If I pride myself in being a caring and concerned near perfect father, I should also give credit to my kids, specially Ani who helped me battle one of the biggest demons I suffered from : Anger!
Ever since I can remember, anger has been my constant companion. I am supposed to be quite a fun-loving person with a great sense of humour. I write wacky satires, conduct story telling sessions with kids in which the USP is masti and at parties I am the joker in the pack. However, when I lose my temper, the transformation is apparently scary.
“It is like he becomes a completely different person – his eyes start bulging, his hands begin shaking and he screams and rages almost like a man possessed. When the anger quotient climbs up, he even starts smashing things. The eloquence is there but the sentences take on a stream of consciousness mode and after sometime he doesn’t make sense,” my wife Madhavi once told her cousin Sharmila, who was a practising behavioural therapist.
“Ramen you are a writer and a communications professional. I don’t have to tell you how damaging anger can be. I think you should seriously start practising meditation in the mornings and evenings,” Sharmila said.
I followed her advice. I liked indulging in meditation and Madhavi started hoping the demon of anger had finally been annihilated. It took one incident of road rage, a few weeks later, for the reincarnation of Ravan. A bus driver kept honking relentlessly and I leaned out of the window and questioned his parentage. At the next signal he jumped down and confronted me. Even as Madhavi tried her best to calm me down, the driver and I indulged in fisticuffs and landed in the police station.
This incident sobered me down for a few days till the next ‘agent provocateur’ happened and I was back to my vicious, angry persona.
Ani, probably as a reaction to my antics or because he has taken after Madhavi who is far calmer and more grounded, has grown up to be quite a composed individual. I would sometimes even chide him for ‘tolerating’ insults and ‘not giving it back’ and he would simply answer, ‘What difference does it make papa? Why fight over little things?I would even rile him that he was not assertive enough and hence would lose out in the long run. He would simply shrug and smile.
An incident in Ani’s life changed me from an anger monger to Papa peacenik.
When Ani was in his graduation first year he shifted to a hostel in Mumbai. One afternoon as he was sitting in his room, he got a call that his bestie Mike had collapsed in the college canteen. He ran down in panic to find Mike lying unconscious. Their classmate, Pratik, called a cab and along with their Ma’am, they rushed Mike to the nearest hospital. Mike’s head was in Ani’s lap and he felt he was living a nightmare which would soon end. They had planned to go for a movie the next day, followed by dinner. Ani was hoping that the next day they would be going to the theatre and he would be chiding Mike on the kind of panic he had created with his fainting spell.
In the hospital Mike was carried on a stretcher and taken inside. The hospital was a modest one with no ICU. Mike was placed on a bed and the doctor tried to revive him by thumping his chest and trying mouth to mouth resuscitation for some time. He then checked Mike’s pulse and looking up shook his head. Ani couldn’t believe this was happening.
“Let’s take Mike to St. Mary’s Hospital,” he told his ma’am and rang for an ambulance. Five minutes later they were speeding towards St. Mary’s. Pratik had started crying. The only prayer Ani knew was the one which his dad recited once a year on Diwali. Ani started repeating the one line he now remembered with a sense of desperation. This time Mike was taken straight to the ICU and put on a ventilator. Ani watched from outside while one doctor and two nurses devoted their complete attention to Mike. For 45 minutes they struggled. Finally, the doctor came out and said, “I am sorry. He suffered a stroke and collapsed before you got him here.”
After this everything was a blur. Their class mates had come to know and when Ani stepped out they rushed towards him. Mike’s girlfriend, Rachel, was the first to reach him. He pulled her close and enveloping her in a gentle hug whispered, ‘Rachel, we’ve lost him.’
She started crying silently and many girls and a few guys too couldn’t control themselves. It was too sudden, too brutal. Just last evening there had been a jam session in the hostel and Mike had belted out a string of chart busters. And today, less than 24 hours later a young, vibrant and healthy life had been smudged forever.
Ani knew he couldn’t cry. He had to hang on and organise quite a few things. Mike’s parents, who stayed in Ahmedabad, were informed that their son was seriously ill. The police had to be told. The death certificate had to be arranged……
Mike’s parents turned up. Aniket’s classmates Varun and Deepika went to receive them at the station and persisted with the same version – their only son was in the ICU.
It was left to Aniket to break the news to Mike’s mum and dad. Susan aunty simply crumpled and collapsed on the floor while uncle stood there trying to make some sense out of what he had heard.
The evening stretched to the night and to the next day.
Mike’s parents left with Mike (Ani refused to call his friend a body) in a coffin. As she was leaving, Susan aunty hugged Aniket and said, “Thanks son, for everything. We are taking your best friend but leaving all his memories behind….”
It was only then that something snapped inside Ani and he started crying. Clinging to Susan aunty he cried – for Mike, for himself, for Mike’s parents, for Rachel…..
When Ani related to me the details of what had happened my heart reached out to Mike’s parents. Imagine having to hobble the rest of your lives only on the crutch of memories.
Ani’s experience also set me thinking. It was amazing that a nineteen-year-old, who had led such a protective existence all his life, who had never ever had to shoulder any kind of responsibility other than coping with academics could exhibit such grit in the face of adversity. I, who had always thought he lacked guts and was not macho enough, had proved to me that he was more of a ‘man’ than probably most men his dad admired.
I also felt if Ani could show such resolve and character what the hell was I doing succumbing to anger. If my son could control his emotions in the toughest of circumstances, could I not keep my temper in check in situations which are far less trying?
I made a solemn vow to myself that I would not allow anger to mess up my life. I took a pledge that I would be a ‘man’ my son had become!
- By Ramendra Kumar
P.S. Ramendra is a Peer on SoulUp. He has beaten cancer on multiple occasions and continues to live life with passion and purpose. If you have had a similar journey and would like to have a 1-on-1 conversation with her, you can book one here.