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Papa:The Complete Man

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For most of my childhood years, I believed with a certain unwavering conviction (that only kids are known to possess), that Papa was no different than one of my bicycle riding, hop-scotch playing, squeals of joy producing little friends. There was something very light hearted and guileless about him that appealed immensely to us kiddies. In a world where most fathers could be slotted in insalubrious categories like – the irritable ones who growled at the drop of a hat, the distant ones who didn’t give a hoot, the strict ones who didn’t spare the rod and the nagging ones whose lengthy sermons could lull the most insomniac ghosts to sleep – Papa shone like a solitary lighthouse whose beacon of light cut through the densest of darkness. Far from being grumpy, nasty or even preoccupied, he was, for the most part, full of life and mirth. Even when ensnared in a complex web of worries – emblematic of adulthood – he somehow managed to keep up a happy demeanour that brightened every room he walked into. Today, as I grapple with worries of my own, I can barely keep up a façade of having my act together, let alone ooze pure contentment and joy from within. How he did it all his life is a confounding mystery.

***
A couple of decades later, at my wedding, after a rather hilarious encounter with him, a friend of mine emphatically stated – “Your Dad is super cool!!” Her innocuous little observation made me closely study Papa and his innate ability to build and sustain human ties. Turns out, he is in fact the quintessential ‘Yaaron ka Yaar’. That he can effortlessly wiggle his way into cliques of all kinds and all age groups, acts as an apt attestation of the above appellation. From being a hoot amidst little ones to being a worthy partner in crime to a pack of 20-somethings to being an energy packed ball of witticisms amongst his own classmates and colleagues to being kind and respectful to the oldies, yet bringing a smile to their wrinkled faces by cracking a joke here and a joke there – he is a welcome addition to any gathering under the sun. It is thus not surprising that under every second rock, in every other country around the world; we end up unearthing long lost friends of his. And when Papa meets them, it is almost like they had never parted. Rib-tickling anecdotes flow unbridled and bubbles of laughter permeate every open space and every open heart in the vicinity.

***
This is not to say that Papa is just about fun and games. In the face of seemingly insurmountable circumstances, he is like a solid rock that one can lean on without a second thought. I wonder what infinite pool of worldly wisdom and resilience he draws from while patiently (and occasionally impatiently) listening to other’s woes and dishing out sound advice! Sometimes, something as simple as hearing him recite his favourite verse from the Bhagwad Geeta – “Jo hua,woh achchha hua,Jo ho raha hai,woh bhi achchha ho raha hai,Jo hoga,woh bhi achchha hi hoga” serves as a perfect antidote for all maladies. Just like a cup of hot tea, spiced with ginger and cinnamon can get rid of the most stubborn of all sniffles, a dose of Papa’s stoicism laced with veracity and a sprinkle of love can shoo away the fiercest of life’s ogre like troubles.

***
Now that the sentimentalities are out of the way, let’s bring back those smiles with an account of some of Papa’s outlandish talents. His snores, for instance, are so potent that even the dead rise from their graves to stuff their ears with balls of cotton wool. If you are still able to somehow fall asleep and wake up in time, you can be privy to a magical sight  – that of him enjoying  a plateful of breakfast – a one-egg omelette, a piece of toast and some almonds. Watching Papa savour his meals can make the fullest of tummies rumble uncontrollably again. After a mandatory one hour nap in the afternoon and a cup of tea, he gears up every day for his favourite time of the day – squash time. On most days he dominates the squash court like a professional player. With the zest of an 18 year old, he smashes the ball against the red-lined wall and mercilessly crushes his opponents.

***
Thirty two years ago, a pretty Pune-based damsel agreed to give up a cushy job and a cosmopolitan life to marry a strapping young officer whom she had never met. A quick peek at a thumb-sized, sepia toned picture of his was all she had to put a face to the words that consistently arrived wrapped in blue inland letter envelopes. She probably had a stomach full of butterflies and a heart full of anxieties as she read his letters and hoped that he was just as dependable as the frequency of his letters. If only I could travel back in time, I’d hold her hand and assure her of the astuteness of her decision. I would tell her that she is destined to live a happy, fun-filled life with a man who will not only prove to be a good husband but also a loving father.

***

He is going to be the one who will sit by her and watch 3 hour long Hindi movies even though he can barely stand them, just because she loves going to the movies. He is going to share her love for travel, long drives, aaloo bondas at train stations and shelves full of books. He is going to be the one pulling her leg and breaking into loud belly laughs when she reacts and he is also going to be the one melodiously singing her favourite song – ‘Heyyy Neele Gagan ke tale’ to cheer her up on gloomy days. Since time travel isn’t yet a possibility, I will settle for the next best option, which is telling her today – “Ma, you did well!”

Preeti Sharma is an MBA and dabbles with creative writing. She also blogs at  www.preetisharma84.blogspot.com

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2 Comments

  1. September 28, 2014    

    Lovely. Great style of writing. My son will be able to say the same of his Baba. :)

  2. VEENA Sharma VEENA Sharma
    September 29, 2014    

    This is a tribute to a very beautiful relationship between father and daughter. Well described!

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