My Father Turned 80 on July 31, 2013

AppaMy Appa (father) is 80+ now. My kids used to tease me: “Look at aabu(Grandpa)…he appears younger and healthier…learn from him how to be smart…”

“Appa, you are getting bald, greying and becoming old faster…but look at aabu, he is still trendy,” my youngest kid would say.

True. He is still active – he spends time on farming for physical exercise. He cooks own food. He stays away in the village in our family house – there is some agricultural land in the front side and Vinayaka temple adjacent to the house. He doesn’t want to leave that ambience. For him it is heaven. And my mother’s – his wife’s – presence is still there… He dislikes the city life.

He has been a Hindi teacher. He is an ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave.

My kids visited him on his birthday and grilled him for sometime asking various questions related to his life. I would like to share some of his views with my friends and relatives (some of you might know him personally)

“There is no need for praying for yourself. Even before the thought of prayer comes to your mind, God would know it. So always pray: ‘sabko sanmati de bhagwan’ (God, bless everybody with happiness)….”

He told kids to surrender to God and that will protect you… He doesn’t believe in any superstitions, rituals, astrology or the need of middleman to reach God. “Your karma is your God”. He believes that Hanuman (Anjaneya) gives him health and courage. Everyday, without a single day miss, he lights lamp in the prayer room and offers flowers to god.

“Don’t ever think badly about others. It will come back to you only…”

But I don’t follow him- as he is a clock watcher. He strictly follows his daily routine like a robot. For instance, he wants to have his lunch at 1.30 in the afternoon. If you serve him a minute earlier he wouldn’t touch. If you delay it, he would turn angry. He will go to bed by around 10.30; he is not bothered about anybody, when it comes to his daily routine.

He says, “shariramadyam khalu dharma sadhanam” (the first duty is to care for the body, to pursuit dharma or right living). He will not sacrifice or adjust anything if it comes to his physical self. He is very touchy about his moosh (moustache).

He has many biased opinions about the world. He was literally thrown out to street as an orphan at the age of 7 when his parents died, despite the fact that his family was wealthy and his siblings were powerful. He says he had faced all miseries and struggle till my mother came to his life. So his biased view points and conditioning may thus be justified.

We used to argue always – I go just in the opposite direction for most of the things in life. We do not agree on many things. But I know he loves me as his eldest son (I have four siblings). I may not like his attitudes, but I love him as my father.

I seek his opinion before taking any important family decision. He may be wrong as he is ignorant about many things, especially today’s way of life. For instance, he is proud that I became a journalist, contrary to his wish to make me a medical doctor. He is happy that I was a writer from my college days. But now he carries some doubts: “You don’t use pen and still claim that you are a writer. How come? And in the past I was seeing lot of newspapers and magazines that carry your articles. Now I don’t see anything printed.” He knows nothing about computers, word processing software or online publishing.

Though his opinions are wrong, I am sure the intention behind his opinion would be based on pure love of an honest well-wisher. Except your parents who would really love you without any conditions?

However, every time I go there to meet him (at least twice in a month if I am in Ernakulum) we part with angry exchange of words and fight. I intentionally take up some trivial issue to argue with him. Otherwise, when I start the car, he would come and stand nearby the gate with tear-filled eyes. I don’t want to see it. My wife would blame me for fighting with father. Later, I would call him in the night to say sorry, but before I say something he would say: “Putho (son), what you said is right…I agree with you…But I can’t change at this age…I don’t want to leave this place…” What can I reply to such a humble man?

Udaylal Pai
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