January 16, 2021 (Saturday) began like another normal day for me- that is, the ‘New Normal’ after Covid-19.
The pandemic has and is still taking its toll.
One year after its onset, it shows no signs of abating.
The uncertainty is killing and thoughts of family members spread across the world each struggling in their own way to survive the obvious infectious and the numerous non-infectious impact of Covid-19.
It was at such a difficult time that my father (Shri Hanumant Dole) passed away rather suddenly in my hometown in Pune, India.
The fear which haunts nearly every person anywhere in this world of a family member passing away overseas, became a reality for me. After a sudden stroke and a short stint in the ICU during which his condition progressively declined, he passed away on January 16, 2021, just 10 days before his 86th birthday.
Adaptive and amiable
You can never prepare for grief, you can only get used to it. Never did this statement make more sense to me than now. Though he was ageing and tiring, my father was always happy and cheerful. He made the most of what life offered him and the mischievous smile, which was his trademark, rarely deserted his face.
He had the amazing ability of being able to blend with all age groups and be one of them, right from his grandkids to his peers. An optimist and a trier, he always took the challenges that confronted him, on the chin.
A caring husband, a devoted father who was always a friend too, a loving family member and a silent survivor, he was all of these rolled into one.
The late Shri Hanumant Dole with his wife Shailaja Dole (Picture Supplied)
Love for New Zealand
I still remember the wonderful time that I spent with him as I grew up and in the later years when he visited us twice in New Zealand.
He had fallen in love with this country and its people.
At different times in 2020, we would talk on the phone and plan for his next visit to New Zealand along with my mother (Shailaja Dole) as soon as the borders opened up.
During each phone call, he would ask me if there was an update about the borders opening and if I could make a quick trip to India to meet them.
Though I had been fortunate to make many trips to India in the last few years, the last time I saw him in person was in September 2019. Thereafter, Covid-19 became a global pandemic international travel became a distant dream.
An abrupt end
As if his passing away was not bad enough, the fact that I could not meet him to say the final goodbye was even worse. Due to the Covid restrictions in India, he had to be cremated within a couple of hours of his death. There was no opportunity to take him home for one last time, for the family to grieve, for us here to spend a quiet minute with him over a video call; there was nothing.
All I can remember is that dreaded phone call, an hour or two of panicked calls with close family members in India and then the final call that it was all over.
The silence thereafter has been deafening and the vacuum created in my life, suffocating.
Dad, I know you are in a better place and at peace and away from all the imperfections of this world and its people. I love you, always have and always will. You were a legend, ever kind and caring. I were so complete that you were everything to me.
I now feel the emptiness and can do nothing except cry.
Neha Mokashi is the daughter of the late Hanumant Dole and Shailaja Dole, a resident of Pune. She lives in Auckland and has written columns in Indian Newslink including ‘Neha’s Kitchen.’