April 7, 2010

Yesterday was the 6th of April...........


Yesterday was the 6th of April. It would have been my father’s 72nd birthday if he was still with us. My sister, Veena, had written this piece on her Facebook page remembering him on this day. I couldn’t have written this any better, perhaps not even this well, and would like to share this with all of you.



Today is my father’s birthday.
Today marks 4 months and 3 days since my father passed away.

For a few days now, I have been trying to face up to the fact that for the first time in memory, I will not be talking to my dad on his birthday. Strangely enough, the accompanying thought has been - wherever he is now, he must be so mad that he is missing the day!

My father always took an almost childlike pleasure in celebrating his birthdays – he would remind us days ahead of the event, just to make sure that we could plan for it! As kids, my sister - who even back then, was the artist in our tiny family of four, would make very intricate cards that my mom and I would solemnly sign and on the morning of his birthday, it would be given to him with much pomp and ceremony with whatever little gift we could afford on the pocket money we got.
For some strange reason, this gift almost always was either cologne (this is how we got him to use what WE thought smelt good!) or books. Pens were also a favorite – he had exquisite handwriting that he insisted could only be achieved through the use of a ‘Parker’ ink pen! I do have to say though - my father never saw a pen he didn’t like!

Ah, books!
If you know me, you know that I am happiest when I have a book in my hands and the ‘blame’ for that must rest squarely on my father’s shoulders. At times, I think we learnt to read, probably before we even learned to talk or walk.
One of my earliest memories is of my dad scooping me up in one arm from the dinner table every night, while he held a book in the other hand. He would read silently in bed, while I slowly fell asleep next to him. Everything was right in my young world, as I watched him turn the pages one by one, to the background murmurs of my mom talking to my sister as she got her ready for bed.

My father loved to read and was of the firm opinion that there was no ill in the world that could not be cured by a book. Whenever we fell prey to sundry childhood ailments, a visit to the local library on the way back from the doctor’s was a must! There was no fever, no ache and no pain that could not be forgotten in the magical world that existed between the pages of a book.
He was not a literary ‘snob’, though the classics, newspapers and political writings were definitely a favorite. He would read anything from the label on a ketchup bottle to ‘Das Kapital’, and encouraged us to do the same!

As we grew older and became more interested in the kind of literature that he perhaps did not approve of, he was not above using ‘monetary incentives’ to get us to focus on the more serious kind. Yes, I was ‘persuaded’ at the tender age of 10 to put down my Enid Blyton to read "Letters from a Father to his Daughter" by Jawaharlal Nehru and provide my dad with a written critique!


The keys on our Dad's typewriter. This typewriter is now one of my daughter's prized posessions!


A writer in his own right, he had his first book (a translation of Munshi Premachand’s Hindi short stories to Malayalam) published at the age of 17. His typewriter was his most prized possession and the last one that he got almost three decades ago, now belongs to my niece. She knew she was on to a good thing as soon as she was old enough to understand what it was and she spent many an hour at my dad’s knee tapping away at those keys!

Though he kept writing pretty much to the last days of his life, his pride and joy were a set of school textbooks that he published in the Eighties - for you see, my father was a teacher, too. He came from a family of teachers and it was what he did the best. The word ‘impossible’ not being in his vocabulary, though, it was no surprise that the subjects he taught over the years varied from English Literature and Economics, to Physics and Chemistry.

As children, we learnt very early to frame sentences correctly, not to ask ‘Dad, can I do that?’, as invariably the answer would be ‘yes, you can, but you may not’! Questions were welcomed and in fact, a must.
We spent countless hours arguing with him and he had the knack of turning the tables on us, so that we would end up agreeing with him, even though we had started out with a pretty good counter argument. He showed us how easy it was to be misled if one didn’t learn to think for oneself. Punctuality ruled our lives and we were never too young to learn the consequences of our decisions.


Our Dad with one of his students in class, Tanzania.


He taught us to laugh at ourselves and at the world with the gentle art of sarcasm. He was in his element as a teacher and was never happier than before a class full of students, encouraging them to strive for the best. It amazes me when I still get notes from his students after all these years, telling me how much they learnt from him.

Driven by a sense of adventure and an even stronger wanderlust, in his twenties and accompanied by a wife just as young, he embarked on a journey to discover for himself the world that he had read so much about.
A chance conversation in a local library (where else!) with a stranger, had him on a plane to rural East Africa, eager to conquer new frontiers. For over 25 years, he travelled the world – living in, working in and visiting cities and towns in over 15 countries, capturing images and memories in time along the way.
He taught us by example, how to adapt to the moment, how to appreciate the diversity and richness of the different cultures of the world and most of all, how to become a world citizen – boundaries only existed in the mind.

