Saturday, September 17, 2011

Joy of Giving - Card 2 - Week 2 - Letter to my BABA

Mere pyare baba,

I still remember the day you gave me an intense talk on your relationship with my father in Gangaram Hospital in your Haryanvi/Hindi mixed tongue that I, a nineteen year old brought up in multi-cultural Kerala had taken two years to understand. Your words ring in my ears to this day, and yes, I have learned to forgive my father for not knowing how to show his love and affection to us because you didn't show your children any....

Spending every waking minute with you, whether you were in the hospital, at home in chachaji's house or in Tauru (our ancestral village) was my 'get away'. Because when I was with you I knew no one would be mean to me. Your larger-than-life presence was my security against the harsh words of my snoopy aunts and uncles.

All the time I spent in your company were meant to provide me security. But in the process our relationship grew very intense and we became extremely attached and fond of each other. I remember everything baba.

The delight with which you'd exclaim to all the (inevitably) Malayali nurses in the hospitals you'd be in and out of "Meri beti aapki bhaasha main aapse baat karegi (my daughter will speak to you in your language)" a smile dancing off your lips..., the trust with which you'd allow me to drive your huge diesel Contessa, the pride with which you praised my academic successes in front of all and sundry, the faith with which you allowed me to go on my first-ever river rafting trip at age seventeen and signed the Declaration after my father had refused to do it (claiming he didn't want me to die in the water), the emotion with which you came to my barsaati after I'd moved out of my uncle's home, pleading me to come live with you, even agreeing to send me to college everyday from the village almost 100 kms away just so I could be happy, accepting, eventually, to let me live there, alone with two strange roommates, the first girl in the entire clan to do so, without blackmailing me emotionally with the khandaan ki naak tirade I heard my own father shower me with, the way you would simply nod your head when my uncles spoke about getting me married at 19-20 (because I was too rebellious) but shushing my aunts with "Nahin. Yeh ladki padhegi aur kuch ban ke dikhayegi (No! This girl will study and make something of her life"...big words for a man whose whole life had been steeped in tradition...., the confidence with which you would turn to the doctor and ask them to talk to me about your medical condition and medication while the adults of the family would watch mutely, and as the doctor would look in surprise at this petite eighteen year old listening in rapt attention and promising to look after your medication and diet...

And it wasn't just how you were with me that made me love you and respect you. It was what I saw around me - your stature in a village where as young children cooped in the backseat of our car that would have driven us from Delhi airport to the village, the sound of "Lalaji Ram Ram" would echo till we traversed the 2 kilometer stretch to our ancestral home, a village where even after 17 years of your death, I am referred to as 'Lalaji ki pothi' (Lalaji's grand daughter), a village you built a hospital and college in, a village where you are said to have brought the revolution that allowed farmers to sell their produce to the highest bidder, a village where you wanted to die...

When we walk the corridors of the college you built ("So that no child from Tauru would have to go to another city to study like my kids did" you'd said) a few years before you left for heavenly abode, on a piece of land you'd bought for the purpose and donated the college to the State Government after it was ready, we are humbled by your purpose and the way you lived your life. We bask in the glory of your actions baba, knowing that we are no where close to being even half the person you were.

I can go on and on baba.We started late (our bonding I mean) - I don't remember much about you as a child; I only recall that you would lavish on us your affection in the only way you could - buy us Kulfis in the intense summer, let us buy 'campa' when we wanted, let us play in the office surrounded by your account books - but as I bonded with you later, your love and interest in me made me strive to become a better person, a person worthy of your adulation and love.

I didn't cry much that day - 14 February 1994 - the day you died. Somehow, I was happy that your suffering had ended. Even now, some times, I feel angry with you. I feel you abandoned me baba, left me to fend for myself in a world where no one understood me. Left me isolated and lonely. But I console myself with the knowledge that you're in a better place, wherever you are.

I miss you baba. 

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