Moon River must have been around 72 years old when she passed away on November 5, 2019, in a hotel room at Mumbai, awaiting treatment to her sickness. She had been an exceptionally sharp, witty and beautiful woman, inherently a thinker by her natural disposition. Coming from a family of beautiful people, she was the youngest of the four children born to her parents. Like her older siblings, she too could have joined the film industry as a lead actor. She was intelligent and could do anything that she laid her hands on. She was a good people manager.
Moon River was closely related to the author but, due to some unfortunate and sad circumstances, the news of her death did not reach him until Sept 27, 2021, a little shy of two years after she had passed on. To respect her dying wish, her immediate family did not announce her departure to any of their relatives; she had wished to die unwept, unmourned.
Unlike Flower, the author’s other relative who passed on suddenly in early Sept 2021, Moon River had enjoyed plenty of love and attention from her parents and siblings, despite her father dying young when she was still a teenager. In a beautiful wedding, she had married Mr King, a good-looking, handsome and well-educated gentleman of her own choice, who loved her deeply until her end. Her caring children too had loved her immensely. But despite all the love she had received, her world had not been perfect. Unlike Flower, she had suffered due to the actions of some of her relatives.
Moon River and her immediate family were uprooted from Kashmir in 1990. After living at different places in northern part of India, the family finally settled in Delhi. On the surface, her world should have settled well but, deeper down, she had repeatedly felt hurt by mean and sadistic actions of some of her relatives who she believed badmouthed her surreptitiously.
Since Dec 2019, the author was intrigued by a sudden change in the mannerism of Mr King’s communication. Since the start of the pandemic, the author wondered about the welfare of Moon River and her family but there was no way of knowing it, as Mr King suddenly stopped taking calls. His response to messages would be short, detached and insipid, without much information. Finally, on Sept 27, 2021, the author sent him the following message, which obviously disarmed him, leading to a painful conversation that illustrates Moon River’s life and death.
“Salutations, Sir! There is something that has intrigued me for quite some time now. I am not sure if you will respond to my query. It would be good if you would respond and clarify, so that we both know that we have not blundered in our judgement or decisions.
Why did your communication change suddenly in the past two years? What happened?
I am not very sure if we’ll ever meet in this lifetime or if I can ever return to India to meet anyone of you. We humans are passing through very lean times. Our international travel restrictions may prolong indefinitely. Do respond please and don’t leave me to draw any wrong conclusion. This is my last request. I’ll never bother you again. Regards”
Mr King replied:
“Dear, now I feel there is a well-wisher who cares for me and my family.
Many unfortunate incidents happened in my life in last few years, which changed my behaviour and the attitude. As you know, some of my relatives played mischievous roles in disturbing my life and the married life of my children. They targeted my wife and my children so that we should not progress or prosper. They made my life hell. They would shed crocodile tears in front of our other relatives (while badmouthing us), which could move anyone’s heart. It was in this context that my wife phoned your father (in 2018), urging him to remain careful against the negative influence of these mischievous people, unfortunately, which resulted in no phone calls from him for a year. At the end of 2018, my wife suffered from liver cirrhosis.
I tried my best and got her checked by reputed liver specialists at Max, Fortis, Apollo and Narayana hospitals. Finally, Dr Kernel (name changed), a liver transplant specialist, advised that liver transplant was only treatment that could save her life. My son immediately arrived from overseas and offered to donate a part of his liver but, unfortunately, his liver was found to be unsuitable. Thereafter, my son and I looked for a suitable donor in Delhi, Bangalore, Jaipur and many parts of India, but there was no success. In the meantime, she was reduced to skeleton. One of the doctors then advised us to go for stem-therapy till a donor could be found.
Four sessions of stem-therapy had to be conducted at monthly intervals. I paid for all four sessions upfront. However, only two sessions of stem-therapy were done, in September and October 2019, as her condition deteriorated further. We rushed her to Mumbai for more specialist consultations. Unfortunately, however, she breathed her last in a hotel room even before she could see a doctor there. My world suddenly turned upside down. Before closing her eyes, she took a word from me that her death must not be disclosed to any of our relatives. She wanted to die unwept and unsung. I had to uphold my last promise to her. She had been deeply heartbroken and devastated by the wrongful actions and reactions of her relatives. They did not appreciate her straight-forwardness and the love that she tried to give to everyone. She was repeatedly badmouthed.”
Completely dumbstruck and flabbergasted, the author asked: “When did she pass away? Why did you never tell me? From your withdrawn behaviour, I had suspected something like this may have happened about a year ago.”
Mr King responded: “She passed away in November 2019. How did you suspect?”
The author replied: “I don’t know how but I felt something missing in my world. My last visit to India was towards the end of November 2019. And then, within a few months, the world was ravaged by the pandemic and I could not travel.”
That was the end of a very painful and difficult written communication between the two, which may have helped to thaw an otherwise temporarily frozen relationship and also kick-started a more normal phone conversation between the two.
Moon River may have wanted to depart unsung or unwept but she has continued to live in the hearts and fond memories of many people who loved and respected her. She must be resting in peace. She was a good person, a good wife, a good sister, a good mother and a good daughter. Undoubtedly, she did not deserve to be a victim of vicious slander and vilification by some people who meant nothing but harm, unhappiness and hurt for her.
The author offers this piece as his fond homage to Moon River. She will not be forgotten.
Note: The author may have written this quick eulogy to temporarily relieve him of a sudden shock and the associated pain but he expects it will take him a long time to reconcile with the loss. He regrets not being informed by Mr King in time, albeit in confidence, as he could have immediately flown overseas and attended her funeral in India, standing by her immediate family in their hour of deep grief. Completely oblivious to his loss, he had visited India a couple of weeks after her demise to attend a family wedding and also launch his new book, A Bouquet of Random Thoughts.