So today, when someone tells me that my sister and I are strong, independent people, I have to say, "All thanks to my dad". He might not have consciously set out to make us that way, but he certainly succeeded in doing so.

Today, when I debate the merits of the latest best seller with my 13 year old niece and argue her teen perspective on life, I know that there is a smile of pride on my dad’s face.
And today, as I read my sister’s blog, enjoy her photography and watch the precise way she packs a bag, all is right in my world again – my father’s spirit is alive and well.

So I will close my eyes tonight, with a feeling of peace, saying – “Happy Birthday, Dad. I am sure that you are flying free once again and having a grand adventure every minute of the way".

29 comments:

simply.food said...

What a beautiful rememberance and worthy tribute to your father.

Ria Mathew said...

Dear Veena & Aparna,

This was so touching! I am sure, he must have been moved as well. There can be no better birthday present to him than this.

Wishing your dad a very Happy Birthday!

He was sure lucky to have you as daughters!

xo

Chhaya said...

That was a beautiful tribute ! Thanks for sharing it with us.

Divya Kudua said...

Wonderfully written post Aparna.

arundati said...

Dear Aparna &Veena,
Beautifully written tribute, am sure your dad is very proud of the both of you....you were so honoured to have him, and he you...take care... hugs

Madhuri said...

Truly touching words of father-daughters relationship.
Thanks for sharing it with all.
Miss those lovely childhood days.

Indhu said...

beautifully written... It brought to mind the precious relationship between fathers and daughters...

Happy Cook said...

This is one of th emost touching post I have read.
Reading your post I am jealous of you as I didn't had the opourtunity to know my father as he died when I was really young.
I do also think your dad will be really mad that he is missing his b'day where ever he is.
Hugs to you.

MeetaK said...

a wonderful tribute aparna - hang in there - it gets easier to remember!

Rambling Tart said...

So beautiful, Aparna. I'm so sorry for your loss. I can't imagine the void your father left. Big hug to you.

jayasri said...

Dear Veena and Aparna,
This piece of tribute written so well, is so touching, it made my heart throb & my eyes full !!, I thought why am I so sensitive and I thought of my Dad who is so far away in India, and I love my Dad so much, Just like you both we are three sisters. It's not just aparna, but you too veena have very good writing skills, you both share your dad's skills, you must both cherish it, best of wishes to you both, and a very happy birthday to your dad!!
He is looking down upon you, and would be so proud of you both

Nags said...

You are very lucky to have had a dad who inspired you so much and helped you grow into intelligent women.

Raaga said...

Happy birthday. :)

I wrote something similar when I lost my uncle. Like you and I've always discussed, we have so much in common.

Sudha said...

Aparna..........i'm sure you'll understand this silence....childhood memories....

Miri said...

What a beautiful beautiful post - your sister and you have a lifetime of memories to keep you going! He is definitely proud of his two daughters, and smiling down on them

Srivalli said...

Aparna, Thank you for sharing such a beautiful tribute to your Dad. It's a pleasure knowing him through you. Take care..Many Happy returns of the day!

Anushruti said...

A heartfelt testimonial, beautifully coined by you.

s said...

this has truly moved me to tears...a moving write up thats penned straight from the heart...Im sure ur dad must have been and is soo proud of both of you..

sra said...

I think this is one of the best tributes I've ever read. I mean it. I'm weeping surreptitiously you know where - the picture of the typewriter set me off - and not succeeding at it.

You look like him.

Usha said...

That is such a wonderful and touching tribute to your father ! Take care...

jayasree said...

A wonderful and touching tribute to your Dad. You are blessed to be moulded by your Dad and you both have made him proud too. Best birthday gift yo your Dad.

You look like your Dad.

Parita said...

Beautiful writeup and very touching!

Kitchen Butterfly said...

The joys and sorrow of losing a parent - I'm glad the memories are fond and strong. I love the photo of the typewriter keys

Soma said...

Such a wonderful tribute. could not hold back my tears. it has been 9 years since I have lost my mom and it still hurts so bad to remember even the happy times together.

bhagyashri said...

I generally dont make my feelings known, much less on the internet to people I have never met, but this post of yours prompted me to write this. You could say I felt sort of connected because I was going through the same thing, around the same time. 3rd April was my father's B'day & he would have been 60 if he was with us today.

Deeba PAB said...

A touching post indeed Aparna ... a great tribute!

Vidya said...

Very touching. Take care Veena & Aparna.

Aparna said...

Just want to say a very heartfelt thank you for taking time to read this and leaving your comments.

Avanika [YumsiliciousBakes] said...

This is so touching. A very well written post by your sister, Aparna. It literally took us back, people who didn't even know him!!