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.