replaced with machines.
My Supercop Dad was no longer a Supercop. He was clinging on frantically for his dear life, not wanting to leave us. We were not prepared to let him go either!
During those moments of unexplainable hardship and sheer desperation, I saw the serious and sombre faces of all the adults surrounding us, during our times of need. Deep within me, I feared for the worst as I knew something was very wrong, and it was something quite serious and beyond my understanding.
During moments like these, as Mum recalls, people come up with various suggestions to help the recovery process. Some asked to make offerings at certain places, some suggested mediums who could reverse Dad’s condition, and some suggested alternative medicine. No stone was left unturned. Mum and other family members did all they could do, within their capacity. Prayers after prayers were recited, with immense devotion to the Almighty for His divine intervention, but it seemed like, the Almighty loved him more and wanted him back so soon.
For almost two weeks, Dad soldiered on, fighting the battle inside, but unfortunately, the heavy dependency on machines and medications was slowly but surely taking a toll on Dad’s body. His inner fighting spirit was quite alive but the body was slowly surrendering. He was fighting the battle so hard, knowing the fighter he was, but his ammunition was running out.
We missed Dad, his voice calling out our names, and our rides on his motorbike to school and all the unforgettable good old days that we shared as a family.
We loved him so dearly that we could not bear seeing him in such a helpless state. But there was very little that we could do, as we felt so helpless. We kept our daily visits to the hospital, praying for a miracle.
One fine morning, Mum got a call from the hospital. Dad’s condition was critical and there was little within the medical fraternity that could be done to help him recover. In actual fact, Dad was living on borrowed time. Mum immediately rushed to the hospital, with some family members and tagging us along too. We went up to his bed, all teary-eyed, and repeatedly asked him to wake up. We were not prepared to let him go. How could we? We hadn’t had enough of our Dad. We needed him in our lives, needed the father we had always endeared to.
Not long after that, Dad started gasping for dear breath. He stopped breathing shortly thereafter. Our Supercop had left us for good, for Heavenly abode. We cried and cried uncontrollably, and till today can still relive the moment when Dad breathed his last.
Twenty years have passed since that unforgettable sad day of our lives on 14th June 1999.
We have gone through enormous challenges over the years – namely, housing, education, finance and others. But we moved on, with cherished memories of our Dad as our motivation and strength.
There is a big portrait of Dad in our house, and in all the houses we have lived in before, which continually reminds us of Dad, till today. He not only resides in the portrait. He resides permanently in our hearts, and is a constant guide in our lives.
I could only wish he was around. Not a day goes by without remembering him, his hugs, and how we hugged him from behind while we sat on the motorbike. When we see others celebrate Father’s Day, and showering them with love, hugs and goodies, we can’t help holding back our tears. We wish Dad was here, among us.
It’s a terrible feeling without you, Dad – a feeling of loneliness, emptiness and sadness.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Miss you loads, Everyday & Always, in our Hearts within. You will Always remain our True Hero & Heartstring.
My Father’s Day tribute to my dad and all Punjabi fathers I know (Asia Samachar, 15 June 2019)