Tag Archives: Father

What Could Push a Desi Father Farther From the Family?

First, let us all fathers bite the bullet.

A mother in our Desi social context is loved profusely and respected intimately, while a father is feared instinctively and respected distantly. Fathers so far, seem to have accepted this convenient unpleasantry. Even before being a father, however, I had decided to rock the boat. I wanted to be as much loved by my children as their mother. If respect is added, that is even better!

The question that plagued my mind was, how did dads get distanced in the first place? Sudhir Kakar, a great Indian psychoanalyst and writer, has elaborated on the same point.

Let us consider some scenarios:

When a child at home misbehaves, a mother will not punish him directly but will threaten that she will report his act of “misdemeanor” to his dad when he comes home. Thus, a mother exonerates herself as an innocent bystander and establishes the father as a punishing authority. Father returning home, often exhausted and frustrated, imposes a punishment far outweighing the seriousness of a child’s mischief. The child would have an innate sense of justice that he is more “sinned against than sinning.” A stereotype thus starts to develop.

A shift in the households:

Most of our families are now running on joint incomes, a third party being in charge of the child’s daycare. Now there are two breadwinners necessitating two breadmakers. This also applies uniformly to all other household works. The whole family, therefore, has to illustrate teamwork to run itself efficiently and harmoniously. A lopsided burden on one person while the other person becomes a burden himself is unhealthy and untenable.  The dynamics have to change and adapt accordingly. The altered status demands a change of shift. The roles played by the parents demand interchangeability.

Father can be fixing food for the hungry child or doing the dishes while his/her mother has to help with the homework that the child brings. Some fun time for outdoor or indoor activities for the whole family has to be planned during the weekends. The goal to be achieved, although cumbersome, is to promote happiness for each member of the family. This can only be achieved by comprehensive planning. Discretion applied in TV watching, newspaper reading, and telephone time can release some extra time. Both parents have to be available at different times for different functions.

Some examples to substantiate the point of shared responsibilities:

Man years ago, I met a lovely Indian family of four in Augusta, Georgia, a husband, wife, and their two small children. I was shocked to hear soon thereafter that the lady died suddenly, leaving an unforeseen circumstance on the father. He faced the challenge and decided to raise the two small children all by himself, playing the role of a father and a mother. Now the children have grown up to be dependable adults. I remember this illustrious father on every Father’s Day. He bypassed an extraneous challenge in his own unique way.

Another memory I recall is one where I received a call from a Church asking for my help when one of their members, a converted Hindu Christian, had succumbed to suicide. I will never forget the day that I visited the family. The lady of the house and her three children, crushed by this cruel tragedy, were exhausted, numb, and bereft of any sense of direction. The widowed mother had no previous work experience. By persistent inquiry, I could gather from her that she had worked as a Nurse Assistant when she was very young. I could get her a job in that capacity at my hospital. About ten years later, when I met her in a shopping center, I could not recognize her. By this time, she had passed all her tests and was now a Certified Nurse working in a hospital. Her children were all well placed. This was truly an example of life after death!

Take-aways

Let us recapitulate the Darwinian rule of the survival of the fittest. He also said that the fittest are not the strongest but those who are most adaptable. In these ever-changing, unpredictable times, we cannot leave our children playing a game of chance when a disaster strikes. Only a combined mode of protection and prophylaxis will provide insurance and assurance. Reversibility of parental responsibilities will be the best insurance that money cannot buy. It will also prepare our future generation when they grow up and face challenges.

Even when nothing inadvertent happens in life, it will be reassuring to portray the picture of a mother grilling food outdoors, while the father is feeding the family and doing the dishes, and the children are cleaning up the place when the food is finished.

The reversibility of the roles on a day-to-day basis will incorporate a father deep into the family system, giving an irreversible joy to All in the family. Only our business people may not like this idea because this system will merge Mother’s Day and Father’s day into a single Day, thus reducing their revenues!


Bhagirath Majmudar, M.D. is an Emeritus Professor of Pathology and Gynecology-Obstetrics at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. Additionally, he is a priest, poet, playwright, Sanskrit Visharada, and Jagannath Sanskrit Scholar. He can be contacted at bmajmud1962@gmail.com. 

A version of this article was also published by Khabar Magazine.


 

Mother and Baby

The Lori, Jola, Angai Geet Keep Us Awake

A lullaby is as ancient as the hills. It connects a mother to the child, much like an umbilical cord, nurturing both. It brings about “an exchange of souls” as suggested by Bayartai Genden, a propounder of the lullaby. Although called a cradle song since its start, it may prove helpful even in serious adult illnesses and in hospice as discovered by modern scientists. Upon first hearing the sound of the mother, the baby gets hooked on to her. But when does the baby even start hearing? That is a fascinating story to unravel.

