top of page
Mukti Bhavan.jpg
The Final Check-in
By Chandrika R Krishnan

 
When a dearly loved father wants to check into Mukti Bhavan, his daughter is devastated. 

He told her when they were having their afternoon tea, sitting on the balcony of the tiny apartment overlooking more buildings.  He was clear on what he wanted. He knew and was prepared to hold his own for the argument that would follow. The disagreement had raged on between the father and daughter for the last few months. 

 

“Dad, you are being impractical and morbid! Who would want to go to some unknown place to die?”  She had fumed. “Moreover, you are not giving a chance to the doctor to cure you. Where will we go, Pa, in case of an emergency?” She ended up pleading.

 

She sat watching him wipe his spectacles, exactly three times, with the tiny micro-fiber and closing the spectacle case with a decided click before speaking to her. Though she was on the verge of an apoplectic fit, she held her words for she knew her father could not be hurried.

 

He looked up, his eyes both gentle and firm as they looked straight at her. “Please allow me to do what I believe in, please. You heard the doctor, right?”

 

“Yes, I did. But he is no God,” she countered.  She tried till the date of the journey to convince him of the futility of his beliefs. But, at eighty-five, he was firm, and reiterated that she could have her new-age beliefs, but he should be allowed to have his more traditional thoughts and staunch faith in clearing his Karmic account.

 

So, here they were still at odds with one another, but checking into Mukti Bhawan at Kashi. It was the month of March, and the city was aflame with Gulmuhur. The russet of the flowers was in stark contradiction to the solemnity of the occasion as he ‘checked-in’ for the final time. She stood by his side, helpless. Like most from her generation, she was caught in the eternal conundrum of 'to believe or not to.' Growing up in a house that valued tradition, she often felt at odds with the more liberal lessons learned in the school. Yet wasn't she a witness to three decades of remission of her father's rather virulent cancer, much to the oncologist's amazement? His faith that his end wasn’t anytime soon, he had even skipped the annual screening after the initial years of remission. Now, that the rogue cells had come back with a vengeance and had enveloped most of his organs, he was more than willing to embrace death and wanted the end to be in Varanasi.

 

"My end is near," he kept saying, more so after her mother's demise. Moreover, he believed that dying here would release him from the eternal cycle of birth and death. Hence, this final journey to the holy city on the banks of the river Ganges for achieving Moksha.

 

 It was late evening. Father and daughter sat beside each other, watching the sky alight with the colors of the setting sun and transferring the same to the mighty Ganges River. A stray red and orange flower left its moorings to land on her lap. She held it up, all too aware of its transient beauty. She was overcome with emotions, for her father had given rather detailed instructions on how he wanted his body to be disposed of after his demise. Now, she looked up, unchecked tears flowing down her cheeks. He held his hand for the flower and looked up at the tree laden with flowers. “Even such a bright flower needed the company of others to shine the brightest," he murmured.

 

She turned to him and said fiercely, knowing very well what her father meant by the random statement, “Pa, I am happier alone and I could manage because of you and Ma. I couldn’t take a risk of a second chance because unfortunately, it doesn’t come with a guarantee. I am happier…” after a pause, she added with a soft laugh, “despite not being able to convince you!”

 

He turned to look at her, his eyes boring into hers. "You are a loving daughter and a wonderful person. And regarding me, life has to end, and don't ever feel you haven't done enough."

 

That was so like him. He had taught her all that she knew and more. He stood by her at all times through her tumultuous and short-lived marriage, which ended badly and in tears. He was with her when she battled depression until she overcame the dark phase stronger than ever before. 

 

She leaned gingerly onto the man who would always be her hero. Maybe, it would be for one last time, but she felt like a child hearing his steady heartbeat against her palm and treasured the moment as dusk fell and the lights from the banks twinkled in the water.

Writer's Note: Mukti Bhawan in Varanasi is as real as it gets. People who are in their final stages of life check-in ready to give up their mortal bodies. This story is fictional based on a setting that is all too actual.  The protagonist and his daughter are not quite on the same page, yet she accompanies her father for what could be his last wish- that is to achieve Moksha.  There is a widespread belief that dying in Varanasi would release human beings from this cycle of life and death. 

Image by Thomas Griggs

Chandrika R Krishnan, a Bengaluru-based writer and educationist, likes all things beginning with a ‘T’ - talking, teaching, tales, and tea. A people person and a wordsmith, she weaves fiction and dispenses ‘gyaan’ alike to the unsuspecting audience.  Her 250+ odd articles, poems, and stories have found a home in both print and online media in the likes of Reedsy, Khabar, New Woman, and Good Housekeeping India besides being long-listed in the Australian Writers’ center and short-listed in Strands International Fiction contest. She is a published author, and her collection of flash fiction titled- vignettes- a slice of life. is available on Amazon along with her other anthologies. To know more visit @ https://chandrikarkrishnan.com/

bottom of page