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Being a Vegetable
July, 2003

I last spoke to my father on 7th Oct, 2002 on phone. I have been pleading with him to speak since then, at times almost shouting at him. But all my efforts have gone in vain; I have had not a single word coming out from him.

On 14th October, 2002, my father was involved in a dreadful accident that caused him to go into comma. Living so far away from home, I was always dreading something awful; and it happened that day.

My father was my superhero. I tried to see his qualities in men I met, mentally comparing them with him. He could do anything, well almost, from holding a lizard from its tail to driving to large distances. He could sum up large numbers on his fingertips in a jiffy and knew loads of history and politics.

Being the youngest, I was more attached to my father than my other siblings. I could rely on him for anything and everything. Whenever I had any problem, I would run to him. Most of the time, he would guide me through. Sometimes, we both sat with coins and I-Ching in our hand, to see what fate had in store for me.

On hearing about his accident, I rushed back home. He lay motionless on a ventilator in the hospital. After he was operated upon, he showed some signs of recovery. He couldn’t recognize anyone but I could hear his faint voice from the face mask he wore, praying all the time. However, two days after the operation, he had a cardiac arrest that left him paralyzed. He went into comma. He became an expressionless face with a blank look.

My father stayed in the intensive care for about four months. On doctor's advice, we arranged for a hospital bed and other equipment and brought him home. However, he kept developing all sorts of infections and had to be transferred back and forth to the hospital. Every time he went back to the hospital, my hopes of his getting well withered.

During my stay with my father during that period, I told him stories that I had so often heard from him – stories of Mulla Nasiruddin, Arabian Nights, Lord Buddha, Zen, and incidents in his life that he cleverly manipulated in his stories. I cajoled him to speak, to see photographs and movies on my laptop. Lying on his bed, he would sometimes look at the laptop screen as if he was watching it. I consulted several doctors but most of them were non-committal about what would happen. They felt he had turned into "a vegetable” – some said in so many words, others just twisted their words. Till date, I had just heard the phrase “being a vegetable”, now I experienced it.

I kissed my father daily on his cheek. One day, when I kept my cheek on his lips he kissed me back. I was dumbfounded; was not exactly sure if he had actually kissed. I kept my cheek again and there it was - he implanted a kiss again on my cheek. Since then, it became a ritual. My father can kiss. He writhes in pain, raising his head and looking around as if asking for help. He cries at times. Vegetables don’t. I refute what the doctors say. He is my father, not a vegetable.

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