A month’s passed by since the father’s joined the love of his life, in another dimension. Even now I struggle to write something about the man who made me….somethings are too complicated to elucidate but lets give it a shot.
They say there’s a very thin line between love and hate…my father and I towed that line carefully in our relationship and at times toppled and stumbled towards the unpleasant one.
As a little girl, my favourite people in the world were Amitabh and my dad, who I always insisted in a black suit looked even more handsome than Ali Bachchan. Don’t roll your eyes! As a two year old, I would wait for him to return from work, on his rickety scooter and the sight of him would make me, giggle and clap. Many a times, during our umpteen arguments he would ask what happened to that girl? Somewhere, around the age of nine, life changed, my mum fell ill and everything, including my relationship with my dad went for a toss. I never got used to his new avatar and he never got used to not being my hero!
Up until then, my father was a quiet, hardworking, I even dare say, mostly timid man, loving towards his children, inexpressive with his wife but a great son ( which he remained till his dying day). After that, though his public persona only changed much later, he drowned himself in work and alcohol, stayed away from home and became a version, one doesn’t wish to recall again in this lifetime. His wife’s illness and his failing export business turned him monstrous at times but he essentially remained a good man, who was grappling with things, most of us, trust me, would have given up on years ago! I always, misconstrued his quite beta ways with a lack of strength but that kind of perseverance in the face of adversity, his eternally optimistic, everything-gets-better-with -time attitude, his wicked humor and his need to be useful kept him going, while he lost, everyone he loved!
In his latter years, all of it made him a cranky man, highly critical of everyone and most of all me and my aunt, who he had been closest to. I guess, we only hurt the ones we know for certain, aren’t going to leave. The saving grace, he always infuriated me but he always cracked me up. Irrespective, of how tumultuous our relationship was, we essentially remained friends, ‘kyaa hogaya tu dost he na, meri!’ he would reply, each time he made some confessions about his life and I would turn around and tell him, that I was his daughter, I didn’t want to know certain things about him. We spoke about everything under the sun, from religion to politics, stories from his childhood and mine, to sex, drugs, addictions and more. Nothing was off the table. It was a truly democratic household, where there wasn’t a ‘head’ of the household, just people living, being and arguing all the time! The one rule was, no one was allowed to quit on each other. I guess, I was the only one who followed that!
One always says about one’s parents, if I was given a choice would I want them as my parents again, the answer would be an emphatic no! But in the same breath the answer to- would I want to miss the opportunity of knowing them, in the capacity that I did, watching these wonderfully complicated humans, shatter and pick themselves up again? Hell, no! Sometimes, our parents are around to protect us and at times to teach us, give us life skills no outsider can. There are many valuable lessons my dad taught me that help me navigate through life and any time I pulled myself up from my bootstraps to fix myself up, I only did to get the approval of a man, I never really got any from, directly.
But life is about choices, one can choose to remember all the nasty things we said to one another or one can choose to remember, that he opened his eyes only for me one last time, that irrespective of what he said, he ensured before he went, he taught me everything I needed to know. He gave me everything, not on a silver platter, not easily not what they call, ‘an effortless transition’ but in the way he always gave things to me, with a little push and pull, a lot of proving my worth, a lot of lets train you to see if you can work as much as I did, a lot of, go to all the government offices yourself, deal with everyone yourself, I ain’t protecting you! I begrudged it as a child, my brother was treated with kid’s gloves and I was told I had to do everything on my own. Now, I know, he must have known, that I would need those life skills and not my sibling who passed away, before he needed any of those. Someone asked, if I was angry, he left things the way he did. To which I replied, ‘I spent most of my life angry with him, now he’s gone and most of it has dissipated, with him because for the first time I see him for not what he didn’t do but what all he did. To not abandon your wife and children when everyone was pressurizing you to, to remain afloat after one business fails and create a name that your children can reap a benefit from, to have old employees and old associates speak wonderful things about you, all that makes it a life worth living! As for what he did for me, he thought I was unintelligent but never stupid enough to not survive, so he ensured that I had things to keep me entangled enough to not loose my shit! The only compliments I got from him were, ‘you’ll make a good mother’, ‘you took really good care of your mum’ and ‘my daughter is like a phoenix, she rises from her ashes’. But my all time favourite will always be, ‘abhi bhej rahaa hu apni beti ko, woh tumhe batati he!’ He left me with that confidence that I can protect everyone and fix all of his problems and mine! Money, can’t buy that…that is priceless!