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My father was an ordinary man with simple dreams and prepared us for the life ahead. No matter how tough the going was, “it’s not the end of the world”, he would softly say.
My father was an ordinary man with simple dreams, and prepared us for the life ahead. No matter how tough the going was, he would say, “it’s not the end of the world!”
My father was an ordinary man. He had ordinary hopes, dreams and fears.
Baba grew up in a typical North Calcutta business household and did not attend school till he was nine. He did his engineering from IIT Kharagpur and went on for higher studies to Glasgow University. That too was not so common those days.
He returned to Calcutta sometime in the early sixties after his first wife left him for another man, and took up service as a civil engineer with CESC. His family (most of which was extended family) was up in arms about this. As in those days, boys from well to do old business families did not work in a job somewhere (the singular reason for the destruction of most old Bengali business and zamindari families in Bengal!) or divorce, for that matter…
Anyway Baba was not interested in the family business or their opinions. He was supported by his father, who, however, told him to leave home, go through with the divorce, stay somewhere in South Calcutta and follow his heart. So that’s what he did.
Baba married my mother in 1967 despite a lot of odds (primarily because she was Christian) from various family members, but as usual he had it his way.
Baba loved his work. When I was young I sometimes accompanied him to the work sites and power stations, and I remember my intense fascination with the coal chutes which to me were like gigantic slides.
My father was a gregarious happy man who loved life and living, and gave of himself just as he gave of his wealth. We often had unexpected guests for dinner and there was always laughter and warmth resonating in the house. He always found time to be there when we needed him and made it a point to share in our successes and achievements.
He was there for every school play, every prize distribution and school sports that I ever took part in. My father never hit us or shouted at us. One look was enough. He tried to instil in us the virtues of honesty, integrity and responsibility. He gave us the values and set us free. And if he asked me to do something, I dared not disobey.
My father did not win any accolades, never made the headlines. His picture never appeared in the papers, his name will not appear in history books. He was the common man who dreams of a home and a family to share it with. He was the man driving down to work each morning. He was the quiet man crossing the road early in the morning returning from his walk. The only uncommon things he had were his passion for yachting and surfing.
Today I feel so proud, when people who knew him (and they are many and from all walks of life, be it a carpenter, a gardener, a CEO, a colleague, or friend or relative or just a mere acquaintance) always have a kind word for him, some happy memory to share…..It surprises me that even after all these years they speak of him with love and affection. Otherwise, as I was saying, he was just the man next door, the ordinary man who took his family out for holidays, struggled to make ends meet sometimes, neatly organised his life so that should anything happen to him, his family would not have to suffer.
In all respects he was very ordinary… if you passed him on the road, you probably would not even turn to look, a straightforward common man who was suddenly, cruelly snatched from his family at 59 by a rather common disease called cancer.
Yet to me my father is an extraordinary man, he is my hero.
He shielded us from grief, kept us safe and warm, and gave me the security of loving arms to cry in. No matter how tough the going was, “it’s not the end of the world,” he would softly say.
Growing up, we had our share of troubles, and he dealt with them. Like when that cousin of his visited us at home (when Baba was not in) and tried to chat me up, he is the one who returned home and kicked him out of the house (I never saw that man again). Same for a colleague of his.
When I wanted to do law, he was upset (he had hoped I would follow his footsteps), but then whole-heartedly supported my decision.
When I was due to leave for college in far-away Pune to a college that no one had heard of, and the entire extended family was abusing him for letting me go, he stood up for me and told me to follow my heart.
When I was sick he’d sit by my side all night and never complain.
I accompanied him to cremations and funerals, even while everyone complained that young girls are not meant to go to these places. I learned about grief first-hand; I learnt that grown men have feelings, they too can shed a tear, and that it is alright to do so.
Even when he was dying and the pain coursed through his veins and burst forth from his eyes, when he saw me, he managed a smile.
In those days ‘feminism’ was not a common term; we barely heard it, much less knew what it meant. But today I recognise my father for what he was: a feminist at heart.
When I was born, a second daughter, he was elated. He did not care that I was wasn’t a boy although there were relatives who sighed and looked away. He distributed sweets just as he had when my sister was born although there were people who wondered why… don’t forget this was in 1970, when not having a son was even more of a disappointment to the family, and that’s putting it lightly!
I distinctly remember when he lay dying, one cousin of mine visited and after a lot of humming and hawing suggested to my father that my father should write away all his ancestral property in his (the cousin’s) name so that he could ‘look after’ my mother and us two girls, since we were all female and therefore helpless! My father pointed at me, said I would do whatever was needed, and basically told him to f*** off.
I never saw that particular relative again either. But I think that was one of the proudest moments of my life.
Yes, my father lives forever in my heart, and each day I am grateful that I had him for my father and nobody else.
In my teenage years, I had one very common intent: to be different. And I always thought that nobody understood me (how terribly ordinary). During those troubled times when everyone agreed that I was insolent and ‘difficult’, my father faced my tantrums, alternatively, with indulgence and acceptance. As a result, I never could shut him out…no matter what.
For he never judged me and always had faith that I would turn out right, but that faith also carries with it a lot of responsibility. I did not believe it myself; even now sometimes I feel I have screwed up big time… but I think of him and then do what needs to be done.
I constantly try to live up to the expectations of the man, imitate him, be like him. In essence, be someone he would be proud of.
Today, as I look back on my life, 29 long years after I lost my father, I realise one thing: I have made mistakes, I have had my share of failures and disappointments and grief, but I stand up again and again. And the strength to do that stems from my father and for that I shall always be proud.
After all, it is not the end of the world.
Image source: Bayri from Getty Images Free for Canva Pro, and the author’s personal pic
A mother, a lawyer and a poet, living life as if it's real. read more...
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