“It’s truly sad that Mr Fernandez is not here with us. But we have to remember that we are all god’s children and he will give us the strength to face this suffering. Let us all pray for his soul”, said the priest. As silence reverberated around the room came the question they all dreaded.
“Would anyone like to say a few words?”
The crowd started murmuring and an air of discomfort hung around the air. The company memorial for their founder, George Fernandez, was going just as expected. Somewhere someone muttered, “Who’d want to talk about that cold, bitter man”. It was loud enough for everyone to hear. Due to the forced attendance by the company, the employees were supposed to sit still and pay their respects. But it wasn’t lost on the board members that everyone present there agreed with that.
22 December, 2013:
“Your deadline was till Friday. What makes you think I’ll extend it?”, scowled Fernandez.
“Sir, my sister is getting married on Sunday. I had to get the arrangements done. Please sir, I’ll have it on your desk by tomorrow morning”, pleaded siddharth.
“Your personal life is your goddamn problem. If I don’t have the report in two hours, you’re fired. Get out of my office now!”, Fernandez replied.
Frustrated, Siddharth walked out of the office. “Fu**ing Bast**rd”, he muttered under his breath.
Glad that the ceremony was over, everyone ate the delicious food and went on with their lives and their daily work.
“Ferny my boy! What is that you are hiding?”, asked Roy mischievously. He knew that the ever-sullen George Fernandez had recently fallen head over heels in love with Trisha, the college nerd and was trying to let her know about his feelings. At that instant, he was trying desperately to pen his thoughts down in a way which wouldn’t offend her but at the same time, get her attention.
“Ooh ooh baby, be mine!” cried the boys in the dorm as they snatched the letter and passed it around.
“Guys! It’s private. Give it back”, yelled George, only to be met with more laughter.
Soon his anger turned into frantic pleading as the contents of the letter started being read out loud.
I’m no poet but if I could express in words how much I admire you, I’d run out of them. Your brain speaks wonder but your soul is more beautiful. I don’t expect anything in return but I just wanted you to know that you are truly very special to me.
Laughter resonated in the room as the letter was read out. George’s face had turned red in embarrassment. He knew he was going to be the butt of their jokes for the next coming months. Maybe years.
“Forget it buddy! You’re not going to get laid”, said Roy who had almost fallen down laughing. Fernandez grabbed his letter and walked out of the room.
Two days later, he put the letter in Trisha’s locker and the next day, they started dating. Despite the jokes, they all hooted for him as he entered the dorm that night. Everybody was happy for their friend.
“Trisha! For god’s sake, sit down.” George was exasperated. His pregnant wife would just not listen to him. She kept doing some or the other work despite him having told her not to for just about a million times.
“Georgy I’m fine! You worry way too much”, said Trisha frowning.
George refused to give up and decided to take matters in his own hands. He picked his wife up and grinned over her protests as he placed her on the bed and had her tucked in the blanket. He did a little victory dance as he went to get her soup. Trisha couldn’t help smiling as her husband walked out of the room.
George paced outside the hospital room nervously. Every few minutes he’d sit, bite his nails and then get up to hover around the room again. Will it be a boy or a girl? He kept wondering. In the first half an hour, he’d already decided what to get his daughter for her eighteenth birthday and how he’d make her like Pink Floyd by making her listen to them all the time. He decided that if he had a son, he’d play ball with him and make him a Michael Jordan fan.
After about an hour, he started to get worried.
Three hours later, when the doctor came out he ran to her expectantly.
“Doctor, how is she? Is it a boy or a girl??”
Dr. Anita’s tried to avert her eyes .
“I’m really sorry Mr Fernandez. There were some complications in Trisha’s surgery. We tried to save them but we couldn’t. I’m so sorry.”
George just stood there as the doctor walked away. He stared into the room, unable to comprehend what had just happened. Everything seemed to crumble away.
“You get outtttt of of m my w way”. A slurring George was found lying on the road, shouting at everyone who crossed by. People sighed in disapproval and disgust as they walked past. Some pitied him.
That night George stumbled into another dark alley, just like the night before. He stumbled on to the pavement, hazy in his thoughts. As the night became clearer and fractions of his mind came to life again, more piercing was the shattering sound in his head. As a man who was once proud, he simply didn’t care anymore. He cried and cried that night, like all the nights before.
He was lost in the viscous cycle of his memories.
Eventually, as he ran out of money and as the year came to an end, he stumbled into an alcoholics anonymous meeting.
“Hi, my name is George Fernandez and I’m an alcoholic”.
“Hi George!”, came the echo.
Over months this ritual had become a familiar feeling in his life. Over the echoes of people crying and talking about their pain, their fears, he had realized a lot of his own. Things he was scared to face and things he didn’t have the strength to deal with then. It took time, a lot of time. But he slowly started healing. Time, they say, is a great healer of wounds.
He realized they were right.
Since then he came regularly to the meetings, even though he didn’t need them anymore. He knew he had to give back to the society that helped him get back on his feet. In their moments of weakness, he learned the profound truth of men. That we are but just human.
22 December, 2013:
George heard his employee call him a bast**d as he closed the door behind him. He smiled.
11 years ago, he had begun to pick pieces of his life back and sew them together. He had started with his dream company, which he had named ‘The Healers’. It was a string of therapeutic clinics across the country. It included everything from therapy, to group sessions to job hunting. It basically helped people get on with their life, with a special section for runaway kids in abuse situations which was free. Started as a small clinic, it had gone on to expand to 13 clinics in the country.
George remembered the times where he had not stepped away from the office for as long as 3 days. It was his baby, his life’s work.
He knew he was being hard on siddharth but experience had led him to believe that success is born out of hardship.
Siddharth gave the report six hours later. He was not fired.
At the far edge of the city, stood an old building. Dusk was beginning to set in as people started gathering in the biggest room of that building. It was a crowded room. Candles were lit everywhere and each person standing there held a small candle in their hands. At the backdrop, a soft melody was going on. The famous “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen.
It’s not a voice you hear at night. It’s not somebody who’s seen the light. It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.
“My friends, today we have gathered here to celebrate the life of George Fernandez. The man who came here every night after his work for an AA meeting. The man who was always ready to help. The man who inspired us. We are here to mourn his loss but more than that…more than that, we are here to celebrate the man he was.”, Roy’s voice cracked as a single tear streaked his cheek. He walked towards George’s photo and kept his candle in front.
“I met George in this very room. I was hurting so bad and he helped me see the ray of light in the utter darkness that surrounded me”……
“I met George when I went to ‘The Healers’ centre. I’d lost everything. He gave me my life back”……
“I met George in college. This one time he attempted to make an omelette. He broke the egg and that idiot dropped it on the floor. AND on top of that, he slipped on that and fell on his ass!”……
As everyone continued with their stories, people cried and people laughed. They remembered him for his faults and accepted him. They remembered him in his glory and admired him. They remembered him as the man many people didn’t know him as. As the man beneath the surface.
And even though it went all wrong, I’ll stand before the Lord of Song with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah. And so went on the song..