A Daughter Remembers

 

A father daughter relationship is close, so people say.  Most girls think their daddy can whup the world and fix everything.  My daddy couldn’t.  Or rather one could say it in another way – my daddy wouldn’t.  That was his style of parenting.

Papa

 

Papa was an engineer by profession, a government servant whose transfers took us all over the country.   My brother and I often got mistaken for army brats; we have so many miles packed under our belt.  But one could not categorize Papa as solely an engineer.  He was a closet diary writer, who belonged to an era where men did not display emotions and his rarely surfaced.  That he was fond of reading shayari, that he was emotional was something I found out after his death when I went through his files, found his diary and each and every letter penned by me and my brother to him in them.  Childish scribbles, home made cards, crayoned by both of us for him.

Papa and I

The only pic of Papa and me together at my wedding …..

He even had this beautiful gazal by Shiekh Ibrahim Zauk penned down along side my brother’s picture as a diary entry on the date of his death

laayii hayaat aaye, qazaa le chalii chale
apnii khushii na aaye, na apnii khushii chale

*ham saa bhi ab bisaat pe kam hogaa bad-qamaar
jo chaal hum chale voh boh’t hi burii chale

behtar to hai yahii ki na duniyaa se dil lage
par kyaa kareN jo kaam na be-dil-lagii chale

ho umr-e-Khizr bhii to ma’aluum vaqt-e-marg
hum kyaa rahe yahaaN, abhii aaye abhii chale

duniaa ne kis kaa raah-e-fanaa meN diyaa hai saath
tum bhii chale chalo yuuN hi jab tak chalii chale

Translation

The life brought me so I came; the death takes me away so I go
Neither I came on my own nor I go with my will

There may be a few gamblers as bad as I am
Whatever move I made it proved to be very bad

It’s better that one should not get hooked to the charms of the world
However, what one can do when nothing can be accomplished without getting involved

Who’s come to the rescue of someone who’s about to leave this world!
You too keep moving till you can move on

O Zauq! I’m leaving this garden with a pinning for fresh air
Why should I care now whether zephyr blows or not!

 

He was not very social, he preferred to have a few select friends with whom he would open out.  They would exchange Urdu couplets and talk about life in old Delhi.

 

aye Zauq! kisii hamdam-e-deriina ka milnaa

behtar hai mulaaqaat-e-Masiiha-o-Khizr se

[hamdam-e-deriina: old friend, Khizr : Man of God]

His style of parenting was benign neglect, a style of parenting which I have inherited.  As long as the kids are happy, fed and healthy, they need to breathe and live their lives on their own.  All they need a guide, someone who can give them reality checks and keep the moral compass from spinning out of whack.  Thanks Papa for teaching me this through example.

Ma said he was distant.  May be he was.  He had absolutely nothing to do with us until we grew to a decent age like six or so.  Till then he watched us from afar.  Once we could speak whole sentences and argue, he warmed up to us. He was a big fan of Socrates and drove us nuts by using his style of “dialogues” with us.  When our friends and fellow students got absolutes from their fathers, mine threw us googlies.

Each and every question of ours was answered by a question.

“Krishna saved the Pandavas.  He was God!” I remember telling him completely awed by the Krishna tale.

“Rubbish, how do you know?”

“Erm … that is what Mahabharata says.”

“Do you know he was just taking care of family business, the Pandavas were his cousins?”

(Mind you I was barely eight and much into Amar Chitra Katha.  This was not in the comic.  So we had to actually go to the library and get books to prove or disprove the theory.  Google, how I wish you existed then.)

It is excellent training for a scholar or a thinker … but how I wished at that time that I was given absolutes – made life so much simpler.  But that was not Papa’s style.

During the course of our growing up, we learnt a fair amount of curse words … Punjabi, Hindi and English ones were too common, and we would be spanked if Ma heard us using them.  We learnt how to curse fluently in Khasi, Naga, Manipuri, Mizo etc.  Ma never caught on to them.  Papa did (after all he worked with the labour on those huge government Hydel projects) but he let it pass.  The one word he did not permit, in any language, was Paagal or Mad.  To him it was the worst abuse.  “To be born a man, a thinker, is a gift.  The worst thing that can happen to a human being is to lose the thinking process.”

I often got into trouble.  I am absent minded, a rebel and act and speak without thinking it through.  Papa would not protect me from the consequences of my own stupidities.  “Every person has the right to make mistakes provided he/she pays for it,” he said. If I complained that my fellow mischief makers’ parents came to defend them he would say:

” ek hi ullu kaphi hai, barbaad gulistaan karne ko;
har shaakh pe ullu baitha hai, anzaam-e-gulistaan kya hoga !! “

Today when I see rich kids, spoilt and irresponsible, who have this undue sense of self importance, and a pride which is completely undeserved and un-earned, I recall those incidents with fondness.  Yes Papa, you were right.

And we clashed.  I wanted a scooter, Papa insisted that I first learn how to change tyres and clean spark plugs!  In my view that was cheating.  A father is supposed to arrange driving lessons and buy the damn scooter, not give mechanic lessons!

