Amalendu Nag

Phoolda to the entire family of Nags from the little town of Barodi in erstwhile East Bengal, grew up in Rajshahi, was proud of his teacher P.K. De Sircar.

I have no idea why today is designated as Fathers’ Day, but as I loved mine and he loved me like nobody ever has, I wanted to write this post.

He liked to be up to date. He never was late for anything, if it was due to start at 8 a.m., he would be there by 7:45 a.m. Ready for life at all times – that was who my daddy was. No, I did not inherit this quality, merely the feeling that I should be like that and every time am late I feel disturbed, thinking am failing him in some way…

He liked to do what he did, well. “I don’t care if you choose not to do it, but if you must, then do it well or not at all”. He detested shoddiness. I do too. In this sense am his daughter.

Sometimes – no,  in fact, a lot of times before I became old, when I was a girl, he made me feel embarrassed – he seemed impossibly like an incorrigible little boy. He was always doing things I had to ‘fix’ I would feel. He never seemed to be serious about anything at all! Always laughing, always joking when we felt he should be angry and protesting.

The taxi driver comes late, daddy misses his  flight, his explanation: “He (the taximn) probably doesn’t know that watches need winding every day”. The paperman leaves the garden gate open, the neighbour’s goat eats all our blooming marigolds from the head,  buds and all. “That goat (paperman) is hard of hearing and his brother (the real goat) is smart, so what do you expect (you cant blame one because he is deaf, the other one did what any intelligent being would, so why fret) ?”

He made us laugh – but we would quickly stop  so we could sulk some more when things turned out wrong. This Pieces however was never shaken.

When the rain flooded the garden he would make us fishing rods, and we would be seen in the back steps using them – full of hope of catching something, while he coolly shut his eyes soaking in the glorious sound of  Sachin Dev Barman’s   inimitable voice belting out Bengali folk songs on our Panasonic stereo that the family used to be so proud of. I still have it, it was the latest model then.

Daddy liked to dress well, he was stylish, never looked unkempt (the way I tend to do), had fifty pairs of shoes. His shoes irritated mum when she had to clean the closet. I loved them.

He liked beauty and harmony around him, he hated it when I left home without brushing my shoes. I did it often, so,  he would sit on many Sunday afternoons while I slept,  tired from play or studying or grading classwork, cleaning all our shoes – my brother’s, mum’s, mine, his own. It was a ritual.

Some days I would also sit down to it with him.  It was a sight to see with the two of us sitting on the front or back porch, depending on what season it was, with the shoes arranged in a neat semi circle in front of us. Then when it was 4:30 p.m. mum would wake up from her siesta or just leave her paper (we read the newspaper in the morning before leaving for school or work, since mum stayed home, she read the paper, later) or her book, make tea and carry it out, to us,  where we sat.  She would pull a cane stool called “mora” and sit down to watch us. I would show her her shoes, ask her if she could ever shine it the way I or daddy could. She would laugh, “Nope” and shake her head – “that is why I got you”.

“What?!”

I would throw the brush and stomp off  inside to wash. “Put these away and go, Mithi”, my daddy would call after me. I would come back and pick stuff  up then – what was left that is, most of it he would already have put away.

My daddy recited poems when he had fever. When he fell sick, became bedridden, he would start reciting poems aloud one after the other – he never recited them when he was well. I thought he only could remember them when daddy had fever. And my daddy hated going out on his holidays. You could not drag him out for anything. We used to fight so much about this, “When we grow up,  there would be no ‘we-went-here-with-our-father’  stories for our children!”  Well, I  didnt get children. So it is fine I guess.

Daddy loved sweets, never complained if food got burned but he exploded if his rice stuck to the pan – after he retired,  he had taken it upon himself to cook  rice  when he was at home. Perfect it wouldbe,  everytime.  During exams,  when we had to wake up early,  to study, it would be my daddy that would get up before all of us to make coffee for me. All my life – till the time he passed away, I never got a chance to beat him at it. Ever.

And during his exams we had to read his stuff out for him, that is the only way he could remember. I picked up this habit.

There was not much I could ever do for my daddy except buy him stuff.  All that love, thought, that he showered upon us, I now try to give back to my children and all that I interact with – he loved people, had a kind word for everyone, people loved to do things for him, and they had flocked to the house when they heard he was gone.

Everyone came,  from the rickshaw-wallah to his eighty year old walking pratner and the dog he fed, didnt eat or leave its place in front of the front door for three days. It just sat there with his head burried in his paws waiting for daddy to call him for a game or his meal…one rainy day daddy had carried his mother in his pocket, when she was a tiny pup shivering in the sand pit near our house. He had said later to us that when he saw her, he had stopped, the little pup had slowly walked up to him and he had asked if she wanted to come home, she had wagged her little tail so he had put his hand out for her and when she had climbed up on it, he had put her in his great rain coat pocket and brought her home. Chickoo is her son. They are street dogs. They are family and mum always counted them for all meals.  She still does.

