That's me cutting my first birthday cake in Daddy's lap. Today is his hundredth birthday, so it's only fitting that we cut a cake together again. Happy Birthday Daddy!
"Ek dafaa..." is how all his stories used to begin, and I still remember many of them.
My favorite is a drama in real life from his own childhood:
When Daddy was a little boy, he once got into a fight with a classmate, who, incidentally, had a dislocated elbow tied up in a plaster. When they came to blows, Daddy hit the boy's broken arm rather forcefully with his slate. The boy cried all the way home. Soon enough, he arrived back in school with his father. Daddy knew he was in big trouble and hid immediately. "Kahan hai (daddy's name)?" the father yelled. Eventually, Daddy had to emerge and face the fire. But hey! the father had brought along a box of sweets for the naughty kid who had hit his son!!!
Turns out that the doslocated arm, which the doctor had been trying for many days to slip back into place, got perfectly aligned with one master stroke of Daddy's slate. With 7 doctors in his extended family, it would be tempting to say that his kids inherited his gift for healing.... but no..... nobody else practises his unique hit-and-trial style!
A dedication from my younger sister, his youngest grandchild and, according to him, a reincarnation of his mother (she bossed him around like that for sure):
My memories of my relationship with Daddy are in part those which I remember from my childhood and those that have been told and retold by my family. His room was a territory it seems I had free access to and many of the elders feared to tread in (specially when he was sleeping). The office, the black ledgers, the book in urdu with the stamps, the glue, the letterheads, the walking stick, his white hair: they all fascinated me and I can still see them when I shut my eyes. Posting letters in the red letterbox with him. The fights to make sure he didn't get more kharbuja than I did. Stories of how I was completely indulged by him, how rules were changed for me, and how I let out secrets I was told to keep by my parents. He was my grandmother and my grandfather. I called him "angootha-chaap" because he couldn't write his name in hindi! But being the youngest, you get away with a lot. Daddy, this comes in late but Happy Birthday and thank you for all your love.
And now for a guest post from my father. "Ek dafaa...
a boy was born in an agricultural family on the 1st of June 1909 in a small village in Laiyah (now in Pakistan)… he lost his mother at a very young age… worked in farms for a few turnips for lunch and his school expense. He was the first in the family to try his hand at education. Through his inclination, dedication and above all the blessings of his teachers, he passed matric and went to Lahore for his graduation. He got married and had a loving wife and five daughters He worked very hard to make ends meet .When the youngest daughter was 13 days old India got independence and the Partition happened. He went deep into Pakistan and after few months came to India with the help of his Muslim friends in Pakistan. By the grace of God he, his wife and five daughters, their sewing machine and a few valuable reached India safely. The Partition had the sorrows for him too: he lost his sister and her husband.
His office re-established in Delhi and he was instrumental in getting it reorganized. He lived in a shared accommodation in Mehrauli above the Arya Samaj Mandir, and used to commute by buses everyday all the way to Delhi University North Campus. In 1951, when he was 42, he had a son. This is where I come into the picture. I am the son and the person I am talking about is my father, who would have completed his century on 1st Jun 2009 if he had not got out at 83 on 18th Jan 1992.
I was the full stop of my parents' children. The earliest remembrance I have of him was when I was five or six years old. I remember him as a hard-working, disciplined and a strict but affectionate father. He had his priorities: clean clothes, health food, good education, simplicity and punctuality. Six children, a wife and a moderate salary: still he made sure that none of us feel deprived of the basic essentials of life. On top of it all, he helped his brother-in-law, and a few nephews to study and make their lives. Before he retired, all my five sisters had completed their education and four of them had been married.
When I went to college, he had retired and was fully involved in a career of Life Insurance business. On his insistence, after my graduation I joined him .Throughout his life I held it against him that he made me do something that I did not want to do. If I had my way, I would have become a nature photographer or travel guide living somewhere in the Himalayas, where he himself had taken me many times, as he loved nature and traveling.
In 1983, three events happened: First I lost my mother, second India won the Cricket World cup and the third was arrival of my younger daughter. All the three happened in quick succession. Instead of losing himself in grief over the death of my mother, who had been with him through thick and thin of life, he enjoyed the Indian victory of World Cup and played the role of grandmother and grandfather for the new arrival.
On Jan 17, 1992 he went to the office. I was working late, so he met every body he knew in the office. That Friday night he had set his bag for Monday as the next day there was a one day match between India and Australia, and he loved cricket passionately. The next day when we opened the door of his room, he was lying on the floor. We picked him up and called a doctor but it was too late. He was no more.