I asked my father the other day, “Is there something you wanted to do all your life, but never got around doing it?” He looked at me surprised. Lowered the newspaper he was reading and looked away into the distance. The latest craze of ‘following your passion’ or ‘doing what you like’ was an alien idea to him. All his life he has been working towards providing for his family. I have never heard him talk about his interests or hobbies.
Sometimes during dinner, he talks about the things he has done. He went to Mumbai for work when he was pretty young. He says he used to work in a fruit juice shop, followed by numerous other odd jobs. He reminisces about the people he met. People who helped him during difficult times. People who offered him jobs. He is a devout man. He thinks it was God who came in different forms and helped him. He tells about the ethical dilemmas he faced, tough choices he made and situations he walked out of. I usually turn to other people for advice, but I forget there is a person in my own house who can help me out.
His job took him to Iraq. It was the early 1980s when the Iraq-Iran war was going on. The second time he came back to India on a break, the day he landed here, my grandfather told him they have seen a girl for him to marry. He came, saw her and they got married. It has been 36 years now. Looking at their old marriage photo, my father says, “You see your mother’s smile? I fell for that.”
He stayed in Mumbai and rest of us in Mangalore. I imagine all the conversations my parents had, decisions they made, keeping me and my brother at the center. He visited twice a year. Brought pedas. And cassettes of 90s Bollywood songs. Which we would listen over and over again till the lyrics were etched in our brains. He wrote letters to my mother. For my birthday he would write few lines wishing me. My mother shows me the message and I imagine my father writing it in his small room in Mumbai. It seemed insignificant then, but the image of those written words has stayed in my mind all these years.
He still possesses his first ever pair of spectacles. He also has his sweater (the one he is wearing in the pic below) which is more than 30 years old now, but still in mint condition. I use it now. It is my favorite sweater.
I hate it when he is immersed in his news channels. Sitting in front of TV passing comments about politicians. He accuses me of watching too many films. I accuse him of watching too much news. He wants to learn computers. The problem is, he doesn’t get cut, copy and paste. Right click, left click, double click – chaos!
We never lived together in the same house for a prolonged period of time. When I was free, he was not. Now when he is free I am not. I don’t have memories of him teaching me any sport or even playing with me. And now he is drinking tea without sugar. Which reminds me how fast time flies.
My father has no idea I am writing about him here. And I want it to be that way. His news channels have induced enough fears in him about this ‘Internet’ thing. He would freak out if he knew I am spilling out my personal thoughts here.
So, with newspaper still in his hand, he thinks about my question. He replies – “I don’t have any interests. I want to see you guys settled and happy. It’s the only thing I wish for.” If it was a Bollywood movie then this would have been a perfect father-son moment where they hug each other with teary eyes. Thankfully it did not happen. Because I would never tell something like that. I would never make my children the sole reason for my existence. Never make them the only reason for my happiness. I hope to be busy till I die. I hope to never ‘settle’. I wanted to say these things. I remained silent.