Everyday's Father's Day

Every unsaid word by my father has been a chapter in life's lesson for me.

I  grew up in an age when Father’s Day was unheard of. Fathers, in my growing years, stepped in only when mothers had had enough with a difficult child. It was an age when paternity leave was laughed at and casual banter with fathers was taboo. My father and I never played ball together. He didn’t know that PTA meetings existed. He hardly took us out to the movies or shopped with us. I don’t re-call greeting my Dad on his birthday ever.

My father’s world was his small law practice, his books and God. He seldom left the confines of his vast library when he was at home. What I never knew about my father was that when I played, when I was away at school and when I was innocently oblivious of the reality around me, he was silently toiling away to keep the family going.

He married my mother who was nearly half his age, when he was almost 40. Age, however, never impeded their relationship. My parents shared a deep, unstated and powerful love that carried them through nearly 40 years of marriage. My father’s abiding faith in my mother’s constant and noble support to keep the family together gave a whole new dimension to their companionship. Every unsaid word from my father, in retrospect, has been a chapter in life’s lesson for me.

Dad led the family by example. His actions, I realise today, taught us the value of benevolence. Money was scarce and demands from a large family of growing children and ageing adults were significant. Nevertheless, we never heard lectures on economy or sermons on saving from him. He was a stern and an unyielding taskmaster, but his sense of humour definitely showed on occasion.

Conversations between us had begun to slowly improve with time. My father would willingly now allow me to borrow from his library. Dumas, Greene, Wordsworth, Emerson, Ramakrishna, Tagore and many others shared happy space in his library which was also crammed with hundreds of volumes of leather-bound boring, law reports.

“You must read the ‘Agony and the Ecstasy’ after this,” he told me bluntly when I was replacing ‘Lust for Life’ in its place. With a beautiful calligraphic hand and an enviable command over nearly eight languages, he had filled up several exercise books with his thoughts, notes, quotes and prose. The four o’ clock riser was now making sense to me.
“Never compromise on integrity,” was his sole advice to me when I started my law practice. He had lived by this motto all his life. By the time I graduated from law school, Dad had already begun showing early signs of Alzheimer’s.

Between his ebbing spirit and my mother’s constant support, Dad continued to do as much as he could, until he suffered a stroke leaving him confined to bed. The sight of a well-read, highly articulate lawyer reduced to a mumbling cripple drove us into indescribable despair. He passed away quietly after a week in the hospital.

Though several years have followed his death, Dad’s perceivable presence in my life has remained unbroken. He showed us a life of sacrifice, provided security for those he loved and displayed remarkable fortitude and grace in meeting every difficulty that life placed before him. The greatest gift Dad has given me is a template for leading a simple and fulfilling life. My Dad is my hero. Father’s day, for me, is every day.

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