Emotional Upheavals

December 5, 2023 6 mins to read

Life is defined strangely by death. James Shirley’s hauntingly philosophical poem ‘Death is a leveller’ had a profound impression on me as a high school student. My teacher Jesuit priest Father Maceido persuasively articulated how humans travel into an immortality mindset only to recognise the power of mortality with death.

                ‘There is no armour against fate,

                Death lays his icy hand on kings:

                Sceptre and Crown

                Must tumble down,

                And in the dust, be equal made

                With the poor crooked scythe and spade.’

Mr. S. Malayandi

This morning, my father in law Mr. S. Malayandi passed away in his sleep peacefully, after battling cancer valiantly for over a year and half. He was 79, just few months short of 80 and he had lived a full life. I strongly subscribe to the view that such a life journey must be celebrated rather than mourned. As the poem outlines, all of us must return to the dust from which we all came, only the good deeds of the just will blossom from the dust and smell sweet forever.

Yet, as I am crisscrossing the Baltic sea, scrambling to catch a flight to get back home, a deluge of emotions has flooded me.  The death of a closed one throws up emotions amongst us at different points. As a student who studied psychology and medical & psychiatric social work, I learned to help people deal with emotions. Never sure if I had learned to deal with my own emotions. I probably think I never learned to deal with them effectively. As the eldest son in my family, I was stunned when my father departed at the age of 51, my second sister went away at just 30 and many other similar situations had occurred. To me, stoic silence and the ability to give support to others was paramount  and a sign of strength.  

However, this evening, as I recollected some of the memories of my father in law, I found myself quietly wiping away my tears without having my wife or daughter see me doing that. Strange as it may sound, memories travel far back into time.  I remember vividly the first time I met him on March 13th, 1986. It was my first meeting with him before marrying his daughter. In a society that placed a premium on employees working with multinational corporations; he was excited with my entrepreneurial enthusiasm. As Vikram Seth explained in the ‘Suitable Boy’, I might not have been the suitable boy given my dark skin, a westernised outlook, an entrepreneur with an unfulfilled promise and certainly, no job security. There were very many ‘Nos” and a few ‘Yeses’ to bet on me. I was stunned when I saw that he was exuberant with my persistence. In a dog eat dog world where I felt that everyone was only willing to bet on a sure winner, he was there to bet on anyone who would take a risk. He was the supporter of ‘underdogs’. I was a complete outsider and an underdog.

He was not necessarily the perfect man. He worked hard and played hard. He lived a good life. He had his strengths and imperfections but there was one thing I will never forget about him. He was with me at every step of my entrepreneurial journey. While he may not have had the experience or expertise to support me, he was my cheer leader. When times were down, he was there to cheer me up and get me going again. Even when I was on the verge of major challenges, he would be my fan number 1. He was perpetually positive. Needless to say, he was thrilled when I finally found took my company public, when I was recognised for my work, when we moved into our new home and when we showed him our new campus. And, when my sons and daughter excelled in what they did. To him, it felt as though as he was the one who had succeeded. To him, his faith in a young budding entrepreneur had passed the test of time. He was one of the very few who never gave on me. I am not sure I thanked him enough for it.

As he neared his end, he battled bravely with the ardent support of his two devoted daughters, my wife and sister in law. His valiant battle to fight the cancer was reinforced by his two daughters with ‘nightingale’ commitment. While I did my best to converse with him on subjects he loved, as I reflect and rewind, I must admit I have a few regrets. I forgot to bid him goodbye and say those magic words, ‘Hi my dearest father in law I love you’ and I am devastated today that I completely missed hugging him.

Yet, I am sure he will rest in peace knowing fully well, I and the family loved him in our own very special way.

To us, we will celebrate his life and outlook towards life.

As I close, I can only imagine him singing Frank Sinatra’s famous blockbuster song that personified him:

‘And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I’ll say it clear,
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain.

I’ve lived a life that’s full.
I’ve traveled each and every highway;
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

I’ve lived a life that’s full.
I’ve traveled each and every highway;
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Regrets, I’ve had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.’