Embryological Roots of Hearing

At about 18 weeks of life in the womb, the baby perceives the first sound of the beating of her mom’s heart, her breathing sounds, her intestinal gurgling, and the stream of blood passing through her umbilical cord. No wonder the baby, later on, enjoys the sound of a stream or river, which is her deja vu experience! In the third trimester of pregnancy, the baby specifically recognizes her mother’s voice as evidenced by her heart rate increasing when the mother is talking outside. The baby, however, has to hear her mom’s voice through a fluid medium and has to develop a correlation upon her birth that she heard the same voice then and now! 

A Lullaby Is More Than Just a Tune For a Baby  

Scientific experiments show that the baby prefers hearing her mother’s own voice singing a lullaby rather than somebody else’s. The baby also prefers the subject matter of the lullaby to be infant-directed rather than non-infant-directed! Thus starts the story of “me and mine!” The topic of the lullaby may inevitably get modified as the mother employs it to express her fears, hopes, and prayers. 

I learned in my school a lullaby attributed to Shivaji’s mother, Jijibai, who prepared her son to wage and win a war when he grew up. “Sleep now, but fight later,” she sang. This correlates well with the story of Abhimanyu in Mahabharat wherein he learns the art of war while in the uterus.

An Obstetrical Clinic in California teaches pregnant mothers to talk to their baby in the womb. I also learned a lullaby sung by the mother of a child laborer in the textile industry. She lamented waking up her child from a deep sleep of early morning to report to his daily hard work. A Syrian mother changed her soothing lullaby to a fear-stricken one when she was forced to migrate to Turkey to escape the brutal conditions in Syria. Highly toxic polluted air in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia prompted a mother to shift her children to safer surroundings and sing a nostalgic song about how her beautiful country had so drastically deteriorated!

Thus a lullaby may often unfold an ongoing tale of changing conditions.

Lullabies: A Universal Blanket Covering the Vast Universe

Hannah Reyes Morales, from the Philippines, deserves special credit for reawakening our interest in the lullaby. She has reviewed the world history of the lullaby in National Geographic (December 2020) with accompanying eloquent pictures related to the subject. In fact, there is no part of human culture or province that the lullaby has left untouched. It is ancient but alive and needs to be nurtured to be kept alive. Every country from A to “Z”, so to speak, has its own synonym for a lullaby, the core remaining unchanged.

The French call it Berceuse, the Western musicians Lullaments, while a multilingual country like India has many names for it. It is called Lori in Hindi, Jola in Telugu, Thalattu in Tamil, Nanabaya in Odia, Angai Geet in Maharashtrian, Halardu in Gujarati, Ghum-Parani-Gaan in Bangladeshi. Some of our Christmas carols like “Silent Night, Holy Night” could have been a lullaby to baby Jesus. Dating even further back, a Babylonian lullaby about 4000 years old was found inscribed on a clay tablet.

Our Rich Heritage of Hindi Loris

Undoubtedly, there has been an inadequate exploration of the rich treasure of lullabies in multilingual Indian literature and folk songs. Loris of Indian film songs have a significant contribution to that wealth. They have expressed love, pathos, social adversities, abounding hopes, depressing despairs, panoramic nature, spiritual insightfulness, and a vast gamut of a mother’s powerfully emotional feelings. I was disappointed to see that an exhaustive article on the subject as in National Geographic did not make any mention of Indian lullabies. It also is noteworthy that some of the most outstanding lullabies have been written by men, who often distance themselves from the babies in our society. Yes, men too, can connect to this chorus at home and around. I remember many lullabies that my father sang before I slept. 

Modus Operandi of a Lullaby

It is marvelous, mysterious, and miraculous! The baby gets reassured, the mother relieved, and both of them feel ready to sleep at its end. As proposed by Freud, the baby is not afraid of the dark but has isolation fear, while the mother herself also needs some privacy with the baby. As the baby wants to be lulled to sleep (that is why it is called lullaby), the mother also wants to feel the fulfillment of her maternal connection. It is therefore not uncommon to see a mother falling asleep even before the baby. A lullaby supports the spirit, psychology, and resilience in adversity, all of which have a therapeutic value. It is simple, repetitive, rhythmic, and soothing. A father or a sibling can subsequently substitute for the mother, thus widening the base of the bond. A joint presence of both parents at the sleeping time of the baby generates reassuring accountability and dependability in both parents. The baby needs this support to be self-supporting later in life.

Modern Science Extends Applications of the Lullaby Beyond Babies and in Covid-19

Based on the concept that a lullaby has a therapeutic value before sleep, it has been also applied in hospice patients as well as in premature or sick children. Childhood and old age are often placed on comparable rungs of the same ladder of life so a lullaby can bring extra comfort to both, from a state of wakefulness to drowsiness and even death as in hospice patients.

