Prayers On A Pad

If you were born in a time when exams held their tyrannical sway over young lives, you could never forget those swarthy exam pads. The very sight of them used to cause me to quiver in my well worn Bata shoes. Scared frenzy propelled sweat would populate every conceivable pore.

Prayers On A Pad - Lessons From A Father To His Son - Father's Teachings

It was but logical, that I turned to invoking God on to my exam pad. Over a period of time, a variety of stickers of every conceivable God on Earth were pasted across the pad. On my pad there were Gods with spears. Another on a tiger. All of them with myriad weapons and paraphernalia. Some with ten hands, dazzling crowns, halos around their heads. Jesus was there with blessings seemingly streaming from his palms. A picture of the grand mosque at Mecca. Buddha. Every conceivable God that you could think of was there.

I couldn’t care less which of those Gods would lend a hand. I just needed a hand. Incredible things were reported of every single God. As a young lad who just needed to clear his exam, religious difference were silly.

Two days before the exam, my dad spotted the God sporting pad! Not looking up from the newspaper he was devouring along with his filter coffee, he let go of a suitably loud guffaw and said, ‘God is just an idea’.

My head reeled. An idea? I mean, here were chaps with bows, arrows, crosses and array of mystical powers that debilitated enemies with precision, were paragons of kindness and generally oversaw the ways of the world. All I was asking was some help with the math exam. And my dad was calling it a giant hoax. Almost.

He followed it up with If you don’t believe in yourself, God isn’t going to believe in your prayer. He is a busy man. He sure has other things to do than solve your math exam. Don’t you think so?”

That holiday, I remember taking walks with him. Discussing God. Man and most importantly, exams! He stood tall. Not in a physical way. Not even in a literal way. But in a shy, unobtrusive, middle class way where all change and soaking up had to happen by the dint of effort, respect and quiet fortitude. And any action remotely akin to showmanship without substantial substance was despicably pejorative.

From him I learnt taking walks and sorting things out in my mind. By the time, I had come to my Board exams, the exam pad sported cartoon characters. I had come full circle. I had taken many walks. I thought too highly of God and a trifle too funnily of exams. That notion has stuck for life.

His ways were woefully unobtrusive. There were times you would expect a clear answer and all that I would end up having, was a smirk. Or an arched eyebrow. A punctuated guffaw. Following which he would dive into his collection of books like a chef searching for the choicest of ingredients and return with two books. Or more. ‘Go read’ he would say. Sometimes with an afterthought, add, ‘The Dictionary is in the cupboard’. On hindsight, I should have deciphered that code as ‘this-is- a-@*#%*$&-tough-book-to-read’

J.Krishnamoorthy. Shakespeare. Milton. Kannadasan. Biographies. Judgement copies. Constitution. Economics. Osho. The Gita. It was a time when not reading the Reader Digest was a sin only slightly lesser than daylight robbery. We argued. We questioned. Sometimes he would answer. Many other times he would just stay silent and say ‘think’.

From him I learnt the indelible virtue in reading. A virtue that necessitated respect for multiplicity of points of view. He never insisted that I study any subject, save Math and Tamil. For which I remain eternally grateful. He had such a surfeit of generosity in his invitations to read and talk, that I would often end up playing cricket, citing difficulty to choose from all that he had to offer. Or so I told him. And he would play along.

Back in school, one fine morning, I was told I was going to be the next School Pupil Leader. It came with a few duties. One of which was to get on stage every morning and sort of compeer the prayer ceremony. Every morning. This was the unkindest of blows to a chap who suffered from tongue-gets-pasted-to-lips-the-moment-there-is-a-crowd-in-front disease.

No way was I going to do that. I made a deal with him. He would talk the school out of it and in return, I will work hard and come amongst the top three rank holders in school. I mean, that was the best I could offer, given the unbelievably studious chaps that I think could have out beaten Google! Or so it feels now.

He thought about it and said, ‘deal’. I was happy as a blissful pig who found a new ugly spot to roll in. Even if you had offered me three ice cream Sundaes I wouldn’t have been happier. If you offered me four, well, that is hypothetical, and let’s not go there.

He dutifully came to school and met the Principal. That evening over dinner, he was beaming. I was happy that this School Pupil Leader thing was put to rest. With a small portion of a dosa in his mouth he spoke. ‘They made me a better offer’.

My world collapsed. It was a teenage moment when seething anger gives way to blinding rage at the injustice meted out to ordinary people. ‘AND WHAT IS THAT BETTER OFFER’ I thundered like a Tamil hero. (May I request you to please add an echo and a thundering background special effect sound as is the norm). He continued munching his dosa, nonplussed. Paused for a brief moment, and said, “They said, It will be good for you.” And that was that.

From him I learnt ‘to persevere’ is more important than ‘to perfect’. From him I learnt that as long as you are still standing in the ring, you haven’t lost the fight.

He used to come to the plays I acted in, but would never tell me he was coming. (“You should perform for the sake of performance. Not for who is in the audience”). He never wrote a letter of recommendation. He insisted that we always lifted our own luggage from train stations and treat the rickshaw puller with respect.

He wanted us to have an independent mind. Fiercely. Almost as though, being otherwise was illegal and would result in rigorous stone breaking imprisonment and sharing of a dark cell with hardened criminals with deviant sexual orientations. He didn’t say those. But looking back, that’s how it feels now!

It was not as though he was perfection personified. He had his views, foibles, follies and some of them deeply impacted us. But then, so did we. I guess, it was who he was. To live life naturally. Without pretense.

