I remember him coming early from work with a box of water colors in his hand, for my first painting lesson. We drew and painted the tricolor that evening. Art supplies were his domain. As were math and physics. Chart paper, palettes, brushes, felt-pens and crayons, I never remember buying any of these things. He always gifted them to me. On his birthday and mine.
I remember him staying up with me night after night, listening to the Hanuman Chalisa on loop, when I refused to sleep, absolutely convinced that ghosts were out to get me. He told me, “Come, get a torch and a stick. We’ll go hunting for them. Let’s begin with the kitchen, shall we?” I don’t remember whether I slept that night but I remember turning my face away, feeling belittled.
I remember him burning with fever but still getting out of the bed to reach for a copy of Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to patiently explain to me being kind to someone or going the extra mile for them didn’t hurt anyone. He said the book had changed his perspective and he hoped that someday it would help me too. I was too worked up to pay heed to his words.
Today, I try my utmost to emulate him. To be able to become like him, keeping the hours he does, being punctual, sticking to my commitments. I look for him in every man I seize up as a prospect.
Being an only child, I am often cruelly asked, “So who do you love more? The mother or the father?” Mostly, I smile and evade. To the few whom I do answer, I whisper ever-so softly, “The father.” And yes, the mother knows. He is the person I feed the first piece of my birthday cake to. He is the bridge between us. The interlocutor, messenger and the lawyer, pleading my case.
He isn’t too thrilled with the paint on my nails, my fetish for fancy frivolous footwear and the insomnia-induced erratic hours. But he lets me be. He will let me scream and rant all I want and then when I’m spent, he’ll politely enquire, “Are you done? May I talk now?”
He is the most patient, accommodating and gracious soul I know. Calm, composed and collected. He defines the words, “unconditional love” for me. But I don’t talk about him very often. I’m extremely possessive of the bond we share. The reticence on my part is a mere extension of his personality. Plus it’s tough to be objective while talking about him. To me, he’s superlative.
I’m always grumbling about a lot of things, but he makes life look so effortless. I know he hopes that he can say the same and more about me someday.
Thank you for that confidence, Papa. Thank you for the unconditional love, faith and effort. I know we aren’t a demonstrative bunch. But one of my fondest memories about us is you holding on to my hand tightly so I wouldn’t get out of control, each time we entered a store and Ma got busy shopping.
Many happy returns of the day, Papa.
*The kind folks at Parentous very enthusiastically agreed to accommodate this last-minute post on the occasion of the father’s birthday. Thank you, Team Parentous.