……..In Sanskrit, ‘Mrutyu’ is death and ‘Jaya’ is who conquered. So ‘Mrutyunjaya’ means he who has conquered / defied death……..
14th July, 2017 is a date none in our family could forget as it was on this date that our beloved father Late Venkateswara Rao Pamarty aka Pamarty V. Rao, passed away into eternity.
Exactly one year after, just when I sat to write this blog, I have received a WhatsApp group forward; of a quick video clip by Dada Vaswani, (who, incidentally, passed away on 12th July, 2018) answering a query “When a person dies why do we cry and remember him? When the person is alive we have no value for him. How should we change this attitude?” Dada Vaswani answered in one word -‘Gratitude’
This blog is not only to mourn the demise of our father, who in our eyes has been a great personality – unsung - by default and design, but also to express my gratitude for making me what I am; myself. As this is a blog and cannot be written as a biography, I try to restrict myself to write some salient details of him and his calm struggles to survive.
Born in 1931, and the last of three surviving siblings, my dad had an uncomfortable childhood, so to say, as he had to frequently change his schools, as the schools he was studying in the villages of Andhra Pradesh those days, had only a few grades. This perhaps gave him the much needed virtue of adaptability and affability and the survival instinct – without hurting others.
Having lost his father when he was around 16 years of age, and having not much of financial back-up, he had to fend for himself doing odd jobs right from the age of 16. Just a matriculate, his first job was with the Andhra Pradesh Electricity Board. Next was in Bata. After working for a couple or more of years in Bata, on temporary basis, he was politely shown the door as he was quite puny due to under-nourishment and the company wanted their sales persons to be robust. We are never sure whether this was a genuine policy of the company then, or a ruse / ploy used by his Manager, who perhaps wanted one of ‘his people’ in.
We are proud of the professionalism of our father who, though born into a chaste and revered family, never hesitated to hold the feet of customers while working in Bata. We are also proud that till the end he kept his knowledge of the shoes and sandals and many a time, while visiting Bata show rooms, he used to explain how things could have been better made, with very simple adjustments – to the awe and sometimes to the chagrin of the then current Bata employees.
Sometime during this time, he got married to our mother when he was about 19 and she, a mere 13. Both were acknowledged to be good looking. My father was very handsome and my mother quite beautiful. A few who look at me say that I have taken up mostly from my mother, and a bit after my father too. But I could never grow as tall as my father; neither in height nor in stature and I don’t think I would ever be either. When my father died, during the time of ‘Eulogy’ there were several guests suggesting that we should emulate our father and be like him. Sure, we can try to emulate him, but I swear none can be like our father. He was one unique man and there is not going to be another like him. Period!
Enamoured by the creative opportunities the film industry had, plagued by joblessness and saddled by the burden of raising a family, my father came to Madaraasu (Madras - now Chennai) in December 1955 with just Rs.2 in his pocket, to find his fortune there. He tried to survive by offering services in any field, but mostly related to cinema, as he nourished a desire to become a director one day. He did go up to becoming an associate director for a couple of films, but over a period he did not like the life of the people involved in the cinema so much so that he advised all his four children not to have anything to do with cinemas / films. He himself quit from active film work.
But while struggling to survive, he sang playback as a chorus singer. He acted in ‘extra roles’ as they were called those days and which today are referred to as ‘Junior Artistes’. Some paid in cash and some in food coupons in select restaurants and some with ‘rubber cheques' that bounced. In free times, he used to knit the guts (yes, real guts and not plastic as of today) onto badminton racquets, for almost a tuppence and never commensurate to his efforts and time. I am proud to say that I did acquire this art from my father.
During this time my mother was pregnant with their first offspring (myself) and eventually delivered. But my father who was staying in a bachelor’s room along with some seven more room mates and sharing a lunch for one, with the rest, that too only once a day, could neither come and see his first offspring nor could afford to bring his wife and kid to stay with him.
Having waited for quite sometime, one fine day, my mother landed herself and the child in Madaraasu and insisted on my father to find a place to live together. The struggle trebled for my father, but apparently so was his smile and joy on seeing me – A love and smile that he had for me till the last day of his and I am forever grateful to him for that affection, care and love.
Whether they had money to eat or not, both my parents ensured that I would not starve. Till date, fasting, is not my strong point.
He did not dream big and kept his wants limited. He just wanted to have a hunger and debt-free life, even if small, an own comfortable house and affordable education for his children. Even when he worked for the son of the Governor of Kerala, who went on to become a Vice President and eventually the President of this country and his son, for whom my father was working, a Member of Parliament from a constituency in Madhya Pradesh, my father never wanted to show off his proximity to power, never spread his weight around.
He never liked borrowing and tried to keep within his means. Slowly his hard work started paying off and he could buy a small plot of land and construct two rooms of 240 sq feet with plastering only on the inside and asbestos sheets for the roof. Some five years after, he added about another 200 sq feet of two more rooms and after another 5-6 years he constructed about another 240 sq feet of a room. Despite being closest to powers of the country, he was happy to have this small house which is more or less than 700 sq feet till date. And he never visited Delhi, not even once, before he died.
And when the lady, for whom he was instrumental in becoming an actress and a renowned one at that, became the chief minister, not once did he show interest to meet her or curry favour from her. He simply remained himself. No frills or fringes!
He could get into the special airplanes of the President of the country on several occasions (there were security arrangements alright but the threat of terrorism was unheard about in those days), but he himself flew only a couple of times in airplanes, just a couple of years before his demise and that too only when we insisted that he should really fly and experience flying. He never liked to travel in Air conditioned compartments in trains and always preferred travelling in the 3rd class now called 2nd class. While he used to get reserved travel facilities for his office colleagues, friends and their families, using his friendship with the railway authorities, he and his own family members had to travel only in the 3rd class and later 2nd class sleeper compartments with or without reserving them.