But most of our clashes were intellectual – he despised my fascination for Mills & Boons romances while I was a giddy teen.  “I gave you better taste” he would say.  Yes I read “Of Human Bondage” when I was ten, loved the classics and knew Shakespearean sonnets and the Gita.  But teens are for Mills and Boons.  He never forbade me … it was against his ethics.  He would just tell me not to read rubbish for it pollutes the mind.

He never stopped me from getting married to the man I did.  All he said was

Bewaqufon ki kamin nahin ai ‘ Ghalib ‘Ek dhoodon hazaar milte hain..

I later found out that he had a talk with my husband and insisted that I finish my post graduation, and my husband agreed.  That was his style of parenting.  He wanted his kids to live their lives but the safety net was there … not obvious but it was there.  He would never cramp our style, which was not his way.

My brother and I

My brother and me as kids

My brother died when he was 21 and I was 22 years old.  I was devastated.  My marriage was in shambles, I hated it.  I had a small son to bring up and my sibling, my companion, my best friend was dead.  I was angry with my brother, with life and with everything.  In my selfish anger, I failed to notice or even comprehend what Papa must have been going through.  He did not cry.  Whatever mourning he had to do was in private, behind closed doors.  He just kept on with the rituals and the hoards of relatives that landed up at home.  On the chautha (the fourth day of death ritual) he took me aside and said, “I have been waiting for you to grow up.  Now we’re out of time.  You have to take over.  There is no choice in the matter anymore.”

What?  Me, take over?   My in-laws had nothing good to say about me.  I was viewed as incompetent, good-for-nothing.  My husband never stood by me.  My mother had always thought I was useless.  What did my father want?  He expected me to do the impossible, become the support.

I panicked, all my low self esteem issues came forth.  Papa again used his beloved poets to get his point across

‘Girte hain sheh-sawar hi maidain-e-jung mein, Woh tifl kya gire, jo ghutno ke bal chalein’

Life has this wonderful way of changing once you are ready for it. And I had Papa believing in me.  It became a game changer – not immediately, but slowly.  I developed a backbone, I grew confident, got out of a restrictive marriage which was doing nothing for my self esteem and actually became the karta-dharta of my own family.

ab to ghabraa ke ye kahte haiN ki mar jaayenge

mar ke bhii chain na paaya to kidhar jaayenge

 

Papa would often drop in at home, and we grew slowly into friends.  It was an intellectual kind of friendship.  He was not the hugging back slapping kind of person any way.  Hmmm – come to think of it, neither am I.  My sons got the male role model they needed in their Naanu.

When he died I was broken – but surprisingly, not much.  It was his gift to me – the backbone, the self confidence to live on.  Another one of his favorite verses …

“In dinon garche Daccan main hain badi qadr-e-sukhan
Kaun jaaye Zauq par Dilli ki galiyan chchod kar”

To me he lives.  Whenever I hear Urdu couplets, whenever I see my sons, strong, confident, with the courage to not follow the herd, when I realize that I actually became a writer and blogger at the age people think of growing old and dying, when I look back on life, I think of him, I thank him.

Thanks Papa for being the man you were.  I love you.

 

 

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102 thoughts on “A Daughter Remembers

  1. I have tears streaming down my cheeks as I read this .. I have read many posts where bloggers pay tribute to their parents – But nothing has ever touched me like this .. Hugs Ritu, You indeed had a special Father !

  2. Gosh !!
    Ritu , this post seemed small to think of it all !
    Hats off to u and ur father . Loved reading it and have a lump in my throat.
    I feel i shud value my parents more now !!

    HUGS TO U RITU

  3. Gosh Ritu, reading this – so very emotional. I almost teared up. A beautiful heartfelt tribute. Stay strong! And to all good fathers around the world, RESPECT!

    • Yes, he was – for his times – rather liberal but very old school. He never preached but somehow managed to instil that sense of responsibility and ethics in me

  4. Your father seems like such a wonderful Dad, love his parenting style. We should just feel lucky to have them around for the time they were.

    Can’t say how much I liked this post. I’m a total stranger, but hugs to you.

  5. I feel so happy reading this today …I could connect with it immediately . Your father was(is) your Rock of Gibraltar . You are truly blessed. Big hugs to you my friend ! 🙂

  6. Ritu, this was a beautiful tribute to your wonderful dad. The way you talk about him makes me want to meet him. Well, I was unfortunate to have not spent enough time with my dad getting to know and learn from him. He passed on when I was 13. I don’t have many memories of him except for a few ones.

    I loved the way your dad has passed on his lovely traits to his feisty daughter and I’m sure this legacy will be passed on to the next generations as well.

    Lots of love.

    Joy always,
    Susan

    • He was my strongest support, the foundation on which I rebuilt my life – and never once did he say so or did I realize it … kind of amazing isn’t it?

