Srimati Lal reveals how her late father P Lal still lights up her life
Love, like a Flower,
Has roots that reach
Beyond fragrance: beyond power
Of loving speech.
—from Love's The First, by P Lal
Our bodily life on earth is merely a temporary transit-lounge towards a far more magical destination: Eternal Life. My father's departure from his physical body proved to me the truth of this phenomenon. On 3 November 2010, my illustrious father, the literary genius P Lal, decided to depart quietly from all physical suffering and keep his heavenly appointment instead with his old friend 'Vyasa Deva', the great sage-poet of the epic Mahabharata, to whose transcreation my Baba had dedicated his entire life.
And what has ensued since then, in my own life on earth, are a remarkable series of 'visitations from Baba'—regular 'visits' and amazing communications on the 3rd dawn of every month—some of which I have chronicled in detail in my book, Flowers for My Father (2011), an illustrated anthology.
Nobody can ever replace my father and, wonderfully, nobody need bother to even try. Baba's utter originality, multifaceted talents and charisma are powerfully with me; I feel lucky to have picked up a little bit of his artistry and flair by carefully observing him with awe and wonderment for decades.
My father was a hero and a true Zen-warrior in life, if ever there was one. As the founder of the Indo-Anglian Literary Movement, he published the first work of every writer of repute, from Kamala Das to Keki Daruwalla and Vikram Seth, through his independent publishing house, Writers Workshop, which he set up from his Kolkata residence. Besides being a brilliant poet, publisher, literary teacher, transcreator of the epics, a truly remarkable prose-writer, and an international cultural emissary, Baba was also uniquely artistic. He was the first to bind Indian literary volumes in hand-spun khadi sari-cloth in jewel colours, with their titles and tracts emblazoned in gold dust with his own fabulous calligraphy in Sanskrit alongside English.
A tall, extremely handsome, stylish man with a mischievous smile and an incredible sense of humour, Baba was as much of a style icon and role model for the youth as he was a Renaissance literary giant. He lived life to the fullest and fought every battle on his own Kurukshetra, with steely will power and stoic determination.
In 1989, at the age of 60, my father faced a near-fatal illness at the reputed Toronto Harbourfront International Literary Festival in northern USA; a sudden affliction that caused him excruciating pain. He required two emergency surgeries and a painful colostomy, remaining in a semi-comatose state of near-death experience for weeks. But baffling advanced medical science with his sheer will-power and stamina, he recovered to fly home and continue, undaunted, with his literary mission. In his magnum opus, Lessons, written soon after his return to India, he has described in dramatic detail his return to mortal life.