My Baba

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He is the feisty activist sort you associate with those fighting for factory workers, labour laws, and against human injustice. He is fiercely honest, extremely well read, finds refuge in cinema, art, books etc, yet remains highly aligned to his age old ideology and political views which seem stubborn and childish to me as I grow older. 

He has a dry sense of humour and is extremely judgemental of manners and behaviour.

His emancipated views towards marriage, gender, and sexual identity made me open-minded as a human being and LGBTQ++ never seemed unnatural to me ever. As I grow older I realise how progressive he was for his times, back when progress was not yet popular! 

Today he is 76 and with his dentures, diabetes, one kidney operational, a bypass heart surgery, he still does solo travel and sits in a cafe to enjoy coffee and cake with me, attends a computer class to learn technology with 20 year olds who are all his friends. 

I found  a man in him who told me marriage as an institution is flawed if you are looking for love but if you seek companionship in the later years, please go ahead and marry if you so desire this great social arrangement. I didn’t quite get it in my teens like I get it now. 

I often remember this one story about him: as a young 20 year old, there was a senior Coorgi workmate who spoke out of turn, questioning his family ethics. Baba immediately got up and told him he would quit. When the Coorg man tried to stop him physically Baba gave him a tight slap and resigned. I am not proud of this and he never speaks about this incident to anyone. I get the sense that he regrets it while also feeling his behaviour was authentic to his beliefs.

But by now you get the gist of the person he is. He surely  isn’t the one to sit quiet if you belittle him. 

Yet I recall as a bride when I stood at the altar getting married into a family that didn’t quite accept me and history repeated itself again. 

My late Father in law shouted in a room of over 1000 people at both my parents, he screamed across the hall that he would never accept me into the family as long as he lived.

I saw him not react as he stood hanging his head and quietly he held my hand and said, “walk away if you wish, I am with you.” He didn’t react for my sake, respected my decision and maintained his part of the civility in the choice I had made. 

Of course as the years passed I was accepted and finally respected and eventually my father in law during his last days lived with me and Baba came once a week to check on him. As we sat for coffee, he told me, “remember to never let the weaker feel lesser because the universe has a way of levelling it out with you this lifetime.” I have not forgotten these words ever. 

I know how important his core beliefs and nature are to him. Yet I have watched him closely compromise on those things when it came to my choices in happiness. That’s how much he loves me.

I remain his world and I see him gravitate towards nurturing and mentoring little girls, searching for the little Mohua in them. 

He told me a few times as I was growing up, “if you are not brave in telling your story don’t expect others to understand it.”

So today, I pen this story and thank my Baba, who taught me to not join the herd, to learn to swim against the current.

He was the first man in my life. In his more immature days, he criticized me for failing math and broke my confidence in the subject forever, and he lauded my love for literature that became my first love. But I remain under-confident in mathematics forever. This was among a number of his own fears he unknowingly passed onto to me. 

Fathers and father figures have the power to make or break a child’s confidence and worldview.

It is said girls seek, for better or for worse, the character of their fathers in the men who come into their lives as adults. So this Father’s Day I dedicate this post to all the men who have daughters and sons: please teach them meaningful masculinity that doesn’t threaten but makes your child question right from wrong and learn the value of being strong to protect and nurture others. 

You are playing an extremely important role in creating the value system for your child in the later years.

Happy Father’s Day, Baba. ❤️

P.S. I have been propelled in my comeback career with the most kindest, wonderful Coorgi men and women I have met and been associated with. I learnt that his experiences were his and mine were different and I have proudly evolved from each of these interactions with no past bias whatsoever. 

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A little while ago, I had a chance to revisit Kolkata with my father. You can read that article here.
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