Sunday, June 17,2012
Today is Father’s day. The newspapers are full of ads beseeching and enticing us to buy gadgets and other paraphernalia for the most important man in our lives! But this is a fairly new phenomenon in India , we never celebrated father’s day as children. But if we had, my father would have loved it! He would have loved having a day dedicated to him, being showered with love and attention, just as he loved to do the same to others. All he needed was a small excuse to shower us with lavish gifts and affection. Whenever, my sister or I did well in school or any extracurricular activity, he would himself make his famous ‘kaju barfi’. At the turn of the century, in 2000, he bought us special jewellery that were made to commemorate the new millennium!
He was well known for his enthusiasm and joie de vivre, but he was also conscientious and magnanimous. He never hesitated to help people- both his family (a large one with 7 siblings and innumerable cousins) and his staff, especially the domestic staff and their families in any way possible. He was extremely religious- it was my dad rather than my mom who did the daily puja at home and diligently took us every Sunday to temples.
Yet, he was way ahead of his times. He was one of the few men in that generation who believed in women’s independence. My mom got married very late (for those days) at 30, as she wanted a husband who would allow her to continue with her career and so had to wait till my dad came into her life! He raised my sister and me to be career-oriented and expected us to embrace our culture and values, at the same time gave us the freedom to make our own choices- whether it was professional or personal. He trusted us to make the right decision, and hence he had no qualms in letting me travel alone to Bombay to see a ‘boy’ (now my husband), for an alliance (an arranged marriage).
When I was expecting my first child, he was extremely excited at the thought of becoming a grandfather and even more when he knew he was going to have a grandson ( As I was in the US, I was allowed to know the gender of my child). Even though he was suffering from a caustic lung condition, he was very eager to come to the US for my delivery. So after undertaking several medical tests and getting the green signal from his doctors, he and my mom landed in the US with suitcases full of baby clothes and baby accessories. Unfortunately, he didn’t live to see the grandson he was so longing for. A day after he arrived, he developed a fever and collapsed. After fighting for a week in the hospital, he finally lost the battle.
My son was born 6 days later. Some said that my father was destined to die in his favourite daughter’s place (though I would never admit it, he did have a soft corner for me) and some said that he’d be reborn as my son. While such statements and time did help in accepting the loss, I still wish that his grandchildren could have had a chance to know him as they could have learnt so much from him. Besides, when he pampered his own children so much, I can only imagine how much he would have pampered his grandchildren!
The thingg that left the deepest impression on me was; till the end, he never gave up his philanthropic spirit. He wrote in his will that he wanted us to feed poor people or orphaned children on his anniversaries, instead of performing the ceremonies that are usually performed after death (supposedly for the salvation of the soul and to attain heaven). I can only hope that I can make him proud just as he made us proud and that, as a parent, I can pass down the values he taught to my children.
Happy father’s day, Appa!