(It is seven years since my father left this world. But it needs no saying that his loving care and gentle words and smile-inducing simplicity are sorely missed by the entire family.)
What strikes me most about my father is – he was the most mediocre average person – one who was a ‘normal’ human being – simple to the height of being termed a Simple Simon, innocent to the point of being gullible, straightforward to the extent of being ridiculed - with no frills or fancies but with fads and foibles and idiosyncrasies aplenty!
A late child, with siblings eight and ten years his senior, he was a pampered kid who had perfected the technique of having his way by rolling on the roadside and yelling with his mouth open like the Panama Canal! A ‘mamma’s boy’, he chose to feast on the home-made curd rice exclusively prepared for him while the rest of the family honored a lunch invitation. In the family of gold medalists, he was content with the 40% he scored in mathematics in his school days – he was a normal average student. But then he went on to bag the gold medal for B.Sc (Hons) and again for Engineering – so you could say he was just being a ‘normal’ member of his ‘intelligent’ family. That he’d attribute this transformation in academic achievement to the change of ‘grahas’ in his horoscope is a different story.
His life pattern followed that of any average person hailing from the middle class family – a decent job, a happy family with its values intact. He never resorted to unscrupulous ways to climb the ladder of success or amass wealth though opportunities fell onto his platter often – he had the strength of character to resist temptations. An honest and uncorrupt, sincere, hardworking officer, he climbed the ladder of his career with steady ‘normal’ steps. His normal middle-class tendency of saving every penny possible for a better tomorrow might have earned him the label of a ‘miser’ from some. But those in the know knew he would unflinchingly spend on food and his family but never on his own clothes or accessories. If he had to go out alone, he’d choose to walk the distance or take a bus. But he’d play chauffeur to his dear wife or children without a mutter. We would rate him a clumsy driver but it is to his credit that he never had a single accident during the forty five years he drove his car!
He was not the archetypal father dreaded and distanced by the members of the family. He was the most adorable father – incapable of uttering a harsh word to the kids, protective, caring and ambitious for them. He’d baby-sit patiently and even sing to us or narrate stories. Oh yes, he’d also forget his kids in the parked car and walk home with the purchases from the nearby market! Yes, he loved it when we romped home with the first rank. But when others spoke highly about his son’s awesome serve in table tennis or fantastic bowling figures, he’d wear a ‘what’s-so-great-about-it’ look! He could not differentiate a cricket ball from a tennis ball!
As a grandfather, he gloated over the academic achievements of the younger generation. He would listen to their animated discussion on sports with a deadpan expression, blatantly revealing his ignorance! A simpleton to the core, he never bothered to pick up sophistication! Even when we had guests for dinner, he’d start off even before them in spite of our secret gesticulations,and give us a wicked grin!
A wizard at dates and numbers, father soon started forgetting the same in his old age. Like any ‘normal’ old man, he too had his trysts with doctors and medicines; he had his share of worries, genuine and unfounded. But unlike Indian husbands of his generation, he was not a male chauvinist. His only hobby was to help mother in all her chores.
This man with no tall claims to extraordinary genius or attainments was a loving, lovable, down-to-earth person. Though quiet, shy, and reserved, he carved a niche for himself in the hearts of all relatives and friends and subordinates and colleagues. He has left normal indelible memories in the normal people associated with him. What I now realize is, you don’t have to be great to be remembered – you could be a normal person with a good soul without any tinge of meanness or wickedness! After all, ‘they also serve who wait and watch’.