Papa, I love you.
A simple line. Four words, if you break that down further. Something which I have been dying to say for many years to my father but never had the courage to do so. At times I wonder why this is so, that I can’t even express my feelings to someone who has been with me for over 44 years and will continue to be with me throughout my life as a role model and my inspiration.
I know papa will recover and come out strongly from the current situation. He has been admitted at Max, Vaishali for acute brain hemorrhage. This happened last Sunday. The right side of his body is paralysed. As I wait here every day, outside the ICU, for him to get better so we can go home together, I want to take a moment to reflect back on my life with him.
My childhood in Bangalore
Papa had a green Bajaj 150cc scooter in those days and we would scoot around the streets of Rajajinagar and Malleshwaram, parts of old Bangalore that now exist in my memories. He would take me along for shopping, at times for printing his numerous thesis, at times to the tailor for my clothes. I was always scared when Papa would go to fill water in our surai when we would take the train from Bangalore to Delhi. What if the train starts and Papa gets left behind. I would always keep an eye on the water tap as I listened hard for the toot of the engine. I remember Papa getting me a cricket cap after I complained a lot that I want to attend the cricket match at the KSCA stadium. I know he did not like me playing with marbles; one day he made a kite for me. I was on top of the world when I got to fly that kite. I remember at times, I would come with my mother to say wave at him from the balcony and at times he would forget his lunch box and I would have to run to give the lunch box to him. Somehow, I got into the habit of stealing erasers at school, and I remember the thrashing that got me. My mother tried to save me, but I wasn’t spared the least bit. I still remember how he looked the next day. He sat down, pained, and explained to me why stealing was not a good habit. I had a head injury when I was a kid and I still remember how he rushed with me in his arms to the doctor. The best part was that when I fell sick, I would get all your attention, your love. Getting to be in your arms was the best feeling for me. Every Sunday evening, our family would go for a long walk and a reluctant me would get a banana as an incentive. Those really were the days.
Bringing his office work to home
Papa was completing his doctorate at IIHR, and his routine was this: He would come back home by 5 in the evening, take some rest and then start working again at 6. I know many times he would wake up early in the morning around 5 and work. I remember how Papa would get me and my sisters to do his official work at times. This was basically statistical data that we had to read by turn and at times we would get scolded if we were reading the numbers wrong. The handovers then would be immediate, and it would be mostly because I would be feeling sleepy. I remember he would always share stories on why being honest is important. He was obsessed with his work and gave us less time when we were growing up. He focused on work, and made us focus on our studies.
The toughest part for me in the early days was to get my report card signed. He was always disappointed with my grades, he would always encourage me to study. He would help me in revising before the exams, every spelling had to be perfect. He would be getting ready for office and I would have to recite spellings for that day’s examination. I remember i had to share the question paper with him in the evening and answer each and every question again. I would sometimes cheat by asking a few answers from my friends and sharing it with Papa later in the evening, so that he feels good that his efforts had paid off.
Coming to Delhi
We moved from Bangalore in 1986 as my mother’s health was not doing too well. I was 13 years old and in the early days he helped me with my school admissions and then helped me learn Sanskrit & Hindi. Having grown up in Kannadiga Bangalore, I was very weak in these subjects. Every Sunday, Papa would spend 2–3 hours helping me with both the subjects and I realized how well read he was in these languages. I started noticing at this time that he would maintain a diary in which everything was recorded for that day. I asked Papa to teach me how to ride his scooter, and I had to take my mother’s help in persuading him to do so. In Delhi, our house was a centre for many relatives who would fall ill. Papa would spending 15–20% of his time going to hospitals. He interfered less in my studies as time went on, and normally did not question me too much on the time I would spend on playing cricket and badminton.
I remember how he would get all the entrance exam forms and how much he would encourage me to get through to one of these engineering colleges. Knowing my calibre, I also knew that I would not be able to make it, but i did want to tell him directly. I however gave all the entrance exams but bunked the IIT as I knew I would never make it. My decision of getting into NIIT was never questioned, though. In many ways, he always allowed me to take my decisions. After turning 21, it became natural for me to assert my decisions for myself.
Becoming a Parent
For the first time, I was congratulated by my papa when my son Ekansh was born. I know how happy he was then when I had come to pick him up at the railway station. I know how happy he was to become Dadaji. I saw how happily he organized the birthdays for Ekansh & Shaurya. I literally did nothing except for bringing sabji from the mandi. I loved the way he would spend time with Ekansh.
The last 10 years
This is the part where life got serious.
I became a workaholic like Papa when I was at Nasscom and then iSPIRT, but I took it to a new level altogether. I spent 12–14 hours every day in the early days and then Saturday & Sundays would also be 8–10 hours of work. Whatever time I managed to eke out I would spend with my children. This meant less time with Papa, and our conversations veered towards functional and transactional. We would have long conversations when I would drop him sometimes as I went to office, but many times, I would be on a call and he would just silently observe me. Papa became very formal that way with me, and every day morning I would wish him, every day I would just check with him on how his health was. Never did he complain of anything. Every single time, he would only say that he was doing well. Only from my mother would get to know if something was not right. In the last 6–9 months his health has been deteriorating and I could see this debacle coming.
In this hospital
The last couple of days have been really tough for me. It is extremely difficult for me to see him like this — in the ICU, helpless, trying to say something but not being able to. In fact, just that Sunday morning I was thinking of expressing my love to him and also tell him how much i like him and respect him. I wanted to take a minute and thank him for all the pains he has taken to make us what we are today. I know he made a lot of sacrifices and continues to do so.
But before I could do so, this happened.
Why am I writing this?
If you are reading this and like me, are still waiting to acknowledge your parent for what they have been for you, and the contributions that they have made in your life, please DO SO NOW.
I have missed this opportunity many times, and I don’t know if I will be do it in the way I wanted to. I have been wanting to say I love you Papa for many years now, but have not been able to say it, having waited so long for the right timing.
But here’s the thing: There is no right time.
I have been wanting to hug my Papa for many years now, but again, I could not do, and again I do not know if I can do it now. The barriers, the formalisation we put between our parents and us as we grown up tend to be strong. I remember how I had expressed myself in a video when it was his 50th anniversary. And even then, when the video was being played, I had walked out of the room as I did not know how he would respond.
This has probably been the toughest thing I’ve written. I had tears falling as I typed this out, and and I’m hoping that I get to spend some quality time with Papa soon. I’m grateful to my mother, my wife Anjali, and my sons Ekansh & Shaurya who have been a big support in this crisis. Many friends and relatives have been of great support in these tough times, and I wish to thank them too.
As a last word, I say again: Please go say thanks to your parents if you have wanted to for a while. Don’t wait for the right time. Don’t let it go to the point where there may be no time at all.