How do you deal with the concept of Father’s Day, especially when it coincides with the week of your father’s death anniversary? This is that time of the year when the question bothers me to no end . I am not someone who is really into celebrating days dedicated to my kith and kin, though I am certainly not against others doing it. The simple reason being that one doesn’t need a separate excuse to celebrate and honour such relationships on any given day of the year. But given the unfortunate coincidence of this particular occasion, I can’t exhibit the same indifference. May be it would have helped, even if Father’s day was observed in some other month.
I was still young,when my father expired and grappling with that was no mean task. I still remember that day- he had been in a tremendous amount of pain in the weeks leading up to it and the suffering was relentless and continuous, no-holds-barred, until one morning when the moaning stopped, giving me a false impression for the briefest of moments,that his endless pain may have relented a bit, allowing him to get some sleep. Relent it did,in a permanent way of course.The elders spoke of his death being a liberation of sorts from seven years of unbridled bed-ridden agony and distress. He had passed away exactly a day after my Tenth standard board exam results were announced. It was almost like he was waiting to hear that his eldest son managed a first class. I was just about average in school, so my marks were nothing to write home about and though I wish I could have done better,it did give him that bit of a consolation which was pretty evident in the way he reacted to the news. The last couple of years of my dad’s life were so overwhelmingly sad and tragic, that they have paved layer upon layer of painful memories of him being in the line of time’s unforgiving fires.
I have now spent more years in my life without, than I did with him being around. And that absence is filled with numerous what-ifs centred on his hypothetical presence. These what-ifs have been around right from my childhood, even when he was alive, but bed-ridden. I would look at my friends- and their dads- dropping them to school on scooters- this was my favourite wannabe-day-dream back then. I lived in the hope that some day he would be able to walk and take me around for scooter rides in the town. It was probably the innocent optimism of that age which refused to accept that he would never be able to do that again, but eventually, reality of his day-to-day struggles became so stark that those hopes would ultimately disappear.
Somewhere beneath those multiple layers of painful memories,however, lies a cocoon which houses my earliest recollections of him. Of an embodiment of the joie de vivre, a man full of energy and enthusiasm unparalleled among his peers, friends and family members. Of being the favourite uncle of my cousins who were in their teens because of his wonderfully avuncular nature. That by default made me close to them and the bonds which had their roots in those days have only gone from strength to strength. It is something that I have always cherished deeply.
Fond memories of him animatedly narrating the ‘where-were-you-when-it-happened’ stories of the victorious ’83 world cup campaign and the thrill of knowing that India had actually been champions at one point of time, in the backdrop of the grim 90s of Indian cricket, those moments are still with me. Or that day when he gifted my first cricket bat which then made way for endless hours of airplay- me holding the bat, imagining random situations and swinging the bat away to glory, much to the irritation of my mother. I wonder if I would have been this crazy about cricket, or for that matter, have more than a passing interest in other sports, if it wasn’t for the kind of initiation he provided. And life would definitely have been a lot less interesting without that.
He was known as a very good man in the true sense of the word. When allotted a home, next to someone who wasn’t known to be a very good neighbor, in the residential quarters of his employers, many cautioned him against moving in. But him being him, he insisted that if one is good and without prejudice, there is no reason why anyone would pose a problem. And he stood vindicated on that. Goodness always begets goodness.There are many other little anecdotes like this, which made him extremely popular among his friends. He was pretty much an extrovert and this reflected in his delectable sense of humour which endeared him to so many people. His skills at hilariously mimicking others’ voices was one more aspect of that very trait. Introverts like myself know what value being an extrovert holds. At least I always wish I was more open and I wonder if I would have turned out to be a different person under his guidance.
He was, for the most part of his life, a very optimistic and spirited personality,despite the odds he faced. Even after a failed surgery on his spinal cord which resulted in him becoming paraplegic, he continued to work and support the family. Eventually as his health worsened because of other related complications, he had to be put under continuous medical care. His spirit was only broken when his company terminated his job on medical grounds. That was the day which left him mentally shattered, and in a way, was the beginning of the end.
However, the goodwill that he generated during his active days came back to help us in different ways, including, but not limited to , my mother getting a job, which without any doubt, helped her in bringing me and my brother up. In a way, his personality has been the key benefactor of our lives during the tough times.
At various important junctures in my life, I have wished he was alive to witness them and continue to do so. What I also wished for was to not be in a position to make some decisions for myself. The luxury of having your dad decide some things for you is something that I have always missed. I call it a luxury because at some level you know you are doing the right thing and your dad is holding your hand. And trust me, that is an assurance like nothing else in the world.
p.s. I’ve been going back and forth on writing a post of this nature, because I am somehow very apprehensive of writing something as deeply personal as this. It took quite a bit of mental-hurdle clearing on my part to speak my heart out on this subject.