Me and my dad
The relationship between fathers and sons is as varied as their individual personalities.
At 15, I was a know-it-all. I ignored any advice my father gave me. My supercilious attitude was partly due to the fact that I was a student at a private, somewhat elitist school. My dad had never finished high school.
At 25, I admitted, rather reluctantly, that my father had some idea of how the modern world worked. By then I was more aware of how he’d overcome the odds in his life.
A reversal of fortune
His own father was a rich landowner who leased fields to tenant farmers in his native Sind in undivided India. My grandfather had one weakness. He loved to speculate on the stock market. When hope outpaced prudence, my grandfather had to sell his land. My father was most impacted by this reversal of fortune. He left school at 16 to work for a living.
Four years later, at 20, my father traveled from Sind to Singapore to work in a relative’s department store. World War II broke out just as he was about to complete his two-year stint. But his work ethic drew the attention of a family friend- a board member of an international conglomerate. He asked my father to open a store in Shillong, India, near the India, Burma, and China border.
At that time, British troops used Shillong as a rest and recuperation station. My father flourished. Shillong is where I went to school. My father chose to send me to a private school even though he could ill-afford the fees. He sacrificed to give me something that circumstances had snatched away from him: the gift of education.
It was his way of living through me.
An education for life
Only at the age of 30 did I understand the magnitude of his sacrifice. As years went by, I began to credit him for his instinctive understanding of situations and people. I learned from his approach to various situations and personalities.
He listened patiently to customers. He extended credit to those who had fallen down on their luck. I witnessed the humor with which he diffused squabbles between neighbors and the disagreements among his staff. His thoughtful, light-hearted words always calmed ruffled feathers without fail.
Dad knew Everything
The education he gave me shaped my profession in Taiwan’s export industry. I grew the skills, outlook, and creativity – the gold-streaked quartz I inherited from my father – that paved my way into a dynamic career in the U.S.
By the time I was 50, I began to consult my father, long distance, about the dilemmas that work threw at me. His suggestions invariably worked.
I wanted to inherit his mind when his body left the earth. That happened after he turned 82.
Today, when contradictions and doubts assail me, I pause and wonder what advice my father would have given me.
I do this because I’m convinced that Dad knew everything.
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