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My father has had a big impact on my life because I considered him to be my mentor. Dad gave immense importance to studies and displeasure showed itself on his face when we bunked school or college or did badly and our grades fell. He never discriminated between girls and boys and when I started growing up and as a child gathers information from her surroundings, I had gathered that people preferred sons over daughters. So I went up to him and asked, “Do you feel deprived that you don’t have a son like your friends have?”
He had a deep crease in the centre of his forehead and when his gaze turned penetrating, the forehead crease deepened. He looked at me keenly and then answered, “People have lots of time to think of useless things. I do not have it and so I don’t think about it and I expect, you shouldn’t too.”
Since then, I have known my answer and it has remained with me till today. There is no difference between girls and boys and those who spend their precious time discriminating between the two are wasting it.
I was a questioning and a curious kid. When my father found out that I did not like Maths, he told me to drop it and continue my 11th and 12th grade in other subjects. I was extremely tense before my Maths paper in 10th grade and so he took leave and came to drop me for my exams. I was only 16 and yet I was surprised to see him waiting for me outside the examination Hall after both, my Algebra and Geometry papers.
I had selected Physics, Chemistry and Biology and Fisheries as a vocational course. Many times when I studied late at night, he remained awake reading. He never said that he was giving me company, staying awake but also never slept before me, all through my 12th grade.
Since we did not have Maths, many a time we had to rote learn many of our Physics equations and I got a little dissonant about the whole curriculum and it’s duality and lamented to him one day, “What is the point of mugging all this? We must understand what we are learning. They have to sort out the Physics curriculum to suit those who want to opt for life sciences.”
He said dryly, “So, you have a choice. Either you mug up all the Physics and get marks and enter the Medical college of your choice, become a doctor or you decide to change the system and do agitations and rallies and bring out a change in the education system. It is up to you.”
I amicably mugged it all and went into Medical college after getting 95/100 in Physics.
Our medical girls hostel was not ready when I got my admission because ours was just the 2nd batch, as it was a new Government Medical college. Father had suggested that I take admission in the Dental college, since it was an old college with all proper facilities and good faculty, but I was firm about my Medical ambitions and so he accepted my decision. Girls had to stay outside in rented rooms. There was an improper facility of drinking water and also food. We were not getting any breakfast and we had to wash our clothes and dishes We were not used to it since we were all from well to do Indian families and last few years had passed in only studying and being exempted from doing any house work. It was a difficult life suddenly with no proper library facility and also teachers, and so I did quite badly in Biochemistry in my first year.
I felt quite depressed since it was my first ever time to struggle. I felt doomed and good for nothing. In my perspective, I had let my parents down and I would give way to my tears off an on. It was once again at that point of time when I saw the softer side of him. He hugged me and said, “You feel bad and it’s okay. But do not cry. My heart breaks seeing you cry like this. Take it as a lesson and work hard to come out of it. I know that it was a very difficult phase for you, but it is not the end and times will change.”
Then I worked hard and got honours in Biochemistry. I think this fine tuning of the parents to be strict when they have to and yet embrace the child’s failure and weakness at her most vulnerable point in her life, gives the child great strength to face any challenge. I was lucky enough to have such a father and even after he has passed away, he remains my guiding light.
And so I can feel it when Toni Morrison says,
“You wait, longing to hear
Words of reason, love or play
To lash or lull you toward the hollow day”
Image via Pexels
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