Happy Father’s Day

I was half asleep until half an hour ago, that in between state of sleep and wakefulness. When my mind stirred and the thoughts started warming up although my eyes stayed firmly shut and body remained still and limp with sleep. But a thought crept in, about Father’s Day and that I should have bought a present for my dad. Should have sent a little surprise perhaps? I’m the only member in my family who believes in them. The others are shockingly bad with surprises or spontaneity.

Instead I decided to write this post, not because I will publish it and my father via Facebook will like it and so will my extended family. No. My dad’s mercifully not on Facebook and my sisters aren’t very savvy either. This note is just a recognition. Mother’s shouldn’t be celebrated over a day, it’s a lifelong gratitude. You say the word mother and it warms the cockles of your heart. They are just as sacrificing now then they were before. But our fathers, deserve a special mention today simply because they’ve stopped making men like them.

We’ve all heard that term before. Our rich history with selfless visionaries can’t be compared to the current crop of pathetic politicians. The thieving ministers and thugs that are elected to lead us. We get melancholic listening to Kishore Kumar, RD Burman or Dylan. Plenty of good talent now but hardly exceptional. Actors like Harrison Ford, Clint Eastwod, Richard Gere, Amitabh Bachchan. They were men not boys.

3856_98768997256_1407155_n

Our fathers were our teachers, our handymen, our accountants, our drivers, our mechanics and our doctors. They were everything rolled into one without making it seem like it was extraordinary. That generation of men lived a disciplined life. I wonder if our fathers ever slept in, nursed a hangover or chilled at home. It seems to me they were up before the alarm went off even in their twenties.

1385523_10151627441657257_1323093647_n

My father was born in a small village in UP and given his background I think it’s remarkable the life he’s made for himself and the life he provided us. He does manage to surprise us sometimes with his choices. Like moving to Goa or painting his scooter a bright canary yellow. The head of the family was ahead of his times.

My father pressed his own clothes as well as ours. He is never too busy for us. Recently an old childhood friend who I lost touch over the years added me on Facebook and told me how grateful he was that my dad helped him with his practical exams. I had no idea that they had such an arrangement. In the evenings my father turned part teacher part monster. Let’s just say Maths was never my strong point. It never quite added up in my head.

On the weekends too he works with clockwork regularity. Washing the scooter and the car. Cleaning the blades of all the fans, dusting and finishing other domestic duties. They were fixers. Whereas the guys I now meet have to be told, gently persuaded, reminded, begged and yelled at until they get-up from the couch or look up from the TV or an iPhone etc. Then they have the audacity to call us nags.

IMG_2519

Being domesticated didn’t mean that they weren’t worldly and wise. He can engage in a discussion about history, politics, science and is more knowledgeable than most guys I know.

My neighbour recalls how dad would yell at anybody trying to steal mangoes from her tree. My father and mangoes are not to be messed with. This summer his voice on the phone was almost deliriously happy because he had received his first batch of mangoes. What I admire is this conscientious attitude. Nowadays who gives a damn about what’s happening in your neighbours life?

Now that he’s retired he’s still equally busy. The red tapism in India keeps him suitably busy and largely frustrated. During one his walks, he noticed a pipe was leaking and of course my chagrined father went to the local MLA to tell him a thing or two about wasting water.

He’s a Doer. He’s the ideal candidate for a Power of Attorney. My sister entrusts him with her investments. He walks over to her house and attends to her garden. He recently fixed her washing machine using an old vegetable tray. On another occasion my sister was complaining that her sunglasses have become loose so my father used a hair dryer to heat the plastic until it worked. We would have purchased another pair. We’re the infamous use and throw generation. My dad on the other hand was from the mend and save generation.

When any of us have a work related problem, my dad always assures us by saying ‘Don’t worry about losing a job. I can’t provide you with the luxuries you’re used to but I can still take care of my children’s necessities’

My intention here is not to extol about my dad. It’s just a salute to our dads. The rare breed of men who make it all possible. One might argue that they were not hands-on daddies like we find today and I agree. But life is all about trade offs. The relationship with my father wasn’t based on friendship. Papa wasn’t playful but was respected. Feared more than he was loved.

Sadly he is also taken for granted. Until now.

1391680_10151627443237257_1641558408_n

HOW R U. GOT COLD. CONTACT AT CONVENIENCE.

This is the text I received from my father. For those of you wondering why daddy dearest sounds so brusque it’s simply because texting to him is a modified version of the telegram. He continues to be frugal with words as if every letter is charged.

It would appear that technology and warmth can’t be juxtaposed. I send my father a text saying I’ve landed in Hong Kong and ask him to wish me luck because I start a new job from tomorrow. His response is GOOD. SLEEP WELL. FACE CHALLENGES FROM TOMORROW.
His fixation for uppercase beats me. Maybe it’s him trying to be VERY clear. I imagine his tired eyes scanning his small screen, not so smart phone and all’s forgiven.

I sometimes marvel at his single minded-ness. It wouldn’t surprise me if he makes bullet-points about the topics to be discussed during our weekly Sunday calls (no mid-week calls unless it’s an emergency). Although there is usually a pattern .Get information on my health, awkwardly inquire about my happiness, quiz me about work and an inquisition on my savings (and the lack thereof). What quickly follows is a lecture on how I squander it away before the phone is handed to my mom for peace talks.

His clarity in thought makes me wonder just how many words, texts, calls and years I have wasted on small talk. I reason by saying it’s the price of popularity.
Yet, I look at my dad sending letters and postcards to his retired friends , receiving calendars which are probably meant as corporate gifts and I have to respect how they actually took time out to keep in touch. We,the instant-gratification loving Gen Y with our synthetic SMS’es, hashtag tweets, Insta love on instagram and Facebook likes and pokes are plain lazy. The world is getting smaller but the distance between us is increasing. I’ve been toying with a social experiment of removing my birthday from my Facebook profile. Would people remember without a reminder?

Not too long ago, I tried to teach my parents the joys of Skype. Much excitement ensued before the video call except for a tiny technicality, they forgot to put on their webcam! When they figured it out, I had a better view of the wall than them. The maiden call was going swimmingly but after the basic pleasantries were exchanged my dad wanted to hang-up. I reiterated it’s free but that didn’t change his mind. He says he doesn’t understand the Skype revenue model. Admittedly neither do I.

I realize that I’m heading in the same direction. I shy away from leaving voice messages and blithely ignore the marvels of modern-day technology like voice memos and audio notes, much to the chagrin of my friends.

In school, after spending the day together, my friend would ring me and we would chat for hours as if we hadn’t met in years
In college my friends and I would discuss every boy, every dream and any remote possibility of how our lives could change
When I reached my 20’s I was full of existential angst
I wanted to be anyone but me and live anywhere but here

Then we grew up and couldn’t ignore the gradual changes as technology seeped into our lives. Staying in-touch meant texting, g talking, what’s app’ing, BBM’ing and on very rare occasions, a phone call. The call is usually to make a plan. I can’t remember the last time I got a call when a person just wanted to ..talk.

With more number of years under our belt, are fewer words spoken?
With the customary ping of ‘let’s catch-up’ just how many promises are broken?
Technology is efficient but it’s also crippling our communication skill
My father is a man of few words with an old-fashioned way of expressing them
But I treasure his messages because not too far from now I too will feel like an ossified fossil

IMG_1552