Ruzbeh N. Bharucha
My father passed away four years back in early June. He was sixty eight years old, which is an extremely young age to pass over keeping my family history in mind. My folks have all lived till they were in their late eighties or early nineties, eating, drinking and making merry till they got their wings.
Those days nobody had heard about calories, cholesterol and consuming just the whites of eggs. The very idea of avoiding eating the yolk would have been considered blasphemy and would have been a topic of never ending foul mouthed discussion.
My father’s family is from India, while my maternal grandmother was born in Iran. We are a strange mix of Parsi and Irani blood, but we always call ourselves Zoroastrians and first and foremost Indians.
All the elders were extremely spiritual and very religious and in all our homes, the place of worship had Gods, Goddesses, Masters, Prophets and Symbols of all religions. We were a strange family where worship is concerned. We visited the Fire Temple, Church, Temple, Dargahs, Gurudwars and interacted with Sadhus, Fakirs and mystics.
Diet never figured or interfered with our worship. Heaven isn’t bursting at its seams with only vegetarians thus prayers, spirituality, rich diet, smoking and consumption of alcohol was part of life.
Be it birthdays, festivities or days of mourning; my family indulged in prayers and active consumption of varied fermented beverages and sumptuous food.
Since my dad was in his early twenties he woke up at four or may be four thirty on any given day. He and my mother worked in Pfizer for decades; my dad for nearly forty years and mom for forty five.
I remember them leaving for work at six thirty, as they would travel from Dadar to Thane in a company bus and come back home by five thirty or six. I used to live with them on and off as I was dispatched off to a boarding school in Panchgani, a hill station, near Pune, when I was six years old. When in Mumbai, I lived with my maternal grand-mother. We seven cousins lived together, with our grand-mother, uncle and aunt, my God mother and her niece. On holidays and weekends, all of us including our parents gathered and we would be around sixteen people in a small home, eating, drinking, laughing and playing; best time ever.
My dad would wake up at four, smoke a cigarette, have a cup of tea, go for bath, and then sit and pray. He would start off with the Zoroastrian prayers and then chant mantras. Every morning, without fail, unless he was really very ill, this was a routine. Then he would go to the Fire Temple and to various Temples, depending on which day it was and which God or Goddesses needed to be pleased and loved. In the evening once again after a snack, he would pray and then go about whatever he wanted to do.
His prayers were a must and whether he focussed or not, he had to pray and he would often speak to one and all while chanting prayers, of course that is if he wanted to be part of the conversation. For instance, if the door-bell rang more than twice while he was praying, he would turn around, and scream, ‘will one of you fuggers open the door’. And then he would calmly continue to pray oblivious that one generally refrained from abusing while in prayer. We Zoroastrians love our cuss words.
It was he who initiated me to bow down to the Creator irrespective of His or Her name and religion. I remember him taking me to Badshah Mia, whose Dargah is in Byculla. I yet remember the holy Tomb was in an open space, under a simple but beautiful canopy and I can still remember the sounds of birds chirping. We would take a bus, a double decker bus I think and then go bow down to the Master and then take me to different though simple restaurants. Those days one could smoke in cafes etc. and he would smoke and I would eat and he would have a cup of tea or Dukes lemonade.
He was a large hearted man. He never once raised a hand on me or my sister. Those days the general philosophy of families and school authorities was ‘to spare the rod was to spoil the brat’, but he never raised a hand on either of us. If I had been my father, with a son as mischievous and roguish as myself, I would have been ordering canes by the truck full.
Yes, he was the most hot-headed moody man I have ever known and it was only in the last few years of his life did we really bond. But he was a child at heart. Little things upset him or made him ecstatic. He loved Laurel and Hardy and movies that made him laugh aloud. He could see the same movie and laugh at the same joke as though he was seeing it for the first time.
He wore fancy clothes and had an assortment of watches and shoes, and also bemoaned that his son dressed up like a vagabond. Nothing made him happier than seeing me dressed in formal attire.
Thus all my life I have seen him praying and visiting Holy places. He was very worried about me since the beginning and he has taken me to so many seers I have lost count of. But all of them were good souls. Truly I miss them. They would ruffle my hair and tell my dad, ‘do not worry he has it in him’ and my father would come out using the choicest abuses wondering,
‘what the %$#@^& did his son have apart from driving everybody up the wall’.
I have never seen him more proud than when talking about me as a channel and medium. The day I began to channel he stopped going to astrologers and seers. For him, only what his son said was true.
Thus, it became more difficult for me as a medium to tell him what he wanted to hear, as he was like a child and in the last two or three years of him being in the body, I think there was a role reversal, where he became more of a child and I began to feel like his father.
And what was the only thing he wanted to hear; whether he would get back his money that he had lent to a friend, who was already bankrupt before he borrowed the money with no hope of ever returning it back to my dad.
My dad took voluntary retirement four years before his due time. I wasn’t channelling those days. All that which he got from the company, after nearly forty years of service; those countless days of waking up at four to leave at six thirty in the morning, he handed over to his friend, who three months later, told my father, he would not be able to repay my father the money as he was drowning in debt.
