My otherwise authoritarian father

My otherwise authoritarian father


Representative image. (Photo/Pixabay)

My rebellious streak prevented me from following the universal precept of going early to bed. I drew flak perennially for my nocturnal habits. During my teenage, I received daily admonitions from my father. I relate this owl-like habit to my acculturation to an evening schedule. Unlike the evening colleges of Delhi University now, which start classed by 2 PM and end by 5 PM, an ‘evening’ college in our baccalaureate days in the 70s meant classes between 6.20 PM and 9.20 PM.

I actually find that the hours of the night lend to help me stay focussed; I experience greater ease in writing at night, these reasons, of course, were always dismissed. After dinner, if I was not immersed in books, I would go on long strolls with a like-minded creative. We would share our concerns freelyOn my return, I discovered that all my family members, excepting my mother, were asleep.

Over the years, there was a change in father’s reprimands. From daily, his reprimands appeared occasionally and though laconic they were not any less loaded. Feeling clueless, and armed with the intent to mend my nocturnal ways, one day he issued a directive, denying my entry after 11 PM. This ruling was particularly targetted at my permissive mom. I tended to endorse that creativity often finds expression in the stillness of night. I also drew support from the lines of Gita: The sage or the enlightened (Sthitpragya) keeps awake when others are asleep (Ya nisha sarvbhutanam, tasyam jagarti sanyami).

To not incur the wrath of my strict father, on return from night stroll, I would tap the door trying to create minimal noise — only loud enough for my mother to notice. One day, the comfort of this daily routine was broken by a dramatic scene.

On that particular night, it was already 11.30, and the mildly cold gusts of wind of November in Delhi prickled the exposed parts of my body. I tapped the door with extra caution to no response. I thought of other options of spending the remaining few hours of that wintry night. Knocking the door down or shouting when no other alternatives were available did not seem right, and in this case, this was almost my fault!

When intentions are not mala fide, gods come to your rescue, they say. A cot lying in the balcony of our ground floor government flat came as a panacea. Though a woollen cover was necessary, the overcoat I wore could partly help fight away the wintry chills.

Early morning, when I was found shivering, my mom in repentant demeanour cursed her sleep for the neglect. “Offer him special tea and leave him to rest undisturbed”, came the commandment from my otherwise authoritarian father.

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