I do not remember much of my interactions with my father as a child.
He was like any other father of the yesteryears, not knowing in which class his kids studied, not taking an active part in child-rearing leaving it to his trusted better half and carrying on the duty of a bread winner most religiously. On the whole, he was a pillar of support for my mother and that is all I can remember of him.
When one of the three of us ( my two younger brothers or myself) obtained below average marks in any subject, he would quip, “ Why so less marks?” and without expecting a reply, sign on the dotted line! This attitude of his would make us feel guilty rather than creating a fear syndrome in us! I can hardly remember an instance when he has yelled at us angrily or scolded us.
Both my mother and father were of the soft nature. If my mom had to show that she was unhappy with us, she would break into a silence! And I can say, no punishment can be worse than this! You start yearning for her attention and love and do not even dare to repeat the mistakes again lest you lose her love.
Being brought up under such circumstances I grew up to be a very sensitive person and could not take harsh words from any one. I would go into self sympathy if people tended to be rude to me! Of course, life’s ups and downs have now tutored me to be more receptive to criticisms and unjustified comments.
Oh, Oh, I have digressed!
I can recall one incident vividly of my father showing some signs of frustration once.
Both my parents were very particular about ingraining faith in our religion and culture at a very young age. They sent us to Balavihar classes (conducted by Chinmaya Mission) for this purpose. The class was conducted every Friday between 6 and 7 PM. Here we were taught to recite small Slokas, the Bhagavad Geetha and singing bhajans too. There was a story telling session in which our Guruji would read out good moral stories from the Ramayanam, Mahabharatham and the Bhagavatham.
The three of us were between 13 and 8 years of age. As any kids of that age we hated attending these classes! One Friday we skipped the class and went about playing with our friends. Some how my father sensed it! To show that he too could be a stern father, he took a long wooden rectangular bar that was leaning behind the main door (about 2 feet long 6 inches wide and 2 inch thick) and pretended to hit me on my calf muscle, in fact the bar lightly touched the back of my leg! (This bar was used as an extra safety to avoid intrusion in those days when the modern locks were a rarity).
After this incident, I hardly skipped the Friday classes though with much reluctance. Now I can say with certainty that this could have been the cause of my induction into spirituality at a very young age. If I am able to withstand life’s challenges, it is because of this strong spiritual backing. I owe this to my dear father.
More than my personal experiences with my father, his compassionate nature and his unselfish gestures to people known or unknown, has made him worthy of hero worship.
If I have to show my love and gratitude to this great man, I pray to God that a fraction of his good nature gets bestowed in me. That would be the only way I can pay a rich tribute to him.
Another incident that happened way back in the 1964 during the India Pakistan war. This was narrated by him to me. I can go on enumerating a dozen or more such acts but I will stop with the two.
My grandfather was a temple priest in Jamshedpur in Bihar. After completing his SSLC my father was called over by my grandpa to get him a job in this town which was also known as Tatanagar. He joined Telco on a temporary basis and then he was absorbed permanently. He worked there till he retired in 1994.
A few years after his marriage with my mom he got a quarter in Telco area. They were row houses. The neighbours consisted of multi-lingual and multi-religious people coming from various states.
One of the neighbours happened to be a muslim. He resided with his wife and four kids. Suddenly war broke out between India and Pakistan and this town being communally sensitive, the followers of Islam were being moved to places of safety.
My father was worried about this man’s safe passage and advised him to wind up immediately. While the family was busy gathering whatever precious belongings they could carry along with them, my father went looking out for a taxi to transfer them safely to safe zone.
The taxi driver had to be trustworthy and courageous enough to take up this daunting task. A sardarji driver accepted to take up this challenging mission. My dad brought him home after giving him instructions as to where to reach them.
In the mean while the muslim family was ready, though shaken and nervous. There was little time left! The couple along with two children were made to sit in the seats, their heads ducked to avoid attacks from hooligan and rowdy elements.
Two of the kids were hidden in the dickey of the taxi with very little opening so as to get oxygen supply. Some how the family reached the refugee area safely thanks to the skilled driver’s efforts. But the sad part was that the two kids in the dickey lost their speech either because of suffocation or extreme fear.
Within seconds after the family had driven to safety a gang of blood thirsty hooligans broke open their house and not finding people to quench their thirst for blood looted and ransacked the house. Nothing was spared. Whatever they found useful, they carried away and whatever could not be carried or was found to be worthless, they destroyed.
After the truce between India and Pakistan the family came back and lived for many years in the same house.
Later my father was allotted a bigger flat and we moved out. At the time of retirement when my father was winding up to settle down in Chennai, this old neighbour, who was also my father’s office colleague came home to bid him farewell with tear-filled eyes and they seemed to speak volumes! What more precious things can a father or mother earn for their kids than such goodwill and love?
I was a witness to another incident that remains fresh in my memory till date.
A Kannada couple had moved to Jamshedpur newly. The Kannada gentleman had joined Telco and after he was allotted a house, his father came to visit him. Unfortunately the father had a sudden heart attack and passed away. This family, being new to the place, had not made any friends yet.
Since my father was very popular in those days amongst the Telcoites as he was one of the office bearers and trustee in a temple and also a person who could be relied upon in times of distress, this gentleman contacted him through a messenger and requested for help when he was in the temple.
Dad came home to give information and went rushing to their aid. He made arrangements for the body to be shifted to the mortuary till the deceased man’s daughter arrived and also took part in the funeral service.
This incident happened in 1985. I was married and had come home for my first delivery. I remember the day of the funeral. It was raining heavily. Not many people were there to attend it. The poor couple were dependent on my father and he was not the one to let them down.
Both my mom and myself were a bit reluctant to send him since the rains were heavy and it was evening time. After the funeral he returned home drenched and fell ill. But nothing could make him waver when help was sought. He wouldn’t think twice about the consequences and go about his good Samaritan work like a Karmayogi, not expecting anything in return.
Quite a lot of his friends have let him down but he had to say this about them- ‘I forgive them and I do not nurse any ill-will against them.’
Very recently, one of his close friends and office colleague passed away. My father went to express his condolence to his wife and kids. At the time the wife said, “ My hubby wanted to convey this message to you. He said that his soul would not rest in peace unless it was communicated to you. He was responsible for your not getting promotions and all the troubles you went through in office. He begged you to pardon him for all his misdeeds.”
My dad’s voice quivered when he told this to me and mom. But the most surprising part of the story was when he said that he knew about it all along and had forgiven him long ago. Of course, the story of this man and my father’s assistance to this family in their most difficult times knowing all along about his ill-will is a complete story by itself which I do not want to mention here since that would belittle my father’s good deeds and also be an injustice to the concerned family.
These are just samplers to speak proudly of my loving father. I owe every bit of my being and making to this wonderful man. May God be ever blessing him from up above in the years to come and give him a healthy and happy life as long as he lives!