      Thank you so much for seeing his traits in me. To me that is the biggest compliment

  7. Only an intellect can really value intelligence. The fact that ‘pagal’ was the ultimate abuse clearly reflects that. May his soul rest in peace. Hats off to him. And to you.

    • Yes, fathers and daughters … they leave such a huge impression on us don’t they? When someone tells me I am like him – it makes me so happy

    • It was an era … where these quotes, these verses were not only known but internalized so well that they came out pat – right at the apt moment… woven seamlessly in day to day conversation

  8. Ritu, I lived your life, at least some of it, through this post…as an outsider, peering through the grills of the window of your life.Thank you for letting me see and letting me walk with you through history and through this moment…love you My North Indian Xena!

  9. Now I know why you are who you are. An amazing and strong woman with a heart of gold.And the softest heart too.This post will touch anyone’s heart who reads it. More so for the manner in which you tell the story. Without pretensions and from the heart.

  10. Moist-eyed I sit and look at the words. With the gift of your narrative, simple, heartfelt, and without adornment, just the adoration of the heart, you strum the chords within. Shorn of all but the love you hold, and the respect. His sense of poetry and philosophy, so down to earth fills me up! Thank you Ritu

    • Your comment overwhelms me. I am so glad my words could bring out his simplicity, his down to earth philosophy and his love for his Urdu poets.

  11. Beautiful post, Ritu!
    I have never been very close to my father, but off late as I think back and look at myself critically, there are so many traits that I have inherited from and I am so very thankful to him for introducing me to the wonderful world of words !

  12. Hello Ritu, This one touched me deep within. What a bond we share with our parents. With tears in my eyes now, I pray to God to keep them safe and healthy, till I die.

  13. Loved the post Ritu. There is so much we do not understand about our parents as children but it all starts to fall into place once we grow up and face the world.
    My father is also not very expressive but I know he is there in the time of need. I was smiling through most of the post and nodding my head. 🙂

  14. Ya i read it at last. Dint hv internet .was busy and most of all was not ready to read it as i know so much ofit.but nw tht likh dala write on for ur mother and closure partially may happen?

  15. Ah! This is a unique post! I underplay my sentiments at this point. Again, what I love about it is but what is one of your core personality traits – brutal honesty cocking its dont-care-ass at the world. That is not a trait that is very Indian as far as the writers’ personality areana is concerned. Then again, that is what distinguishes a good writer from the mundane. The balsiness .. not just the regular kind but the kind that comes out with skeletons from the closet – be they ones that emerge forth from a family member’s, or his or her own. RituJee – Rock away and while you’re at it, smile like you usually do. Must I really add that I loved this post enough to have been rocked away by your spirit which is what it really is, only in written form? – No, I think that, that is more than evident!!

  16. Lalit Mama ji was a man with most beautiful smile. He was always there for me…always with a smile. He was the dearest brother of my mother and the dearest brother-in-law of my Dad. He was the most Gentle Man I have ever known….

    • Thanks for bringing that up, Karun. That smile never left his face! And he always had time, he was always there – to listen and break even huge problems down into easy to handle bits! I was so blessed to have him in my life

  17. After reading your blog, I am missing my Dad even more . Both brothers were like identical twins in akal and shakal. I can’t ever forget how chachaji gave me strength in my difficult times. We are really blessed that we had such a nice upbringing.

    • They had this hands on approach to everything – and they knew how to not complicate stuff. Thanks to Papa, I know how to simplify things and make them easy to do. Of course I did not learn how to do it when he was there, but then he lives in my memory. He is still teaching me … and what he said back then makes sense to me – even now.

  18. Ritu, this was an amazing post. The little anecdotes, the couplets, the experiences — all touched me. He had foresight and wisdom! So happy that he supported you and made up stand up for yourself. Heartfelt!

    • Thank you. My memories – this post, it is just a small way to keep him alive – to say Thanks Papa … something I don’t remember having said when he was alive

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  20. Finally I get to read this post!

    What can I say about the woman who is full of chutzpah, is never afraid to speak her mind and is a super achiever! That you were once a girl unsure of herself is so difficult to. digest!

    This is one of the most tender dedications from a daughter to her parent.

  21. What a beautiful post!
    Looks like your father was deeply philosophical,and i guess it was because of him you decided to take up literature.
    For a person who believes in numerology and sun signs,can you tell his and your late brother’s sun sign?

    • My brother and I are both Feb born, Pisceans. Papa was what I call Leo-in-disguise. He never came through as a fiery Leo, his was a remote, dignified and restrained personality

  22. What a lovely post for the man you love. there were so many parallels to my life. My dad was an engineer, he loved shayari and keepind diaries. He died when I was teenager though and he was such a hand on father, he taught me calculus, ride a scooter, put me to sleep when I was a toddler, and made a tomboy out of me. your boys are so lucky to have known him.
    Celebrate his life through yours.

    a

  23. omg, so very beautifully worded. your father must be very proud of you now… to have a daughter of such morals and strength. You know, most women can only dream being someone with your abilities. Hats off to you- and your awesome father.

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