Saturday, 16 June 2012

In the Name of the Father..

I love words. Love stringing them together – in prose, in verse. At school, I wrote the play that won us the Inter house dramatics competition. So writing, journalism should have been a natural career choice.  My father would have none of it. “You’re no Khushwant Singh, no Ruskin Bond!”

I was part of the school debating team, and did quite well. A lawyer wouldn’t be such a bad idea – in fact the principal suggested as much to my father. His reaction, when I broached the subject, was an acerbic “Stop reading Perry Mason!”  He would have none of it.

At college, I was part of a dramatics society called `Dramatique’. We performed Arthur Miller’s `All My Sons’ at the Film Institute auditorium. I played Chris, the idealistic younger son. Someone suggested I enrol for the glamorous acting course at the Institute. My father, of course, threw a fit. “I am not Raj Kapoor!”

When I suggested that I take up Arts at College – English literature, to be precise, it was my mother’s turn to throw her hands up in the air. Barely literate herself, she declared that Arts was for girls - boys always took Science (the fact that this great hypothesis was propounded in rustic Punjabi only added to the irony).

So when my sister and I passed out of school, she joined Arts at the nearby Wadia College, whereas I was made to take Science at the much further away Fergusson College! That was another gem - coming from parents who had never seen the inside of a college – that the `light as fluff’ Wadia was good enough for her, whereas I had to trudge to the more studious and staid Fergusson!

Today is Father’s Day.

Over four decades on, I can only smile at the well meaning whims of a man whose grasp of both reality as well as the potential of his son was tenuous at best. Also, as I ponder on how times have changed, I look back and think about how different I was from my father, and yet how much I’ve become like him.

Sure, things are different. He raised six children, including my niece (his granddaughter), whereas I have my hands full with just two.  I was 47 when I could afford my first car – a non-AC Maruti 800, bought through an Army loan from the CSD at Patiala, whereas my son was only 27 when he got his first – a sleek, midnight black Honda City!

When we were doing our Young Officer’s Course at Mhow, among 40 odd officers, only two had motor cycles – one Yezdi and one Enfield bullet retrofitted with a diesel hand pump engine!. Today’s YO’s all zip around on 150 cc Pulsars and Enticers! On our degree course, only one of us had a car – a modified jonga. Today, at the CME parking lot all you can see are Honda City’s and Hyundai i-20’s!

Is that a good thing? You bet it is! Should I feel jealous that these guys are having a blast that we couldn’t even dream of? Naah, perish the thought! I revel in the knowledge that they are free from the `hardships’ we went through (I bought my first fridge a good four years after marriage, and got my first cooking gas connection a good six years after!). I’m sure THEIR kids will see even better times, and three cheers to that!

Father’s Day is a concept marketed by Archie’s, I’m sure. But let me take the opportunity to indulge in a little nostalgia. I look at the portrait of my dad, stern and autocratic, and just smile, and choose to remember only the good times – Ok, I didn’t become a Khushwant Singh or even a Ruskin Bond – but I didn’t turn out too bad either..

My kids, I’m sure, will wish me a Happy Father’s Day – and I will hug them and say to myself – Ok, I made mistakes, but I tried..

I am my father now
The lines of my hands
Hold the fine compass
Of his going
I too shall follow
Through the eye of this needle
Of forgetfulness..

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