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Father's Day Special: What I learned from Papa

Last updated on: June 12, 2014 20:08 IST

Father's Day Special: What I learned from Papa

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Divya Nair

For most of us, our dads are our first heroes. 

From mending our broken toys and hearts to surprising us with their unconditional love, they are an unforgettable part of who we turn out to be.

This Father's Day, I'd like to share with you the lessons I learned from my Papa.

Amma tells me that when I was born, my Papa was one of the happiest persons in the hospital building. He refused to put me down and every time he looked at me, his face would swell with pride.

I was after all the first person, after his wife, whom he could proudly call his family, his own.

His mother had passed away at childbirth and years later lost his father too.

Much of his childhood was spent in the company of his maternal grandmother and uncle who'd sheltered him and served him food twice a day.

But emotions like 'love' and 'family', Papa used to say, were always a luxury for him.

Papa didn't complete college.

He fell into bad company and ran away from home to fend for himself.

But he is a self-made man and we're all proud of him for that.

Our family grew up with minimum luxuries.

For a good part of my childhood we lived in a rented chawl with a doorless bathroom attached to the kitchen.

But we never complained because Papa never made us feel that we didn't have enough.

He spent 35 years in the same private organisation where salary hikes took place every four years -- a phenomenon he says, our generation will never understand.

He retired last month with a VIP suitcase, a box of cake, flowers and lots of unforgettable memories.

Papa's dream was to buy a house, get his kids educated and get his daughter married in a grand manner.

If that’s any benchmark of achievement for a father, my Papa's a clear winner.

Looking back at his life and career, I've realised that the greatest lessons are not taught or learned in books or movies, but from your own mistakes and from your parents, of course.

This Father's Day, I'd like to share with you the lessons I learned from Papa which I believe will also interest you.

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Photographs: Mansi Thapliyal/Reuters
Tags: Papa , VIP

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Always appreciate what you have

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I must have been about six years old when this happened.

We had visited my father’s ancestral house in Kerala to meet his uncle and aunt who had raised him.

Although the old couple had health problems -- they could barely walk -- like every year, they had made different types of palahaaram (sweets and munchies) and special provisions for us to enjoy our week-long stay there.

I was happy and excited until I was served the same drumstick curry regularly for two days.

I made a face and refused to eat my dinner despite everyone requesting me to.

When I refused to listen, Papa hurt me -- he smacked me on my thigh -- and asked me to eat what was being served and strictly warned me not to drop a single tear.

I was upset but that same night he consoled me, explaining why I was wrong and how we must appreciate what God has given us.

He told me of the times he had to sleep on an empty stomach as a kid.

He said he'd miss his mother and wondered what it felt like to have someone to take care of and feed you with love.

I realised much later that it wasn't about not liking a particular food; it was about appreciating the privileges we have that a lot of others don't.

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Photographs: Reuters
Tags: God , Kerala

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Love always gets the better of us

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Until I was about 10 years, I had a strong dislike for my younger brother.

I thought I would be better off with a younger sister with whom I could happily share my things than have a brother who loved superhero cartoons and played cricket.

At one point I even tried asking my parents if we could donate him to someone because I just could not love him the way they wanted me to.

Despite my being rude to him, Papa taught my brother to continue loving me and vice versa.

After school, Papa would occasionally get my brother to ride his double-seater mini bicycle and convince me to let him carry my bag home.

Whenever there was an occasion, he would encourage my brother to share his sweets, gifts and toys with me.

Over time we became close.

If it wasn't for Papa, perhaps I would have lived with hatred all my life and perhaps never known the worth of having a brother.

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Photographs: Roosevelt Cassio/Reuters
Tags: Papa

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Dream for bigger things, but live in reality

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My father would always say: Irrinnittu vaenam kaal neetaan (loosely translated from Malayalam as 'Stretch your legs only after you're seated').

Although Papa had multiple responsibilities and chased many dreams, he always believed in taking on one thing at a time.

Before taking any decision, he would calculate the risks involved and analyse whether or not he could handle it.

Be it taking a home loan or an insurance policy, he was always practical about his decisions and encouraged us to be realistic about our expectations too.

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Photographs: Mike Blake/Reuters

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Never pay a beggar money, give him food

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During holidays, when we travelled by train, we would see urchins sweeping the floor and platforms and in return begging for money.

The most common excuse would be that they were hungry.

When others in the compartment helped these beggars with a coin, Papa would insist on sharing food.

He'd share a packet of biscuits, chips we were carrying or give them something from the nearby food stall.

He'd explain to me later: We don't know how true his intentions are -- he could misuse the money or grow greedy for more.

But when your stomach is full, you will automatically stop complaining and asking for more.

Among the many other lessons he's taught us, the most important one was to respect food. 

Incidentally, Papa spent 35 years of his career cooking food for guests.

He believes that God purposely chose him for the profession so that he could feed others and make them happy and at the same time ensure that he himself never went to sleep empty stomach again.


Photographs: Jason Lee /Reuters
Tags: Papa

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