I had a favorite shirt with blue checks on a white background. It was given by my father when I appeared for my first job interview. He told me that it was very expensive and he especially got it for me from a dealer. When I got it, it looked very good on me and I used to feel confident and motivated. I got trousers specially made for it. For the first five years, it was my first choice for all special occasions. I used to wrap it in a special cover and store in the cupboard. The new look on the dress was present for many years. I got many more dresses but my preference and liking remained with that old shirt. Five years back, the shirt looked a little tight. I got it repaired by my tailor and was ok for two more years.
Then I started putting on a little more weight and my tummy started showing up. I got worried about my look and fitness. I started hitting the gym and did all that I could. But, I was not able to get back to my slim body. I could not wear my blue shirt comfortably. My blue striped dress, almost condemned, was a big reason for disappointment and frustration. Still, I secured it, wrapped in a colorful envelope, with a lot of care and passion. I missed my blue shirt always, which comes as my first thought every time.
I was the only son of my parents. I was considered a good son. I was my father’s son, he wanted to give everything to me including his wisdom and beliefs. He was always a man who spoke less. He trained me to follow him and learn. I used to get instructions from his looks. I almost started replicating and followed his beliefs and convictions. My father was happier with my imitating him than his other material success in life. After good academics guided by my father, I joined a company away from my parents. While stepping out from my father’s cozy house, I was very nervous and doubtful but my father gave the required assurance to go ahead in my life. He assured me that he would take retirement to be with me at the earliest opportunity. I also remembered the strength I enjoyed from a confident personality like my father. The looks of my father with the reassurance remained with me as support.
My father was also a happy person because I was growing to be the man, which he wished to be. Whatever my father said as a system, I preferred to believe and proceed in life. I recognized that was safe and convenient. I was married to Ramya and that was the time I would say that was the beginning of my life. That was the time when a contest started between the freedom the world offered me and the framework I got used to. I became a struggling man between my religious, social traditions and the other available options, which came to me in the form of my wife Ramya.
Ramya conceived and my next phase of life began. My mother came down and took over the kitchen. My mother gave all the advice required with her experience to my pregnant wife. I and my wife enjoyed being pampered. A lot of events and rituals were performed more for the enjoyment of neighbors and relations. Then Ramya gave birth to a baby boy. The next big issue was about naming the boy. My father naturally assumed the responsibility of giving the name. The name had to include my father’s name and a family deity name. All added up to a very clumsy name. There was a feeble protest from my wife. My parent’s affection and care made her helpless. The final name to address was settled to “Nani”. The fort of convictions built by my father got a few cracks. I felt the sheen in the looks of my father was waning.
As promised, my father retired and came to settle with me. He came with his retirement benefits. He could buy a three-bedroom flat with his savings. He organized the house very well. My life in my thirtieth year was well settled and was ready-made. My son and my wife also enjoyed immense love and affection. Only the point to be noted was my father’s taste prevailed. The books, the photo frames and decorations all were of his taste and feel of comfort. He was afraid of stepping out of any established ways of society. Weekly visits to the temple, verification of auspicious moments for every activity were simple examples of his indulgence, which we naturally made as part of our life. Ramya was silently and patiently observing and absorbing the annoyance.
I got stuck into the strong web of sacrifice and nagging love for me from my parents. I tried to wriggle out, but could not. Our life settled into a routine. But my father followed my timetable morning to evening and was chasing me for my discipline. At the end of the day, he would for my coming back from the office almost at the entrance gate. Many a time he would miss his dinner schedule for me. He used to feel uneasy even for a small delay. It strained me a lot. I felt a big burden and dilemma to convincingly tell my father that I grew beyond his care. My office, my friends, my wife, and my baby son were consuming my time and emotions. My father’s looks came to a stage of pleading from that of authority and confidence.
Next few years, I grew faster. Events looked quick and hurried. I had another child. My mother passed away. Ramya also joined a job. We entered into the next phase of my relationship with my father. My father realized our feelings without much complication. He tried to reposition himself. His concern for me was still intact. He was confined to his room for most of the time. But his worries for me had a different dimension. He felt that I should inherit precious philosophical and traditional knowledge from him. He also worried that I and the next generation would benefit a lot from his hard-earned wisdom. He tried to make me read a few books which he felt were very useful for a good living. I did not find time or relevance for the subject he was talking about. He missed a very simple point that wisdom would have an expiry date. I had to deliberately ignore and disappoint my father. He also hoped that I would entrust the responsibility of grooming my children to him. Contrary to his wish, we hired a Montessori teacher for preparing my children for highly competitive missionary schools.
That was the time he was pushed into the corner room of our house. That signified his role in our life. At my convenience, I would visit and report to him the happenings in the house. My father was smart, sensible, and sensitive. He realized his status in our lives and started a voluntary retreat. He stopped following my life and events. I also had a feeling that the life cycle of a father was complete and I did not try to correct course. Most of the time, our communication used to be, exchange of our looks. I knew he was asking me to reduce my weight and tummy. He was asking whether I completed reading “Bhagavad Gita”. I knew that he wanted to know why children were carrying so many books to school. He also knew my reluctance to answer.
Another turn in life, I was posted to another city and we all had to pack. My father was not in a position to manage for himself. While I and my wife were deliberating, knowing our predicament, my father himself said that he would not join us in our new life. He also offered to join an old age home, where his old friend was already a resident. We did not have many options and agreed to his proposal. I knew painfully that my father’s role in my life was ending here.
His love, his care, and his advice were no more relevant to me. Everything seemed so burdensome when my father’s love for me had to be referenced with my life at my age.
Affection filled, probing, and asking looks were taken away from me forcefully. My father turned face to the other side when I was bidding bye to him. A moment earlier, there were many questions in his looks. I felt he wanted to say many things to me. As always had been, he did not use many words. When I was ready to leave him, “Take care of yourself” were only parting words. I also held my tears back and bid bye to him leaving my beloved father in the old age home.