Sharmeelee (1971), Siddhartha (1972), Chor Machaye Shor (1974) were the few films that helped to lift the dark clouds. Soon my cup runneth over, and I was in control of my life all over again. Not that the happy phase lasted too long. In 1972, I was in London, watching Lawrence of Arabia. Suddenly, I get an urgent message on the BBC asking me to rush home immediately. My father was unwell. I took a flight on the same night to Bombay. It was a depressing journey. There were all kinds of thoughts in my mind. I was too upset but at the same time, for my own peace, I tried dozing off That's when I realised that the body has its own defence mechanism and however grave the mental preoccupation, it inevitably finds a way of rejuvenating itself. On landing, I was told that my luggage would be taken care of and I may rush to the hospital. Outside Tata Hospital was a huge crowd. As soon as I entered the gate, the crowd rushed towards me for autographs. It was pathetic! How could anybody be so insensitive to someone whose father was on his deathbed? The entire family had collected by his bedside. My father had been in a coma for almost 30 hours. The only time he opened his eyes, was to ask if I had returned. When I went near his bed and said, "Papaji," he opened his eyes and blinked. It was the quickest movement he had made in the last three days. The doctor told us his time was up thirty hours ago. But he was clinging on, waiting for me... He had met everyone except me and kept asking, "Shashiaaya...? Shashiaaya?" Funny how we don't believe such things when we read them in books. But they do happen. When he hugged me, his embrace was so tight that it almost took my breath away. It wasn't the embrace of a sick man. I sat beside him on his bed, held his hand and talked to him... He talked ...There was no sound, but his lips moved, his eyes expressed things I could not make out, but I understood. He appeared calm. There was no conflict. There was a smile on his face...and as seconds clicked by, his smile turned broader. Exactly like it happens to a 'close-up' in a film and suddenly the shot froze. Suddenly it was all over. Outside, it was 11 a.m. The sun was a beautiful orange in the sky. Exactly the way he would have liked it. He always spoke about the sun. "I am a-Kshatriya," he said. "One morning, I will get up, have a bath, look at the sun and go..." The nurse had given him a sponge bath in the morning. He didn't get to look at the sun. The windows of his room were shut but at least the sun was smiling outside. Welcoming a great soul to heaven. Strangely, my mother, who, all of us expected to be totally broken was the most self-possessed. In fact, she consoled us kids. "He is at peace with himself. And I will soon follow him. Our duties in this world are over," she said. In just a few months time, Chaiji too fell seriously ill. Again, cancer. Even though we had got her uterus removed, the disease had spread all over the body. And God, how she suffered. But not once in all the pain she went through, did she complain. She bore it all in silence, like a tapasvani. When the time was up, she folded her hands, closed her eyes and went quietly. Like my father, her face too was a picture of calmness.
My parents' demise left me with an aching vacuum. I was filled with a sudden loneliness I could not describe. I realised that a human being can feel like a child, only as long as his parents live. His age has got nothing to do with this. A person without parents can never feel like a child again. A man needs his parents. They are his anchor. A woman has her man, she can depend on him. But a man has no one except his parents. As long as they were alive, I visited them whenever I was distressed. Often, I'd stop on my way home, spend an hour or two, have a meal with them. I didn't have to say anything, but when I returned home, I felt tranquil. I must have never told my problems to my father and yet, somehow my father always knew when I was disturbed. When I'd be leaving, he would pat me on the back and say, "it will all be okay."