I think that truly dried up the spring of joy in my dad’s heart. He was always a spendthrift. He loved wearing fancy clothes, with matching shoes, lovely watches and even suspenders of varied eye wincing colours. But more than that, he loved being independent. I have seen him giving whatever money he had on him to anybody who was in need.
If China came up with a new fancy lighter, my dad had it before I assume the Chinese Premier. The fact that he would be dependent for the rest of his life on his family, I think broke him. He loved buying things for us all. It gave him tremendous joy to get new things for my mother, or gift us fancy stuff. I think the realization that he would never be able to do all this ever again crushed him.
Mind you, he never stopped praying. Never stopped going to the Fire Temple or Temples or Dargahs. Nothing changed where his spiritual and religious practices were concerned. He still helped the poor but something died in him. That sparkle and childlike euphoric state of mind I never saw again.
For years he would ask Baba when he would get his money and Baba would tell him ‘if it comes it will take a long time’. He always ignored the word ‘if’ and would convince himself the money was round the corner.
My mother never let him feel he was ever dependent on anybody. She would give him all the money to run the house and all that she had, but the feeling of being dependent and not being able to splurge, like a kid in a candy store, never allowed the smile to reach his eyes.
He got a heart attack after a few months of losing his money. And life went on.
Then one morning, a decade after he had lost his entire provident fund and years of waiting, he gave me a call and I could make out he was desperate.
I remember it so well. I could hear his sadness on the phone. A man who just wanted to live on his own terms and now was losing the strength to live with eternal hope of getting what was his.
“Ruz I want everything to be alright. I want my money back. Ask Baba what I should do to get my money. Ask Him to set everything right for me. I trust Him and I trust you. Tell him son. He listens to you. Get everything sorted for me son.”
He never called me Ruzbeh, for him I was always Ruz.
I knew he was never going to get the money back. I had been told years earlier. I told him to call me up in half an hour. I knew the answer. I felt miserable. A man who had never hurt another person and spent his entire life in prayer and charity, had gone through a decade, heart-broken and miserable. Life, so often, is a four letter word.
Thus, I was shocked and surprised when Baba came through in prayer and said if my dad were to pray a certain prayer from the Holy Avesta, every Saturday for fourteen Saturdays, by the fifteen Saturday my father’s problems would be solved and all would be set right.
Dad called exactly after half an hour.
“Baba said that if you pray this particular prayer, every Saturday for fourteen Saturdays, by the fifteenth Saturday dad all your problems will be over and all will be set right.”
There was silence on the other end of the phone.
“Can’t Baba give me a shorter prayer? That prayer will take me two hours and the words in the prayers go on and on. I mean one word is virtually half a line.”
“Ok. Ok. Baba also na I tell you, He can’t make it easy for me. What’s the prayer for?”
“The prayer is to the Seven Archangels dad. I also believe it is to appease the nine planets.”
“Can’t the planets and the Archangels be appeased with something short and simple? Complicated chaps.”
Anyway every Saturday he would call me up. “Ruz only 13 Saturdays to go, 12, 9, 7, 5…..” and then it happened. He completed fourteen Saturdays of prayers. I was really worried. I knew the state of the man who my dad had lent his money too. The man was bankrupt and could barely feed his family. Baba would need to work up one heaven of a miracle to first give the chap the money and then convince the man to pay back my dad all his life savings.
My dad had so much faith that I was truly apprehensive about the fifteenth Saturday.
I spoke to my dad on Saturday and then on Monday was informed by my mother that he had pain in his stomach. Pain in the stomach was common with my dad. He didn’t eat much and smoked a lot. Baba had told him to take care of his stomach a year back. So on Monday night, my mother phoned me to ask Baba if all was well with my dad. I sat for prayer and was told that no matter what, surgery shouldn’t be performed. I was surprised. My dad had a stomach problem all his life. Why would he need surgery? I passed on the information to my mother who too was surprised regarding the need for surgery to ever arise, for just stomach pain.
Tuesday my dad was better. Our doctor had given my dad two injections and dad was completely well. But by Wednesday the pain had returned. Our doctor told dad that since he had medical insurance, it would be wise to get admitted in the hospital and do routine tests.
Thus on Thursday my dad wearing his fancy clothes, packet of cigarettes in his pocket, making sure my mother got him the right matching shoes, entered a famous hospital in south Mumbai. I spoke to him and he told me that he should be there for a day and he would come to Pune and spend a day or so with Meher, his grand-daughter, who made him smile and laugh. She was just a year and a half.
That evening I got a call from my mother. She handed the phone to the doctor in charge. He informed me that my father needed a surgery as they feared his intestine had a small tear. I asked him if surgery would take care of the situation. The doctor said one would and could hope for the best. I asked him to give the success rate for such operations. The doctor informed me that he wasn’t sure.
