“Papa,” a word that I don’t get to speak since he has left but repeat it several times in mind. Every time a word, an incident a picture brings back his memories in a rush, every time I choose self-respect over security, every time I speak my mind, every time I remind myself to be on my own rather than waiting for someone else to come and take care of me, and I take his name in my mind every time I write, because these are the things my Papa gave me.
My father had a difficult childhood with the early loss of his father and no substantial resources to rely on. Growing up in relatives home under a sense of obligation rather than care, he was washed with some bad experiences. He turned a bit short tempered, dominated with a kind heart that was quick to reconcile and make up the for the loss caused by the anger.
The most precious thing he gave was his stories. He would keep very open and transparent communication with my brother and me. He shared his stories of hardships. We would listen about him walking five kms daily to school without breakfast, borrowing books from friends to study and to be at the beck and call of aunts and uncles who allowed him to study.
The stories were told not as a heroic or sacrificing deed but with a sheer intention to let his children know everything about him. No direct messages were taught, but in the process, we developed faculties of sensitivity towards any person in trouble, a respect for the labor and most important that one can shape their life irrespective of the hardships or instead one should. We grew up understanding very early on that life is not going to be easy.
I owe whatever little confidence I have and my love for writing to him too. From very early on, I wanted to write and would curiously ask people about Diary writing. Majority of people told that it is a habit that prominent and successful people keep. My ten-year-old mind bought the fact that I was neither of the two and hence, I was not entitled to write unless I spoke to my father about it.
He taught me that I could write anything I found interesting and encouraged me to put down a piece on a rose plant and its very first flower about which I was very excited. Since then, my pages were filled with trivia I loved to collect, my half did, half thought poems and songs. That diary of some thirty plus years old is the most valuable possession I have today!
Though, not like modern day fathers claiming to be children’s friends, Papa was one in every sense, ensuring the discipline at the same time.
He taught my brother and me to ride the bicycle in childhood and later a bike to my brother.
Being a little self-contained girl, I was happy to travel to college by bus. Papa one day proposed to buy me a two-wheeler too, for which I wasn’t ready given my lack of confidence and willingness. My father instilled that confidence in me and boosted my strength and asked me never to think less of oneself. Later on, it helped me discover my capability to take on challenges and deal with them. Those words still propel me towards any apparent difficulty and make me take up any problematic task irrespective of its outcome.
When Papa gave away my soft toy lying in a showcase to a less privileged child, we learned that if you have something that others can use better, then it should be given away.
when he scolded for not using the new bicycle, we learned that we should either not buy the things we don’t need or must make use proper use of the things we have.
When I flunked Math in my pre board exams, Papa trusted my potential to come back and saw it coming true.
I miss him; I miss being with a person so naive and simpleton. Never saw him manipulating people or situations. He would take people at their face value: a quality which I have imbibed genetically and try to get rid of it at times given the losses I had to face. Later through various spiritual studies I learned that it is better to be cheated than to cheat and Papa had this wisdom and chose to keep it.
While teaching to ride a bicycle, he would hold the seat from the back so that I could maintain my balance and immediately be saved from falling. Once I caught him slowly giving away the support from the end for me to ride on my own. I saw him doing this in the shadow, forming on the ground and panicked.
Eventually, he did teach me to balance the bike and ride on my own. Since then, I have been riding on life’s rough and smooth roads taking charge of my course.
Though not physically present, he is present for me; still standing at a distance watching with pride as he would have once observed me speeding up bicycle without support.
Wherever and however, I am: I am proud of myself because I am proud of him.