He would beseech us to ‘walk like a Jawan’ and in the same monotone say, ‘safety is most important’. With him by the side, language often took a new meaning. Silence spoke. Mistakes didn’t matter. Wealth was a corollary consequence. Virtue was in trying. Of course, treating people with dignity was important to be human. Love needn’t be expressed but it had to be experienced. We didn’t agree on everything. But that didn’t stop him from getting us to chat about everything.

Prayers On A Pad

Today, at home, my mom hands over the same exam pad to the nurse. The same pad with cartoon stickers on them. My mom’s ways of capturing a piece of the present for future reminiscing, has ensured preservation of that thing from school. The sight of the pad unlocks a dam of memories and a slight quiver runs through my adult legs.

The nurse who has come home, records parameters. In a sheat of paper clipped on. My dad lies there. In the same room. A shrunk shadow of who he was. But still fighting the disease that envelopes him.

In the evening I pray for easing of his pain. Thoughts bob like a balloons in a bucket of water. I wonder if I should revert to the original stickers on the pad. He would be livid. But, this after all is a different exam.

And most importantly I am not him. I am not even a patch on him.

Kavi dabbles in writing, reading, traveling, photography, long distance running amongst other things. He and Shanti have their hands full with their adorable toddler, Kayal. In-between all of this, he gives an arm, leg and everything else to earn a living. Usually accomplished by punching keys, attending meetings and trying to sound profound. He blogs at http://kavismusings.blogspot.com & tweets @kavismusings. Just in case you are intrigued enough to know more about him please head to http://about.me/kaviarasu.

  • mahilchi

    left a lump in my throat. We live to experience life, the good and the bad, though we never understand it truly.

    • We never understand what makes it. Or what doesnt make it either. Sometimes it is clear and sometimes clarity is evasive. Thanks for all the support! 🙂

  • Chandramoorthy

    Kavi – this is one of the most soul stirring notes ive ever read…this is beyond words for me comment. I only pray that all the pictured gods on your pad stand by with you and your family in this time of utmost turbulance. There has never been a greater blessing in this world than for a Son to realize the true value of life through the teachings of his father – you are blessed my friend…

    With Prayers
    Chandra

    • Thank you! I hope so too. I sincerely hope so too. The pad plays host to a sheaf of papers these days that was far more value than any exam sheet it held!

      It indeed is a blessing. To have his love and guidance and friends like you as well. Who have stood by in times of turbulence! Thanks!

  • Moving and a beautiful tribute to a facilitator father . Touched to the core . Sending both of you energy and healing .
    Hugs
    Sush

    • Sushma your comments have been valuable and really loved them here and on the phone as well. Treasure all that you send our way now! Thank you!

  • Kavi, i was touched to read about your father. I have similar memories of mine. We used to go for walks too, and there would be so much I would learn out of the casual conversations we would have. Those conversations made me the woman and mother I am today.
    I shall pray that your father scores high in this exam he is facing.

    • Thanks for all the prayers Cynthia. We share a connection with fathers who took to walking and chatting up as a method of learning and growth. It makes people stronger! Or so I thought and now I have corroboration from you too! 🙂

  • I dont know what to say but to cherish these moments ..whatever time you get with him.. Actually every moment with any loved one is a blessing 🙂

    • Sirisha, Completely agree with you. Every moment is to be cherished. Every single moment. I value it even more now!

  • Such a heartfelt post…..it reminded me of my long discussions with my dad…for that matter I am fortunate enough to have them even now sometimes. Your are blessed to have a person like him in your life.

    • You are indeed blessed to have more of that now as well. Just the fact that you can reach out and have chats can make life easy and complete.

      Thank you for your comment! I am glad that the post reminded you of your dad!

  • Navin Honnavar

    Hey Kavi…
    This was one of the most glorious tributes and I am sure he would definately be proud that all the values and learnings that has been passed on, is so effectively spread.
    Thankyou for making my day with this one…
    Am blessed to be reading it

    • Thank you Navin ! Truly appreciate the comment and gesture. I hope I am able to live up to all what he has passed on and continues to do so

      Thanks a million again.

  • Sweety

    Every time I read your posts and by the time i finish, i am filled with emotions some said & some unsaid in it. You are blessed with beautiful thoughts & writing.

    Wishing all the prayers on your pad will come true this time for your dad. Take care.

    • Hello there!

      Thank you for saying that. It makes my day and makes me gird my loins for continuing all battles in a sprightly sort of a way! Thanks for all the support !

  • Gauri

    Your post took me back in time to memories of my father. Thanks Kavi! Beautiful post..

    • I am glad it did Gauri. Fathers are such people that they can leave such indelible stamps on their wards!

  • Hey Kavi: My prayers are with your dad and your family. I believe in God, not sure in which form but I am sure she will be with you in this hour. ( I believe God is a women)

    • Thank you Prasad ! I truly hope so! I truly hope so!

  • Amrita Thavrani

    Thanks for sharing the delicate and sensitive part of your life. You dad is blessed to have you, may he heal soon.

  • This blog post brings to me memories of my dad. We are lucky is what I can say.
    I liked your dad’s way of educating you and making you what you are today. He has allowed you the independence and freedom to seek and choose answers for yourself. This space given by him has contributed heavily for your development.
    I am touched reading the post and I wish your father speedy recovery so that he facilitates more answers while you both go for walks together, once again.

  • Priya

    Kavi,

    Very well written…

    He is really lucky to have you …

    They both are … …

    Never fails to bring tears to the eyes … your article …

  • Diwakar Pingle

    Kavi – what can I say? I shed a few tears. Think of what I said this morning and work on it!