“Caw!” said the Crow,
“Welcome! Good morning!” said Dad, as he got up to feed his pets- A crow and squirrel- some bread, and have his first smoke of the day.
Enjoying my morning cup of coffee, I smiled at the sight of My Dad enjoying life’s small pleasures. Mom joined me watching him, and we both smiled. Her eyes welled up with tears as she remembered how he woke her up with a hot cup of tea the previous day, and we both feel grateful to see him smile again. Though not fully, he had recovered . Three months back, our knight in shining armor had a severe attack of erythroderma , leading to his hospitalization and we were both really scared to death of losing the man we both loved the most. That period was when I really realized how the three of us – Mom, Dad, and me – completed one another.
I call him our knight in shining armor because he’s much more than a soldier to us both – Me and Mom . Not only has he stood up for us when required, but he has also taught us how to stand up for ourselves. Unlike most other men of his time, he’s a man who, after marrying a woman who was a typical tamilian orthodox Brahmin housewife , turned her into an independent working woman who today can speak five languages. A housewife who only knew the Tamil and English languages then, today knows how to speak Kannada, Hindi, Butler Bengali, English and Tamil languages now. A woman who wasn’t allowed to work when she was single, living with her mother and brothers is today a retired teacher of deaf children. A woman who didn’t know how to even book a railway ticket today can travel anywhere on her own. This, according to her, would not have been possible without my Dad’s support.
My father is our pillar of strength. He is well known amongst our relatives and friends to be a patient man who respects his elders, and take life’s failures in his stride with a smile. To be frank, he’s much more to me than just a father to me. He is my best friend, my first love, and my confidante. Well yeah, we do have our fights and disagreements, but he’s taught me how to live life independently, take my own decisions, be positive always, and most importantly, be grateful for what life is, rather than complain about what it could have been.
When I turned four and started going to school, my Mother, a housewife back then, got a job opportunity to start teaching in a school for deaf children. We lived with my grandparents back then, who got insecure about us moving away if she became financially secure. My dad, instead of asking mom to not take up the opportunity, stood by her, and convinced his parents into allowing her to take up the job. He made them understand that he had no intention to move away, and would be with them as long as they wanted him to. He supported her in all ways he could, and helped her with small chores in the morning like doing my hair before I left for school.
I still remember how I entered university. My goal in life was to just earn an educational degree. But my dad saw something much more in those four years – he saw an opportunity for me to see the outside world through my own eyes. Young at the time, I was hell bent on only taking a “merit seat”, which would require my parents to spend lesser on my education. I didn’t realize that they’d have to pay for my food and accommodation too. Although there were payment seats available in Bangalore, he encouraged my wanting to go so far away from home, knowing full well that he’d miss me, his best friend. Halfway through university, Dad’s 2 year old business collapsed. To make things worse, his car was damaged beyond repair due to a robbery at home. Half of my university education was taken care of with my Mother’s meagre income that came from being a teacher to deaf children. With Mom’s support, Dad pulled himself together and decided to start working again. He is now AVP of a small company .In response to an astrologer saying that his “bad times” were going on, I remember him saying – “How can my times be bad? Am I not blessed to have a wife who was earning bread for my family when I wasn’t doing too well?” That is my Dad- incorrigibly optimistic.
As a child, I’d often watch in amazement when Dad performed the daily ritual of “pooja”(prayer) at home whenever my Grandfather was out of town. My grandfather, though quite broad minded was religious at the same time. He typically would narrate his prayers in Sanskrit, while performing flower offerings to the lord and lighting the “diya” or “lamp” . Dad, on the contrary, gave the same offerings, and lighted the same lamp – But his prayers would be in English. Any Hindu in India would find that quite an amusing sight to see. Now, when I ask him why, he says – “The offering came from my heart- but I didn’t understand Sanskrit completely then. Therefore I said what came from my heart when I offered my prayers. What is important when you meditate or pray is to be grateful for what you have, thank the lord and do it from the heart. I don’t believe in by hearting Sanskrit prayers that I don’t understand. If I did know the meaning, I would have probably narrated them as Grandpa did”
It’s not always that Dads end up becoming best friends. It was he who explained what the word F*** meant to me. I was challenged by friends in school to find out what it meant from my parents. When I approached my mom first, she just ticked me off, since she thought I was too young to know what F*** meant. I then went to my Dad, my best friend back then, who patiently and calmly explained what it meant to me. Contrary to most parents, when I failed an exam for the first time in the 7th grade and went home crying in fear , he just laughed it off and asked me to take failure in my stride and try harder next time . From teenage to university, he was my confidante; I’ve shared all my secrets with him. Whether it was about a difference of opinion with someone, helping my friends jump over the hostel wall to meet their boyfriends, trying to rescue a friend in trouble from a boyfriend who was being physically abusive (This really happened when I was in university), or trying alcohol for the first time just to see how it tasted as a teenager, he knew it all. Now that I’m a little grown up, I realize how insecure he must have felt and how worried he must have been to have known about some of my adventures as a young girl. What would have made it worse for him was that I was studying away from home. But he always had faith in me- the faith that his upbringing wouldn’t fail anywhere. This kind of faith is hard to find in today’s young men of my generation.
It is quite common for people do things their parents don’t like behind their back nowadays. For example, my dad doesn’t like me or mom wearing sleeveless tops/blouses, which is why I often wear a coat or shrug over sleeveless tops. A lot of my friends say – “Come on, uncle’s not here! Take off that shrug!” How do I explain to them that this shrug is a small thing compared to all the trust my Dad has in me, I do not know. So I just say with a smile – “That’s ok… I would hate to do things behind his back and let him down!”