Life feels a little off centered with this man gone, who was really like a little boy.  Playing with us while making the bed. We pretended we were birds when we jumped off the bed and dived into the heavy quilt on the floor. We would hide mummy’s stuff together and tease her.  When he lost all his life’s savings at one stage,  in a chit fund, he had grinned and tried to console mummy with, “O but see how everybody’s house is getting robbed, so much money gone is so much percent of your worries diminished too, you could sleep with your windows open now “. It didn’t convince mum of course….

He never did seem like a father until he died and left this huge void in our sky, it either rains all the time now or heats up with the blazing sun.

The house became so very quiet that it feels eerie there.  Anyway, I try to trust, be nice to people because that is what he wanted us to be – nice people that were nice to people. It is hard being daddy’s girl, but  I try.

Audacious Thinking

“Let us Teach them to be Audacious” Kiranbir Sethi

Why we teach our children to be audacious thinkers? Because a look at human history reveals how it has always been the outrageously audacious thinking that made all the difference.

Gandhi, who believed he could topple, defeat the most powerful empire with the power of persuasion and love! They overpowered the Mighty British forcing them  to retreat with just what?  Words and the  power of non-violent resistence.

Look at the audacity of thought and determination and faith in the idea, a legacy that the whole world recognized as valuable and worth preserving.

What about that first explorer that defied resistance of conventional knowledge, audaciously set off to find the Indies,  discovered the shores of the America?

Or that man who decided to wipe off six million people just because he thought he was right? The population of the neighbouring country Bhutan is about a million…so effectively, this man kills the Bhutanese population six times over, so to speak… offsetting massive,  lasting changes in the political, social, economic history of the world as we know today.

Then this man that had been telling everyone that would listen how plants breathe, have life of their won – and how people laughed from the inside of their jail-celled  existence. Bose.

And this other one told the world, “O but it is all relative, depends on where you stand”, sweeping whole philosophies onto a different course altogether.  Einstein.

The Bard of England showed the world what it meant to have grammar serve hands and foot at your service, turning every idea of right or wrong about language use on its head. It is a tool, for God’s sake, make it serve art and stop being a slave to Rules, Shakespeare  seemed to say with his writings.

We realize that Robinson Crusoe and numerous others that may be called survivors in the true sense, all learned to live audaciously, thinking in ways that nobody dared, is why they lived in the end.

Creative thinking is at the root of all successful problem solving strategies.

Every single idea that rocked the world, whether in good or bad ways, was audacious, outrageous aspirations of the human capacity to think beyond – imaginatively reach out over the lines and boundaries of convention, established norms.

It makes good sense to rewrite curriculum after all that India has experienced in the past two decades and change teaching learning focus. I am glad we are doing it finally. We are awake and responding to changes in the world around us.

This post is a celebration of the difficult and exciting journey we have embarked upon.

Hope we do the best by our children, that they are less helpless, more empowered,  by the time they step into the world of adults.

Post Script: On the eve of launching into the Give India Design Thinking Contest, the children were at a circle time closing loop with their campaign plan. Ideas of Giving flew back and forth. Suddenly, Simran, spit out, “O but giving this and giving that and what we do not use is so cliched, why can’t we think beyond? Giving can be other ways too, if we do something like teaching or…Let us think of an audacious idea of giving!”

Coming from a Grade 9 child… it is working already!

my father

I watched my father die in my dream this morning. I experienced his death all over again  – woke up scared, disturbed.

I saw him lying on his side, his face very dark. He was alive at this moment. The way he lay, the way his face looked  made me weep in my dream.  I saw me talking, heard me say, “Why is his face like this, Maa, my father’s face  was so beautiful, how did it become like this?”

He was alive when I spoke. Next minute he was gone. He hadn’t answered.

And then I saw the empty house, my mother changing into a white saree.

It was very vivid. I woke up. Could not think, or do anything. I turned picked up the phone, sms-ed a person I hadn’t thought of in months or met ever.

I sms-ed what I had seen, how I felt. Then came the tears and I found me crying like I just lost him.

I have just shifted to a new house. all my colleagues came to visit me – they said it is such a happy place, please stay here, do not change. and I had a good day at school this morning. am not ill or hungry.

I don’t understand why I saw my father again this way. I didn’t know dreams could be a “all-five-senses” experience. Wish I could do something to reach out.

I don’t really know why I wrote reach out. I know my father is just not there anymore. Maybe my mind is debilitating, disintegrating. I am aging, or going mad.

At school this morning I had said the more we know about our past, our heritage, legacy, the history of how conflicts were resolved, the more we know about how we became who we are today, the stronger we become, the easier it would be for our children to cope with forces that mangle their tender, clean trusting minds later.

I am not thinking of, but  living experiences, trying to connect with people that are just not there. Things inside my mind are probably coming apart. Life is slipping away I think.

I cannot sleep anymore.

It never hurt so very much to see the night end And watch the morning seep in through the chinks in the doors aand ventillators. And I do not wish to understand or rationalize, pretend to be allright, or normal – right now it seems dirty, ugly, unclean and dishonest and unbecoming of my father’s daughter to be so.