Internet always offers you hope, and sometimes the exact opinion you wanted to hear. All you need to do is type precise words that will throw up just the results you want to see. You are bound to find an answer for all your questions, and Google is God. How I wish it were true.
Back in Kochi, on the 27th of August 2008, I decided to seek alternative ways of medication. Allopathy, which Acchan had practised religiously for 46 years, had nothing more to offer. The night we landed, I started reading on alternative cures for cancer online. A simple search threw up thousands of results. That got me excited. There was still hope.
I ordered e-books, called up doctors and practitioners across the globe. Surprisingly, they were more than willing to listen, offer help, and were very compassionate. They all said that he could be cured, with the right alternative medication. Choices were many. You have every branch of medicine which offered a cure for all forms of cancer. There are testimonials all over the net, very inspiring, from cancer survivors.
Acchan had only one sibling, a sister who was younger to him by nine years. The very next day my Aunt and I drove down to Ottapalam some 120 kilometers from Kochi, to meet a renowned practitioner of Ayurveda, who also happened to be a monk.
I am not a religious person, and I’ve always felt that a thinking man should never take refuge in religion or God. Having studied in Maharajas College, I met a lot of Communist thinkers, who helped convince me that there was no God. I was very comfortable, and I am still very comfortable with Atheism.
But the end of August and the beginning of September were trying times. Even a hardened soul like mine was ready to seek asylum with God. I was prepared to visit a temple, church, or any other home of God; do poojas or any other rituals however nonsensical it might seem.
In the past sixteen years, I had been to a temple just five times, and was never one to pray or seek blessings. Once for my wedding, once on a vacation, and thrice for various ceremonies for Ammu, my daughter. Given a choice, I would not have ventured to any of these homes of Gods.
Swamy Nirmalananda Giri was, however, a revelation. He never talks of God or Hinduism or the scriptures. His knowledge of medicine is impeccable having enrolled for an MBBS course before giving it up. He agreed to come with us and see Acchan. Through the journey my admiration for Swamy grew, as he explained how Ayurveda can be used to treat cancer, with the precision of a scientist.
That evening he met Acchan and said there was still hope. He explained in detail what was happening to Acchan’s body, and how by using Ayurveda he could kill the tumour. In fact, some of the doctors who had assembled at home, primarily to meet Acchan were impressed.
However, Acchan chickened out from trying the rigorous treatment which he suggested, and only agreed for palliative care.
The next few days my practical knowledge of botany improved. I was scurrying across the state getting leaves and plants for Acchan’s treatment. I met Swamy again who started making new compounds that could help Acchan fight cancer. Unfortunately, Acchan had given up the fight the day he was diagnosed.
His condition started worsening. One night he asked for me, and explained to me in his own inimitable manner, what exactly was happening to his body, and what we may see over the next few days. He was groping for medical terms, and was having difficulty remembering facts. He was disoriented. He said he was having hallucinations and was heading for a hepatobiliary coma. He told me that he did not want any visitors, and did not want anyone to see him in his last days. He wanted everyone to remember him as a healthy man.
I believe it was the 5th of September when we decided to admit him to a hospital. He had lost most of his senses, and was very weak by then.
Doctors told me that there was no hope now, and the the end was imminent. It could be just a few days. His friends from across the globe started calling him up. Dr. Venu, his classmate and best friend from the US, used to call regularly and cry, and make us also cry.
Acchan used to keep himself, prim and proper. Though he had a large paunch, he shaved every day, coloured his hair jet black and always looked a few years younger. An unattended toiletry of nearly two weeks meant that his real age started showing up.
It’s said that an astrologer who wrote Acchan’s horoscope on his birth had predicted that he would die on the fourth month after his 69th birthday. Born on May 21st 1939, he had turned 69 in May 2008. Amma tells me that he was always very scared of the harbinger of death, and talked about it once in a while. I never knew him as a superstitious person, but he was.
On September 12th, 2008, in the early morning he passed away rather peacefully. He had dropped into a full coma two days back. Amma and I watched him breathe his last.
It was on Thiruvonam (the Main Onam) day.
Ironically, Onam was the only festival which I really connected to. I hate most festivals for many reasons, which I would discuss in a separate post. Now I know there cannot be another Onam which I can celebrate and the day will always remain sombre.
We had a huge crowd by the time we came back home with his body. Family, friends, peers, patients, and absolute strangers had flocked in.
Through the day and the next few weeks, people of all walks of life, told me how he had touched their life as a doctor, a friend, and sometimes as a fellow passenger on a bus or a ferry!
What startled me was it included just about everyone from every walk of life. There were fishermen, labourers, corporate honchos, teachers, nurses, and businessmen. Their stories kept giving me new insights to his life, something I never knew as a son.
That’s when it dawned upon me that my father was indeed a very special man.
R.I.P Dr. K. Sivadas.
Your son really loved you.
P. S. I am sure some of my readers who knew Acchan very well might wonder why I chose to write these posts three years after his death. The truth is that I have wanted to write it on several occasions, but was simply too overwhelmed. They say time is a healer; the pain is now less intense and I hope I can be more objective in recalling the past.