Monday, February 13, 2006

Remembrance

On this day, 95 years ago, my dad was born in a tiny village in Kerala. He was the first child born to his parents, and would be followed by another ten -- five brothers and five sisters. His father was a Commissaire de Police for the French Government. He spoke Malayalam and French -- NOT English! -- and the only photograph I have seen of him shows him in a superb uniform, all glinting medals and French "kepi"! I never met this grandfather, but my father's mother, who was widowed when her youngest child was barely walking, is someone I remember clearly -- she was an extremely active and creative lady, who was a Sahitya Akademi award-winning author in her life-time and a social activist who enthusiastically joined Gandhi's freedom movement in those heady pre-Independence days. Even to this day, my uncles remember growing up around their mother who would write at the family dining table (perhaps by the light of a kerosene lamp), throwing down pages on the floor as she finished them, such was the energy of her literary flow!

My dad died in 1994, after a long struggle with Parkinson's. He put up a brave fight and was always, right till the end, glad to be alive, unwilling to give up or give in despite the terrible indignities wrought upon him by the disease. His journey was in many ways an extraordinary one, working his way from that small coastal village all the way up to the competitive exams in far away Delhi, earning the right to serve his country in the Foreign Service, reaching the rank of Ambassador in his final two postings, to Thailand and Iran.

In many ways, I was born a little too late to appreciate him and I do feel a sad regret about all the things unsaid and left undone. He was an exemplary Dad. In this day, when we hear endless horror stories about the vile behavior of men towards their wives and families, it is important to also record those men who are decent, kind, good-humoured and hard working. I rarely ever saw him ill-tempered and I never heard him raise his voice in anger to anyone. He was always mild-mannered and cautious, but he held his own, he fought for what he believed was right and I think he brought us up -- my two sisters and me -- to have a strong sense of what is decent and honourable in life.

He was also the source of my interest in puzzles and cartoons! He was an avid crossword puzzler and reader of cartoons. We still have in the family, the collected album of "Curly Wee" comics that were serialized in his local newspaper. He cut them out and stuck the strips neatly into a volume, when he was growing up and they are still enjoyably readable now. He had a warm sense of humour and loved nothing more than to read a good book. Towards the end of his life, when reading was a chore because his eyes were weak, he took to watching art movies on TV and knew more than most of us about the best new films on the art circuit.


So anyway. I thought I'd share that with those of you who read this blog -- and especially for those of you who still have dads. Go give him a hug, go tell him you love him and that he matters to you.

14 comments:

Sreejith Narayanan said...

Beautiful Post. It reminds me of my dad too, who passed away in 2000, especially the calm and composed nature of your father. Even the interests seem to be similar :) I used to remember him whenever I read the book To kill a mockingbird (I have read it umpteen times).The nature of Atticus Finch in that book is very similar to my dad.

Marginalien said...

Thank you! Maybe Dads of a certain generation were all somewhat similar? Your photograph however suggests that your father was probably a whole generation and a half younger than mine. I believe the Independence-era generation of Indians were remarkably different in character than their own immediate elders and also their children -- in that they were alight with idealism and a powerful sense of purpose. Perhaps your father was still carrying the torch passed to him by HIS father ...

Amrobilia said...

What a little gem you posted. Your paternal grandmom must have been a real trip! I can see bits of her in you...and it seems it would have been nice for anyone to know your dad...

Good tip at the end too.

Very nice post indeed!

Marginalien said...

Thanx, Amro! Yes, my grandmom WAS a "trip" -- a very strong personality, very much the matriarch of a large clan. My uncle attended the book-launch of the re-published version of her prize-winning book, an autobiography, written in Malayalam entitled "One Thousand Full Moons". It seems to me somebody else used this name for a book recently, but my g'mom wrote her memoir about 20 years ago.

30in2005 said...

What a glorious post! I can see where you 'remarkable-ness' comes from. I believe that all those passed become our angels - and I'm pretty sure yours are looking upon you with pride and joy!

I miss my dad all these seas away. Good to be reminded to tell your parents how much they are loved - and often!

Amrobilia said...

Is her brook availunfurl in English? Wud like to read it!

Wasn't it some BJP guy who referred to AB Vajpayee's recent birthday as the (his/Vajpayee's) completion of a thousand full moons? Is that what u'r thinkin of?

Honk! R U off to my birthplace in the Punj as well? Lots of G-O-O-D food!

Marginalien said...

Dat's it, Amro: very bright of you to 'member the reference. No, my g'mom's book is not properly available in Eng. But -- no worries! -- just teach yourself malayalam (notice how this word is a palindrome?) and it'll be a breeze!

When I say "not properly" what I mean is, there's a rough translation, but last year when I was in London, my uncle and I took a few moments to compare the original M'lam with the existing Eng trans. That is, he read out a paragraph of the original m/s and then, piecing together the little scraps of M'lam I understand and his own fluent knowledge of both languages, we were able to determine that the Eng version, while "correct", was too literal. It translated the meaning, but not the style of the original. So it doesn't properly represent the book.

And thanx, 30-in-2005! Sweet of you to say that and nice to see you here again after what seems to be a long pause of time. I need to go visit your blog ... Tomorrow, you'll be jealous to hear, I am going to attend Neel's first birdie! And that answers your question, Amro -- no, I am not part of the Jullandrous expaticle. I will instead, be stuffing face elsewhere in Delhirium!

Speaking of which (Delhirium, I mean): I am Teaching Myself Latin and have just got to second declension nouns, many of which end in "ium". So I can now decline my informal name for our glorious capital: (sing.)Delhirium, Delhirium, Delhirium, Delhirii, Delhirio, Delhirio ... (plu.)Delhiria, Delhiria, Delhiria, Delhiriorum, Delhiriis, Delhiriis!

Amrobilia said...

Had a pretty good steakerium with masheriums and greens followed by a couple of delirious dessertations names of which I cannot recall, at a newish place named Bohemia...sis in town...more hogmiums tofright at za blame place!

pp vineesh said...

your language is flowing like a river in a jungle..it is cool, gently, refrshing....kallolinee..in malayalam..
i wish to know the tiny village in kerala? is it Mahe?

Saurabh Devendra said...

Hi Great Blog,
Saw your work ages after being the founding member of Suki Fan club (probably the only member during that time) ... :) ... my 2 min of fame when you featured the post card ... from then to the crazy world of london bond market is a long time but reading about suki again after all these years was very very refreshing .. hope to read double talk soon

Marginalien said...

Thanks pp vineesh and saurabh devendra. Yes, Mahe and also Tellicherri were where my father grew up.

Saurabh, it's always nice to hear from a Suki fan! The fact that there were so few makes each one precious. I shall convey your salaams to her. Good luck with the London Bond market ...

pp vineesh said...

thanks madam. i am from kannur near tellicherry and mahe. i am a journalist working in a malayalam daily. and wish to write about your perspective about your homeland, your memmories about it and how much they influenced your writings etc. will you kindly give me an online inerview? i want to know about your books also.
my email id is ppvineesh@yahoo.co.in

Heretic said...

Dear MA,
Your post had me in tears. Thanks for the lovely evocation. I lost my father on the fourth of this March; nothing seems more important than the loving memories of the happy times we shared.
Thanks...

Marginalien said...

Warm sympathies for your loss, Heretic.