Saturday, July 10, 2010

An ordinary man

My father was an ordinary man. He had ordinary hopes, dreams and fears. He grew up in a typical North Calcutta household and did not attend school till he was nine. He did his engineering from IIT Kharagpur and went on for higher studies to Glasgow University. That too was not uncommon those days. He returned to Calcutta sometime in the early sixties after his first wife left him for another man and took up service as a construction engineer with CESC. His family was up in arms as boys from well to do old business families do not work ( the singular reason for the destruction of most old Bengali business and zamindari families in Bengal!)or divorce, for that matter,...anyway Baba was not interested in the family business or opinions and found support from his father who told him to leave home, go through with the divorce, stay somewhere in South Calcutta and follow his heart. So that's what he did. Baba married my mother in 1967 despite a lot of odds....from various family members but as usual he had it his way.
Baba loved his work. When I was young I sometimes accompanied him to the work sites and power stations and I remember my intense fascination with the coal shutes which to me were like gigantic slides. My father was a gregarious happy man who loved life and living and gave of himself just as he gave of his wealth. We often had unexpected guests for dinner and there was always laughter and warmth resonating in the house. He always found time to be there when we needed him and made it a point to share in our successes and achievements. He was there for every school play, every prize distribution and school sports that I ever took part in. My father never hit us or shouted at us. One look was enough. He tried to instil in us the virtues of honesty, integrity and responsibility. He gave us the values and set us free. And if he asked me to do something, I dared not disobey.
My father did not win any accolades, never made the headlines. His picture never appeared in the papers, his name will not appear in history books. He is the common man who dreams of a home and someone to share it with. He is the man driving down to work each morning. He is the quiet man crossing the road early in the morning returning from his morning walk. The only uncommon things he had were his passion for yachting and surfing. Today I feel so proud, when people who knew him, and they are many and from all walks of life, be it a carpenter, a gardener, a CEO, a colleague, or friend or relative or just a mere acquaintance, they always have a kind word for him, some happy memory to share.....It surprises me that even after all these years they speak of him with love and affection. Otherwise, as I was saying, he was just the man next door, the ordinary man who took his family out for holidays, struggled to make ends meet sometimes, neatly organised his life so that should anything happen to him, his family would not have to suffer. In all respects he was very ordinary...if you passed him on the road, you probably would not even turn to look, a straightforward common man who was suddenly, cruelly snatched from his family at 59 by a common disease called cancer.
Yet to me my father is an extraordinary man, he is my hero.
He shielded us from griefs, kept us safe and warm and gave me the security of loving arms to cry to. When I was ill he'd sit by my side all night and never complain. Even when he was dying and the pain coursed through his veins and burst forth from his eyes, when he saw me,he managed a smile. Yes, he lives forever in my heart and each day I am grateful that I had him for my father and no body else. In my teen age years, I had one very common intent: to be different. And I always thought that no body understood me (how terribly ordinary).....during those troubled times when everyone agreed that I was insolent and "difficult", my father faced my tantrums alternatively, with indulgence and indifference. As a result, I never could shut him out...no matter what. For he never judged me and always had faith that I would turn out right. I did not believe it myself, even now sometimes I feel I have screwed up big time...but that faith also carries with it a lot of responsibility... I constantly try to live up to the expectations of the man, imitate him, be like him. In essence, be someone he would be proud of.
What I am going to do next could be termed as plagiarism. Theres this song by Dan Fogelberg called "The leader of the band"....and the words there somehow open my heart.... So with liberal liberties, here is my version of the song:

"A child of a large family
a business man's son
his hands were meant for luxuries
his heart was second to none
He left his home and went his way
to a dream he believed in
and he gave me a gift
I never can repay...

A peaceful man in his soul
denied a simpler fate
he couldn't carry a tune
but had music in his heart
He earned his love through discipline
A thundering velvet hand
His gentle means of sculpting souls
took me years to understand

The others' lives were different
for they heard another call
they carry on in limbo
and I'm here where I stand
living out this life I've chosen
and come to know so well

I thank you for the dreams
and your faith in my goals
I thank you for the freedom
when it came my time to go
I thank you for the kindness
And the times you got tough
And Baba, I don't think I said
"I love you" near enough.

The hero of my life
is dead and his pictures' turning brown
but his blood runs through my veins
and his song is in my soul
My life has been a poor attempt
to imitate the man
I am the living legacy
to an ordinary man......

1 comment:

  1. Loved this, Ipsita. You certainly have the gift for writing.

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