Sunit Nair writes about his Father -- the word, the idea... the person.
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All too often, we see people proclaiming their great love for their mothers. This doesn't mean fathers are less loved. Or are less important.
Think about it: We do hear a lot more I love you moms than I love you dads. But this article is none of that.
It isn't meticulously thought out. Or structured. It's just a collection of the most vivid images and memories that come to mind when I think about Father -- the word, the idea... the person.
My father is not my superhero. He's not Mr Perfect. And he has never claimed any of the tags folks shower on their parents when they talk about their virtues.
I am afraid to describe my father, lest I too descend into a cliché. There are a few things about him that are contradictory as the man himself:
He is a serious man with an excellent sense of humour.
Being the fourth of five children, he taught himself most of what he knows.
He loves mathematics, but doesn't really like solving textbook problems.
He hated studying languages, but sometimes writes beautiful poetry.
He'd rather travel a thousand kilometres on a bike and "experience it" than choose the comfort and safety of an air-conditioned train compartment or the time-saving miracle of an airplane.
This piece isn't about my father, at least not entirely. This is about the things I have learned from him as well as some of the things I wish he'd taught me.
Disclaimer: These may not be common things like riding a bike or extremely deep lessons like on spiritual guidance. It's all somewhere in between (I hope).
What I learned:
1. House hacks!
It might sound a little silly to start with household appliances, but I learned how to wire appliances like ceiling fans and chandeliers when I was in school.
My father enjoys opening stuff up, taking apart the pieces and then putting them back together.
There was rarely a week when he'd come home from work without a colleague's broken radio (they were still a thing back then) or tape recorder (those, too) to work on.
He'd build entire television sets for fun and then give them away. I always hung around him when he was tinkering and he taught me whatever he thought my little head could hold.
I realised how liberating it was to not have to wait for the electrician every time some little thing happened.
2. Learn whatever you can wherever you can.
My father is a big believer in doing things himself.
He once observed the painter pointing out techniques to his apprentice when our house was under renovation. That was the last time we ever hired painters.
He bought the paints and painted the house himself after that. He loves working with his hands and it's one of the things he passed down to me.
3. Know your values
Father is not an easy man to please when it comes to discipline and dignity.
He taught me to exercise good judgement when it came to my morals and values.
Compassion where compassion is due.
Indiscriminate tolerance only breeds intolerance. Establish your principles, never waver. They are little nuggets that are easy to lose, but my father always put them first.
4. Facts over religion
Don't let abstract philosophies or religion get in the way of accepting your mistakes or learning something new, he says.
My father is a religious person, but he respects facts and truth above teachings of religion, if they were to ever contradict each other.
Believe in what is right, not what is told to you by authority. That has always been his motto when it comes to conflicts.
5. Don't put people in boxes.
A person who's good at wrestling may also have a strong interest in a peace rally.
Do not create distinctions and opposites where they do not exist.
People are not to be classified, they are to be experienced. That is another belief of his.
Over the years, there are a few lessons I've learned, that I wish came from my father.
All things cannot be perfect, unfortunately and therefore this second list.
What I didn't learn from him:
1. People may overestimate you, underestimate you, or even occasionally judge your abilities
So you will never be understood completely.
My father sometimes struggled with putting his point across without being misunderstood or thought of as aggressive or arrogant.
He never expected to be understood, as long as things were done right and it didn't affect anything or anyone adversely.
I never realised how difficult it was to be that way.
I often took it for granted and had to learn the hard way that everyone has a limited field of vision and truly understanding others is not a priority for most people.
2. Doing your best is the best you can do
Father always has high expectations, of himself and others. He didn't want to be the best according to standards the world had set.
His best is sometimes a few notches above that. For example, he expected me to score an aggregate of 95 per cent in my university exams.
He didn't realise how unrealistic he was being (especially for a person who didn't enjoy reading textbooks).
Precedents and constraints mean very little to him. That leads to very high, sometimes impossible expectations and inevitably disappointments.
It took a lot of time and effort to accept that it is more realistic to be better than you were yesterday, rather than to be the best version of yourself every single day. Progress, not perfection.
3. Cooking skills
My mom is a good cook, but my dad is a great cook.
I wish he'd share some of his culinary secrets with me. It is surprising that he's so good at almost everything in the kitchen considering he's a vegetarian and not a fussy eater.
He will have boiled cabbage with sugar and salt for dinner, no questions asked. But then he makes awesome chicken curries without even knowing what it's going to taste like. As good as my mom is she'll be the first to accept that dad is the better cook.
He is not a patient man. And as heredity would have it, neither am I.
I don't have to tell you about the virtues of patience. Or the troubles that come with being an impatient person. It's one of the things I struggle with the most.
Is it true? Does it work? Is that right?
These are the questions my father bases his decisions and conversations on.
He is not rude; he just comes across as inconsiderate and arrogant because he is a rational man, who values logical thinking above emotional navigation. Deep inside, he is an extremely emotional man, but he doesn't let that affect his interactions with other people. It is as much a courtesy as it is a way of thinking.
I never realised that I am exactly like him until I sensed a pattern of friction in my conversations with people. Diplomacy is not one of my strengths. Calling a spade a spade and refusing to settle for grey between black and white is not always conducive to pleasant relationships or general popularity.
This particular list could go on for a while, but I must restrain myself with much effort.
For all his greatness and quirks, I have never questioned how genuine my father is. I sincerely doubt anyone who knows him well would.
His fierce independence, sharp mind and big, childlike-heart are a blessing to everyone fortunate enough to know him.
For all the lessons he's taught me and for all that he has shared with me, I will forever remain grateful and proud of Father -- the word, the idea and the person.
Lead image used for representational purposes only. Image: Unsplash/Pixabay.com
The author Sunit Nair is an IT professional based out of Mumbai. When he is not writing computer programmes, he reads Haruki Murakami and Italo Calvino and plays Mortal Kombat X on his Xbox.
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