Laura Cirreli, Professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of Toronto who studies the Science of Maternal Song, has reported a decreased level of stress in both mother and baby induced by warm gentle rocking. There is also a lullaby project conducted by Carnegie Hall in New York City. Samuel Mehr, Director of Harvard University’s Music Lab, asked 29,000 participants to listen to 118 variegated songs to evaluate their healing power. “Statistically, people are most consistent in identifying lullabies,” he said. 

During the isolation of children from working mothers as in the covid-19 period, mothers sang their lullabies from hospitals and working stations using zoom to comfort their children sleeping at home. What a wonderful use of technology to transmit continuing love and care to the young ones!

Going back to our own country India, Jagdish Chandra Bose (1858-23) proved the comforting effect of music even on plants. Amar Bose (1929-13), who fathered the wireless passage of sound, substantiates that a lullaby functions exactly on the same principle! The sound of music is ever so sound. We better keep our lullabies awake.


Bhagirath Majmudar, M.D. is an Emeritus Professor of Pathology and Gynecology-Obstetrics at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. Additionally, he is a priest, poet, playwright, Sanskrit Visharada, and Jagannath Sanskrit Scholar. He can be contacted at bmajmud1962@gmail.com. 


 

Why Father’s Day Felt Different

This year father’s day felt different. And I don’t mean in the way we celebrate it, because like others I was guilty of incessantly googling many creative and indoor ideas that were floating on the internet, but in its deep sentiment and what it represented. For me this year, I celebrated the often overlooked tenderness in fathers.

Australian poet Pam Brown once wrote, “Dads are most ordinary men turned by love into heroes, adventurers, story-tellers, and singers of song.”  I am head-over-heels about my own father. I love fathers in all their forms and shapes because there is nothing more appealing than to see a man’s tenderness crawl out of him in the moments least expected. And fatherhood, if nothing else, will do that to a man.

Being raised by a single father myself, I have seen the tenderness that is possible from a father, I have come face to face with the fact that gender does not decide how one loves and that such love can achieve a lot. I have always celebrated my own father’s tenderness, but in the past few months, my observation of acquaintances, friends, and family has been unique. The Pandemic has given a new face to fatherhood, that of a deeply involved state of participation, frustration, and a redefined idea of love and responsibility.

Within the Indian and even the Indian American social constructs, the father is still seen as the patriarch, the provider. Life in America, compared to India, gives fathers more chances to be involved in the household. They cook, clean, do the dishes, change diapers, drive children to school, and be part of many more practical child raising opportunities. And yet, many fathers do not know the ins and outs of day to day life with children of all ages. It is one thing to do this part-time and another to provide and nurture at the same time, around the clock without any breaks.

A friend whose wife recently had her second child confided in me recently about such an experience. Last time around even though having a newborn was a life change, her husband went back to his life after the paternity leave. But this time, his understanding of the sanctity and struggles of the postpartum period have made him see his own role as a father in a deeper light.

And there are other fathers who get to see the juggle of the children at home, the never-ending labor of love, with no escape. Fathers who are now spending time with teenagers who are off to college in the next few years, their own kids who in the pre-pandemic world had no time to see them, but now they cherish three home-cooked meals together.

And then there are the empty nesters, fathers who now see closely, the pain of the long days of mothers who spent a big part of their adult lives serving children, now starting a new life.

But make no mistake, fathers are losing their minds. They have never done this before and for the first time, they can’t wait for the work alarm to ring at five am again. But meanwhile, they are pushed to their limits. They are exhausted. All they want is a drink with a friend to escape this elevated chaos called the family life. They have children climbing on their sore backs and grumpy teenagers endlessly debating political subjects. And through these sighs and screams, the impatience for the days to end, and passing many a sulky and under-productive day, their hearts have opened, their roles have expanded, and they continue to see the new dimensions and expressions of tenderness. So I hope all the fathers out there did get that drink, whether it was in the bathroom or in the attic, that they were celebrated, because this year they deserved it, more than ever.

Preeti Hay is a freelance writer. Her articles have appeared in publications including The Times of India, Yoga International, Khabar Magazine, India Currents, and anthologies of poetry and fiction.

Without My Dad

This is the first Father’s Day without my dad. 

I reflect on his advice, “Son, don’t hate. Never be a victim and give in to anger.”  

Advice that could not be more relevant in today’s political climate. I see my father’s importance and the positive role he played in my upbringing, my sense of self, and my commitment to my work.  

To fully appreciate the philosophy behind dad’s life, you need to know one thing about him – he lived a life with an Attitude of Gratitude

He raised us not to feel entitled. We learned, early on, the subtle joys of appreciating the good in our lives with daily prayers of thanks. It was a common bond that connected us as family.

