(This letter is a part of The Quint’s Father's Day series where readers write their little secrets to their dads.)
You taught me ‘Shakespeare’ and you taught me ‘Swimming’ and that sums up your multi-faceted personality. A steadfast soldier, a stoic officer, a gifted dramatist, a serious writer, a charming extrovert who loves the rough and tumble of life as much as his fine whiskey, elegant parties and high brow book discussions! Be it the thrill of partying with your Army course mates or giving those ‘sermons on the mount’ at the monthly satsang, you truly are a jack of all trades and master of many! And when you don the cap that says “18 till I die”, you truly mean it!
While those tales of valour at the war front from 1962 to 1971 are well chronicled, only your closest friends know how head over heels in love you were with the woman I called mom. To see you break down as her lifeless body was lifted from our home to the cremation ground remains my most painful memory and yet in the months following her early death, I discovered a side of you I had never known. Determined to be self-reliant and independent, you became a workaholic who wouldn’t pause to rest! In your bid to make us get on with our life you immersed yourself into a world of your own. As you work and travel with a vengeance, I see the same stubborn and determined mindset that made him run away from home as a 15-year-old to join the Indian Army because you couldn’t bear to live in a home where your mom had died.
You have often narrated the story of how you dreamt of being a father to three daughters even before you were married, making me imagine you to be some kind of a soothsayer who knows the future and maybe that is why even though you couldn’t be with us when we were born, you named each of us after your favourite ‘goddesses’ and we somehow turned out exactly like the names we were given!
As you flaunt your “devil may care” attitude, I can peep into your soul and see the pain of losing your partner as much as a fierce pride in your progeny. My most recent and most touching memory of our togetherness is the time I accompanied you to the war crematorium to bid goodbye to your best friend and Army course mate. To see you hold a smart salute in the blazing June sun made me proud to be your daughter but the next minute I was rattled when you asked me to ensure you also get a soldierly send off when the time comes. This ease with which you speak of mortality gives me the confidence to face life and death with courage and peace.
This letter comes on Father’s day, very close to your 80th birthday and makes me hark back to our favourite Shakespeare who says:
“So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee”.