I reminded my mother about the message Baba had given about there being no surgery. But when it comes to medical pressure most of us get overwhelmed by sterile explanations and insistence. Also of course, for some reason we are certain that those in whose care and trust we have placed our wellbeing, would always treat us like their family members. We can behave like such daft clueless bastards most of the times, it is appalling.
My dad wasn’t informed about the operation till the very last moment as all knew he would get justifiably very nervous.
At around ten thirty I called my dad.
“Ruz they are taking me for some operation. I am sorry I didn’t listen to Baba and you. I will see you tomorrow beta. Come soon.”
I then understood all.
“Dad I love you.”
Then he told me something he never had.
“I love you too son.”
That was the last time I spoke to my father. I reached him the next day in the morning. He was lying on the hospital bed, eyes shut, tubes going through him, the monitor strangely reassuring with its beeps and graph. But we all knew dad would never open his eyes.
I sat with him and spoke to him all I had to. Mainly apologized to him for the countless times I had never been the son I should and would have liked to be.
I kissed him on his forehead and went out and sat with my mother. Fifteen minutes later a doctor approached us. He looked at me as I don’t think he could look my mother in her eyes.
“I am sorry to tell you your father is brain dead. I guess he was only waiting for you to come here.”
My dad was right. He did see me; not through the conventional way but he had waited for me to come. In a few hours my dad had passed over. It was a Friday. Baba was right. By the fifteenth Saturday my dad’s problems were over, he was free from all financial frustrations. I just hadn’t understood what Baba had said when He gave the message that ‘by the fifteenth Saturday all his problems will be over’.
I also knew that if the operation had been successful my father would never have been able to live the way he wanted to and his threshold for withstanding pain was less than that of a child.
Every astrologer my father had ever gone to, from the most renowned to the street parrot category, had told him that he would live to be minimum eighty-five years old. Even astrologers who had seen my daughter’s horoscope had informed me that both her grand-fathers would live beyond their mid-eighties. And here my dad was just sixty-eight years young.
The power of prayers and the grace of the Master made sure that all the suffering in store for him, for more than fifteen years were cut short and that he didn’t have to die every-day, due to loss of quality of life and worse not being able to live the life he always wanted to.
The countless dawns spent in prayer, which often my dad would say, nobody up there cared about, I know was heard at the right moment and that somebody did care about. To suffer for twenty years with poor health, pain, loss of quality of life, financial ache and strife for what could have been yours, is no life. The years of prayers and Baba’s Grace had made sure my dad didn’t go through what he otherwise for sure would have gone through. Loss of dignity and the total feeling of helplessness is like dying every single day.
I truly believe that our prayers are heard but answered often in a manner that is best for each of us but may be not always the way we want to hear the answers. Prayers and the Master know what is best for each and when is the right time for each of us. I know often, life doesn’t seem fair, but if one truly leaves all to the Master, trust me, all happens for one’s best, even if at that moment, one may think otherwise.
My father in the hospital had only spoken to all the doctors about life after death and my first book The Last Marathon. May be he had a premonition. I don’t know. Was I instrumental in cutting short my father’s physical journey? I don’t know. I hope not. But if he has been spared pain and frustration of going through life, ill and despondent, then I would have done the same thing, even if I was aware of the consequences. Life is about living with a smile, no matter what, and if one can’t live through the ups and downs, with one’s chin up, then life becomes an extremely heavy cross to carry every minute of one’s time on planet earth.
I am aware that there is tremendous suffering in the lives of innumerable people. Good, honest to God people are being trounced. Righteous people are going through a hell like existence. Manipulation seems to be the order of the day. The meek and the good hearted are being ground to pulp. The only thing that stands between one’s own destiny and the harsh world outside and demons within, is one’s faith in goodness, compassion, prayers and most important of all, one’s Master and the Spirit Family of Light Workers.
Pray for the right reasons. Destiny might not change. Circumstances might get worse. But ask for the right things from the Master. Ask to lead a life of dignity. Pray that no matter what, one doesn’t lose compassion for all of creation. Life is as simple or complicated as we make it. Just as the most colossal darkness can be dispelled by a small candle, I truly believe that there is no sadness or destiny that cannot be lived through with dignity by a heart-felt prayer, positive acceptance, lots of blasted humour and faith in one’s Master. Life is about giving. Become a giver. Pray you never have to be dependent on anybody but one’s Master.
I do know one thing, the power of prayers and the Grace of Baba Sai of Shirdi, saved my dad from a lot of pain, grief and helplessness. His destiny warranted something. His Master protected him from years of despair and ill health. This is the power of prayer and the grace of the Master.
A week after he passed away, a friend called me up. He asked me if I knew anybody wearing colourful clothes, groovy spectacles and really jazzy suspenders. I sighed. That could only be my dad. He described the face he had seen in his prayers and yes, it was my dad. My friend had never seen or met my father but for some strange reason he had been paid a visit by my temperamental father. My friend coughed, as though embarrassed and then told me, ‘in my prayers, I saw this man and I have never seen your father but I think it was he and he just told me, ‘tell my Ruz I am fine and that all my problems are truly over’.
Rest In Peace dad.
God Bless. Jai Baba
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha