Dr. Nachiar Thondaman
(Dr. Nachiar Thondaman working in a middle-eastern country is the eldest daughter of CWC Leader and Sri Lankan Cabinet Minister Arumugan Thondaman who passed away on May 26th 2020. She arrived in Colombo days ago but is undergoing quarantine isolation in accordance with anti-COVID health procedures.Unable to participate in her Father’s funeral proceedings, Dr. Nachiar took to the pen and wrote down her random thoughts as a letter to him in a bid to cope with her personal tragedy. By doing so, she has revealed the softer side of Arumugan who has a tough strong man image due to his style of politics. A part of this letter was read out by her brother Jeevan at Thondaman’s funeral. The Daughter’s letter to her Father is published here in full)
How are you doing? It has been days since I got that dreaded call and found out that you had left us. After hours of travel and endless tears, I eagerly reached home only to be quarantined. Every day I see what this disease can do, and how many lives it has taken, however my irrational anger is deafened by my duty as a doctor.
I believe we have to do all that it takes to get through this as a nation and I applaud the government for its efforts to contain this pandemic. Although, as a daughter who has just lost her precious father, I am angered. I want to be with you now but I am forced to contain my grief behind a mask and four walls. I battle this out only to find that there is no correct answer. I should do what is right and that is my duty. I know you agree with me.
I was annoyed when you were a stereotypical father who expected his eldest daughter to become a doctor. I fought with you several times when I had consecutive night shifts and couldn’t meet you due to the same and missed out on multiple family gatherings. Being a young and inexperienced intern at that time, I blamed it all on you.
As I grew, I met my second love – Emergency Medicine, but my first love is of course your son-in law, who is grieving by himself miles away. The special bond that you both shared irked me because I didn’t want my husband to be as close to you as I was. I have to tone down on this possessiveness. I will save that story for another day.
I began to love working in Emergency Medicine and I was blessed with wonderful mentors. The roles had reversed now and you were saying “See Nachi, this is all because I made you study medicine”.
Yes, you did dad, you already saw the purpose of my life. All the insignificant fights we have had are meaningless now. I realize now what an opportunity you have given me to help this world at this critical time.
I read articles on your impressive political career and the strong figure that you were. Growing up in boarding schools didn’t give us the opportunity to spend as much time with you as we would have liked, but you never let us feel that void.
I also want people to know how much you enjoyed going to amusement parks with us as we nervously watched you go on the roller coasters like an excited child. You celebrated all our birthdays like it was an annual festival so much so that our 6th grade friends still speak about it. You gave us a childhood that was unforgettable. As we grew from being kids to teenagers you went from father to friend. You always said “Nachi, there is only a 20-year gap between us (he had me when he was 21).
Also when I announced I was pregnant with Maya, my first born, I will never forget your reaction- “Nachi I’m not ready to be a grandfather yet! “But what a loving and wonderful grandfather you were.
I miss your laughter the most. You laughed at your own jokes and would repeat it 3 times until we laughed and gave you the approval that it was humorous.
Father, you were the mountain that shielded me from this harsh world.Where do I look for the strength to get through your passing?
I am afraid to answer calls from friends and family and grieve your loss. It is suddenly all too real.
My heart longs to be around you, touch you and hold your cold hands as I see you lying there motionless in every picture. I get scared of the people coming in large numbers to pay their respects to you because of the Pandemic we are facing and constantly message my siblings to prevent large crowds gathering as it may pose a health hazard. I wonder how my little brother and sister are coping without me but I live in the faith that you and my “Aiyah” (great grandfather) are watching over them. I wonder if you can hear my cries and know that I want to make peace with you? I will let you go only when I can.
I feel your presence with every waking day and I am trying hard to process your absence one day at a time. I want to hold you tight and tell you I will take care of everything from this moment. Please sleep peacefully dear father and don’t worry about a thing anymore. You deserve to finally rest. You have worked harder than anybody I know. I will love you forever.
I hope you don’t have to wear a mask to wherever you are going because I know you would have hated it.
Nachiar Your favourite child (Its true!)