Sunday, October 16, 2011

My Father's Daughter

Last week was my father’s birthday. For the last couple of years, this time of year didn’t bring me any especial anguish. So I finally thought I was over it, that I was whole again. But this year, the scars tingled again.

There was so much about my father I didn’t like. So much I didn’t agree with. Often, I feel my life is less complicated, more peaceful because he’s not around.

But recently, I have been wondering what it might have been like if he was. Maybe he’d be enjoying retirement after a lifetime of work. Maybe he’d have learned to relax and have fun. Maybe he’d call me up once in a while, tell me about a book he’d just finished. Or ask me about my work and how I’m doing. Maybe he’d have been proud of me.

He’d come to visit. And drive us crazy. But also, maybe, sit with us talking into the night, of things that seem abstract and big: politics, society, art. After all, he was the first person I’d ever talked to about any of this.
I remember him having long conversations and debates about such stuff with friends or guests, when I was just a few years old. And I’d sit in a corner of the room, enthralled. He’d rarely ask me to go away. I remember his students coming home, arguing with him like equals, obviously enjoying his company. How proud he would have been if he knew that a student, probably his favorite student, had set up an award in his honor.

I learned from him that knowledge is important. That anyone, even your teacher, might be wrong. That it is right to question, to debate. That it is important to keep learning.

He was interested in things outside his narrow realm of studies. He was interested in art, in culture, in literature. My love of reading came merely because I grew up surrounded by books.

But he wasn’t very influenced by popular culture, and I inherited some of his disdain for it. I’ve never been to a movie with my dad. I’d never, till I was in the tenth standard, watched a popular movie within weeks of it being released. My classmates found my ignorance of movies appalling.

We had a VCR when it was rare for households to have one; we didn’t get cable TV till I was in college. I found this incomprehensible and unfair for years. Now, I sympathize. Isn’t it better to watch a carefully selected movie or two on a weekend than to watch hours of TV shows all week?

He was outspoken, my dad. Quick to speak up when he thought something was wrong. Unlikely to back down. I too grew up quick and ready to challenge. He wasn’t pleased when he was often the brunt of my challenges.

Unfortunately, I also inherited his stubbornness, his impatience, his neurotic worrying.

I like to emphasize my difference from my parents. To measure how far I’ve come from them.

But this Sunday morning, as I sit working on a piece of embroidery and listening to Hindustani classical music, I’m struck at how much I am my parents’ daughter. 


Anonymous said...

Perhaps the older one grows, or when one lives away from one's parents, or loses a parent, it seems less and less important to note the differences, and one takes pleasure in the traits that are like one's parents. Thank you for sharing a portrait of your father.

mad hatter said...

that was beautifully put unmana, and probably speaks for many people. the confuzzlement of emotions that one goes through with respect to some people in each of our lives.. it's usually hard to hold those sentiments in front of you, to confront them in the speaking or writing of them.

Pallavi Sharma said...

This is an awesome post, Unmana. I can so relate to the last two paragraphs.

Unmana said...

Batul: I'm glad I've come around to recognizing both the similarities and the differences: to remembering him fondly while recognizing I am my own person. Thanks for commenting.

hatter: Thank you. I'd been struggling to put my thoughts into words: writing them out helped.

Pallu: Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hugs dear....your dad does seem to be remarkable person

Anonymous said...

Your sentiments pour from each word, Unmana. I'm sure if your dad was around, He'd be awfully proud of you and the Guy :)

~G said...

Love this post. Hugs Unmana. I am sure your dad is proud of you, wherever he is, just like you are proud of him too. :)

dipali said...

This was lovely! I know how much of my self comes to me from my father, and how much I have learned to be different from him, and from my mother. And yet, there is so much of both of them within: good to remember and to acknowledge this.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written.