The greatest virtues he had were that he was always enthusiastic to learn new things, he himself being filled with ideas and solutions and generally a positive outlook.
He was multi-faceted and could do many things. He was very good at playing Carroms, Playing Cards and Badminton. He could swim. He could sing very well and play rhythmic instruments. He could knit wire on to badminton racquets,chairs and sofas which he did for our home regularly and even a few months before his demise. He could draw, paint and white wash the entire house.
The banister on the balcony of our house was done by him where he simply used a cement pipe carefully holed to hold the steel grill rods and filled the cement pipe with concrete so that the pipe will not break. All this, in one day; and just with the assistance of one helper. It’s a point of pride for us to show this piece of work to guests visiting our home.
Despite all these, his health was a matter of concern at frequent intervals. Only when he was on his death bed did a doctor surmise that he must have been suffering from some ‘Primary complex’ sort of an issue, right from his childhood, but which was never properly diagnosed.
He used to have gastric issues, digestive issues leading to issues like Jaundice. Yet, his disposition was always cheerful.
In July, 1971 he was electrocuted and despite people believing or not, he was stuck to a live wire for some 12-13 minutes and survived (for expanded reading on this, please refer to http://hemantha-kalam.blogspot.com/2014/08/hemantha-kalam-27-do-miracles-happen.html).
During 1979, he was diagnosed with 3rd level of Jaundice, but he survived.
In 1981, I took him on a first ride on my own scooter, when I was not fully conversant with the scooter. He did not blink an eye when I invited him for the ride. He only wanted to encourage. I hardly rode for a kilometer or more, when I raised the accelerator and the scooter shot of and rammed into an oncoming auto-rickshaw. My father was thrown onto the road and the front wheel of a bus stopped inches from his head. He survived.
In 2004, he had a heart stroke that required a by-pass surgical procedure not only to his heart but also to the carotid arteries taking blood to the brain and one of which was 93% blocked. The total surgery procedure took over 5 hours to be done. The surgeons gave us no guarantee. But he survived.
Sometime during 2007-2008 he had a stroke of Ischaemia, while brewing his coffee in the early morning and fell on to a burning gas stove that caused direct 3rd degree burning on the right side of his face, boiling milk poured on to his torso causing him 2nd degree burns and a bit of trickling of hot milk on to his lower parts causing 1st degree burns. A man who was tolerant to pain (a quality we are seeing today in my sister’s son) he cried out of unbearable pain he had due to the burns. He had to ward off mosquitoes and suffer the oozing burns for almost 6 months. Yet he survived.
In 2017, when he was hospitalised for the Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD) he had a massive heart and brain stroke and the entire hospital team attending on him, was a worried lot, as they could not venture on any surgical procedure due to his fragility and age. And when he was on ventilator for more than 4 days, even the physicians were skeptical of his recovery. He survived and could even talk in his normal voice after the ventilator was removed, which is considered as an interesting and a rare phenomenon, to say the least.
Whenever he was hospitalised, he became the darling of all the doctors, nurses and other staff that almost all looked after him as their own father or grand father depending on their age. After removing the ventilator, the nurses in the hospital took selfie photographs with him admiring him for his cooperation and ability to survive. He was a patient patient and very disciplined on his medical routine. He never missed his medicines and extremely organised, as he was with any activity he took interest in, concern to and associated with.
A person who lived simply, achieved steadily his simple dreams, lead a financial trouble-free retired life, kept himself engaged all the time and enjoying life as it came to him with that ‘enthusiastic twinkle’ in his eyes and a wonderful smile on his face, defied death on so many occasions, finally compromised to death due to ILD which several physicians could not identify at the initial or even early stages and by the time they did, it was too late. Perhaps he could have survived this too, but it appeared that he wanted to leave. What else can explain his doing ‘Praayopavesam’ (abstinence of all) in the final days – letting go.
I am grateful that I was touching his feet when he eased into the nether world and that I am his eldest son, bestowed with the privilege of doing his obsequies.
Yes, I miss you so much dad, as do every one in our family and in the colony, but I don’t need to remember you as you are not a memory. I am your remnant and you are in me, with me, for me, forever and ever till I meet you again. Loved you Dad and continue to love you.
I only hope that, as when you came to Madras when I was conceived, you are now gone to the netherworld to find a place for me, to beckon me soon and dad, I am ready to join you, again. Just take me. I am here and waiting.
But dad, one doubt! How would I be able to recognise you, among so many others, when I am there? You have found so many solutions in life. Please Dad, take me and show me this solution too.
Krutagjnatalu (Telugu), Nanri (Tamil), Dhanyavaadagalu (Kannada), Nanni (Malayalam), Dhanyavaad (Hindi), Dhanyosmi (Sanskrit), Thanks (English), Dhonyavaad (Bangla), Dhanyabad (Oriya and Nepalese), Gracias (Spanish), Grazie (Italian), Danke Schon (Deutsche), Merci (French), Obrigado (Portuguese), Shukraan (Arabic and Sudanese), Shukriya (Urdu), Sthoothiy (Sinhalese) Aw-koon (Khmer), Kawp Jai Lhai Lhai (Laotian), Kob Kun Krab (Thai), Asante (Kiswahili), Maraming Salamat sa Lahat (Pinoy-Tagalog-Filipino), Tack (Swedish), Fa'afetai (Samoan), Terima Kasih (Bahasa Indonesian) and Tenkyu (Tok Pisin of Papua New Guinea), Malo (Tongan), Vinaka Vaka Levu (Fijian),
Hemantha Kumar Pamarthy