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”.
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.