Vatsal Parekh

Vatsal Parekh

My thought cloud...☁

July 2024


the last surprise

Vatsal ParekhVatsal Parekh

This is going to be a very personal one; grab some tissues

I’m not sure why I’m sharing this here, but it just felt like I should let some of this out of my head

After finishing my collage, I was out of my parent’s home for the first time, into a new city, new job, a different world. This meant a transition into building my own little world outside of my parent’s shadow. This meant like spring to me in someway, but it was particularly tough for my mother when I moved out. And for those who know me closely remember this scene, every time I came home which almost every-time used to be without notice, she would cry every time hugging me, literally for an hour; and I would just sit there seeing her cry like a baby.

Fast forward to 2020, the whole earth seemed under a lockdown due to Covid-19. At the beginning of it, we all were amused by what was going on. We had not seen a pandemic in a century of this scale, not even a war in 3 generations. But as the number of cases kept growing slowly around the city, we all were little anxious, what if this hits us someday? Unfortunately, it was bad luck coming true for us. And as events unfolded, my whole family got infected by the virus. Few days into the infection cycle, my whole extended family was under the infection, including me. Just to give a hint of the extent of it, 7 people from my family were hospitalised at the same time, in 5 different hospitals in the city, including my mother & grandfather. I don’t need to stretch the point here by adding more words about the state of Indian hospitals; although they have done their fair share of hard-lifting in larger scheme of things in the pandemic.
A few more days pass by and we lose one member of the extended family. The things that were only in news channels so far, were now coming to us in real life. It’s like a nightmare, which keeps getting darker with every single night passing by. And one night, we suddenly get a call from hospital that my mother’s recovery is not looking good suddenly. So I rushed to the hospital in middle of a lockdown.
As silly as it sounds, the municipality had sealed the gate of parking parking of our apartment building in the name of strict lockdown for those buildings which have infected people. And I was too weak to even climb 3 floors, let alone 3km to the hospital. At this midnight hour, Tushar being a good friend, came to rescue in my hour of need, even though he knew I could infect him. He drove me to the hospital at midnight and I asked him to go home and rest because I honestly didn’t know why I was called there or how long it is going to take me. The doctor briefed me about the deteriorating situation of my mother and warned me that next couple days are critical for recovery & survival. It took me some efforts to climb 3 floors to my mother’s room. I didn’t know what else to do apart from just be near her, after-all we both were infected and the fact that we were in this situation tells about our carelessness or bad luck, whatever you call it.
So there I was, on a surprise visit to her. I showed my face to her from a distance and waved at her, and before I go any further, she stopped me from entering her room in fear of infecting me more. But as the tradition, she started crying. Sadly, this time I could see that sense of fear mixed with the tears of joy. The helpless feeling when your mother is right in front of you battling for her life, and there’s literally nothing you can do, that pain I wish no one gets to see.
I was sitting there helplessly and also struggling to stand still due to my own weakness, the doctor saw this and insisted I go home and take rest. I tried to go say bye before I leave but I couldn’t, because everytime I show her my face she would start crying and her oxygen level would drop to alarming level. I somehow reached home and don’t even remember when I slept on the floor of our living room. Next morning, it turned out that this was my final surprise visit to her. We got the news of her fatality and I couldn’t hold myself to the decision to come back home early that morning. I regret that to this day. Sometimes we feel that we have a whole lifetime to spend with loved ones, and the same timeline being squeezed into few hours of possibility, felt like the ultimate brutality of life.
Just couple of days later, the same story repeated with my grandfather.
I don’t want to go into the details of how I handled their last rites alone or the horror of being in a crematorium alone at 3am. Those memories are worse than an having a feeling of your chest cut open, it burns you from within. And to a degree, I’m glad no one else in my family had to at-least see those visuals other than me.

Covid-19 hit us hard is an understatement. Financially, emotionally it drained us all. A whole year’s pay spent in a week, and the helplessness was the only remaining after all of this. The effect of this on our mental health was also serious. It has had long effect of my professional and other relations also. To this day, some random trigger of all this trauma makes it really hard to focus on work or anything in present.

Take a pause here if you read it through out, because that’s what I also had to do in bits after all these events. I don’t have a philosophy book yet to publish, but such events leave you with so much of thought baggage to swallow for years. Maybe some of it becomes learning.
In last two years, I travelled to various places, took some weeks off to reflect on life and what had gone by. This tone makes me feel like I have aged so much, but these events had left me like an age had passed by in this storm.

While these events always let you with ‘I wish this could have been better’ feeling, I’m actually glad of the life we had as a family and the warmth it gave me in my upbringing. It’s hard to conclude anything after the above monologue, but if you’re around your loved ones right now, go give them a hug, there aren’t many other more pure things to experience!

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