Father knew best

by Chandroo D.

Back in Rangoon Burma, during my young growing up days, I had been very close to my father. He was a pillar of support for the whole family.  Contemplating today, I am going back in time as to what led me to be close to him.  His rituals, daily routines and character all played a part in my life.

 

Despite having a car at disposal, he loved to walk as often as possible.  Right after work around 5pm, he would beckon me and persuade me to join him for a long walk to the jetty. He was an athletic six footer and being a kid, I had to trot to keep up with him.  Many a times, I would be behind him occupying myself kicking stones.  There was also times, when a stray dog would follow us until I shooed it away as we approached the jetty.

 

The jetty is known as Pansodan Jetty and across the river is Dala a small township.  While father enjoyed meeting up with his friends at the Jetty, I would sit by the pier and watch the ferries plying between the Pansodan Jetty and Dala. The journey normally took around 30 minutes and the ferry which docked every 30 minutes or so was always packed with chattering locals, an occasional shuffle of chickens cooped up in pens and the cries of hawkers selling their wares. The sight and sound of this unforgettable experience is still embedded on my mind till today.  Before we head back home, father would face the river peacefully for around 10 minutes.  Curiously, I asked him the reason behind it?  He replied, "Son, I am wishing and praying that every member of my family always stays happy and healthy".  "What about being wealthy?" I asked.  "Wealth comes and goes and should not be the initial requirement in life.  Once you are honest, it will come to you automatically" he answered. 

 

He loved tea.  A young delivery boy (Chaiwala) would bring up his hot milk and ginger tea twice a day during office hours. He would drink from the saucer and hand over the half cup to any staff close by.  Most of the time, I used to be the one caught up with it.

 

Every Thursday he would bring in a lemon to the office. This he would place it in the cash box. Why? Because it would deter the evil eyes from stealing. Superstitious? Perhaps! Unless he was following the routine tradition by his elders.  Gladly, I had never heard of any staff stealing from the office.

 

His office desk was always clean and organized.  He kept his daily requirements in the same place to easily access them. Once he got back home and if he ever saw my mother's sari lying about carelessly on the bed, he would pick it up and fold it neatly.  He also wanted the apartment clean and tidy.  If the servant was not around, he would make me pick up the broom and had me sweep up the floor.

 

He was of fond of writing letters.  Once a week or so, he would write to my married sisters who lived overseas.  His letters were written on blue foldable aerograms.  He was full of joy whenever they replied back with news from the other side.  Natural for him to know that his daughters were living a healthy happy life.

 

The best day of the year was during Diwali. We all looked forward to it. He would prepare brand new crisp notes in envelopes and present it to every child in the family. Being generous, even the staff received filled envelopes. Once my sisters got married and lived overseas he would ensure that they received a gold coin during Diwali day.  During the partition of India, he had experienced depression and realized gold was more valuable than cash during a crises.

 

He was God fearing. Every Sunday morning, be rain or shine, I used to drive him to the Temple. His dress code would be..white shirt and white pantaloon.  A white Nehru cap would grace his head.  Two hours later, I would pick him up to return home for lunch.

 

Once a month he would have a barber visit our home and he would ensure all the boys including himself get a haircut. He would go for the whole works which included a clean shave and a moustache and underarm trim.  As time went by, since he was loosing hair, visits by the barber became rare.  I remember him saying, "why do I need a barber now, since God is cutting my hair these days!"

 

He used to be a heavy drinker during his younger days until one day he saw his close friend dying right in front of him due to overindulgence in cheap liquor.  Right after that he became a teetotaler.  He would never allow a single bottle of alcohol into our house.  Mother however, used to hide a bottle of brandy in the closet and would mix it with honey and ginger and gave a spoonful to any child who had a cough or cold.

 

Despite having a ever smiling face, he was worrier.  After all, he was supporting a large family and had to ensure that the income matched the daily spending.  Many a times, he would be found pacing up and down the verandah early morning smoking a beedi (tobacco wrapped in a leaf).  His best advice to me was....  "Problems will always be there in life. Never ignore it. Face it and solve it. Months later you will laugh at yourself for worrying for nothing when it was finally solved".

 

As expected, all tensed and worriers experience health problems and so did he.  A doctor used to visit our home and inject him and also prescribe medicines.  A few days in bed and off he went to the office.  He just loved work and wanted to be in action rather than lay in bed.  He used to escape from mother's constant nagging to take care of his health and relax more.

 

During mid 1963, he flew down to Indonesia to get my brother married. After the marriage he and my mother stopped over in Penang, Malaysia to visit my sister and take a break at the same time.  Unfortunately, his time had come early and he passed away there peacefully at the age of 58 years. It was a sad day for me when I had to drive to Mingaladon airport in the heavy rain to meet my newly married brother and sister-in-law who were arriving from Penang.  The sight of seeing my brother coming out from customs area holding the urn containing the ashes of my father, was heartbreaking. I sadly broke down. 

 

My memories of him will always be with me eternally and many a times when I do certain things unknowingly, I ponder and think..isn't that what father used to do?  Has his traits and character rubbed on me?

"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself". Lois McMaster Bujold