He taught us to never compromise on our values and principles and to take accountability. He pushed people to do their best and pushed us outside of our comfort zones, which really helped us grow. He said “We are humans and mistakes can be made. But we’re not going to make mistakes of character or integrity.”

When other fathers were bragging about their wealth, their children’s grades, clothes, and success, dad never boasted. He said “be a good human being in life,” and that is all that will matter in the end. He brought everybody together.

Dad was a caring, thoughtful, and gracious man. He was always quick to recognize and express his admiration for the skills and accomplishments of those around him. Dad believed that giving back to the community was of utmost importance. This was demonstrated by his extensive involvement in civic and community activities.

I am filled with incalculable joy at the thought of the many lives my dad touched. Reflecting on his life reminds me of all the ways my father is still with me after death. I am not without my dad – I am filled with his wisdom and values and while I live, so does he.

Sunil Tolani is the CEO of Prince Organization and a devoted son to his father, Arjan Tolani. He writes this in memoriam of his father, who inspired him to be the person he is today.

Complexity of a Modern Father

To be a FATHER in the “yesteryears” was easy because he heard only “yes” to every command he gave. Easy but not healthy. It actually kept our culture somewhat stagnant by keeping a father walled off. On the contrary, I consider the modern father to be a lot luckier. 

Education is no more gender-specific.

Father may know the best” but not on all subjects and matters. Women of today, plunge, and successfully so, into almost every sphere of study. Medicine, Law, Technology, Aerospace Engineering, whatever profession you can name, has seen an increase in female involvement.

A few years back, I questioned my medical students about an anecdotal enigma of a young man who was hit on the head by an automobile and was admitted to the ICU.

The Neurosurgeon looked at the patient and exclaimed in agony, “ This is my son!”

The young man, however, said, “This is not my Father.”

“How is that?” I asked the class.

What the older generation of the medical students could not answer was at once answered by the current generation. The Neurosurgeon was his MOTHER.

Hopefully, we should hear more dialogues like, “ Son, I do not know the answer to your science question. Go ask your mom.” With joint help from both parents, children will learn a lot more about not being gender specific., 

Feeding the family can ALSO be a father’s privilege since both parents are usually working.

This applies to other household responsibilities like changing the diapers, bathing children, nursing them when they are sick, etc. Why should hungry, sick, or hurting children always have to run to the mother? My daughter, when a child, always wanted me to shampoo her hair. I am very happy to have done that because that privilege was taken away from me when she grew up.

At the time of our marriage, my wife was busy with her Ph.D. studies. I went to India by myself to buy the wedding clothes and the matching accessories for the occasion. Throughout my journey, I was busy praying that my choice of purchase met her approval!

The gendered myth relating to right and left brain dominance needs to be readjusted.

Boys and girls, alike, gravitate to STEM in their educational upbringing. We need to dispel the earlier notion that boys should lean on science and girls are good only for arts. These young people are our future parents who will need to learn and teach both in their real life. It should be remembered that Corpus Callosum, the wide web connecting the two brains, is going to be the focus of our future, controlling and coordinating the functions of both cerebral hemispheres. 

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) will need STEAM (A for Arts) to nurture the coordinated growth of our future generations. 

 What could be the main reason why children rush to their Mother when in need?

A modern father has to effectively incorporate both sides of his brain, so that children do not differentiate between the two parents. Our concept of Lord Shiva as an Ardhanaarishwara (Half man and half woman) was conceived at a magnificent moment of this perception. The word female incorporates the male in its body anyway.

When the roles of father and mother get reasonably reversible, fathers will feel fortunate to experience their children in an unprecedented way. At that point in time, there may not be separate celebrations of Father’s and Mother’s Days but a combined Parent’s Day, much to the chagrin of the Business community.  

Till then, have a meaningful Father’s Day!

Bhagirath Majmudar, M.D. is an Emeritus Professor of Pathology and Gynecology-Obstetrics at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. Additionally, he is a poet, playwright, Sanskrit scholar, philosopher, and a priest who has conducted about 400 Weddings, mainly Interfaith.

A Father Sees the Sugar Cube Moments

On the first of January 2016, our girls party drove up to the Gateway of India and entered the heritage Taj hotel for a quick immersion in the grandeur of a bygone era. 

“Let’s do high tea, it’s tradition!” I told my daughter and niece. 

We sprinted through the lush corridors of the hotel and floated up the cascading carpeted staircase. We caught a glimpse of ourselves in the long mirrors. To our chagrin, we were not dressed in our Sunday best. But we “ragamuffin trio” shrugged our elegant shoulders because the sparkle in our eyes more than made up for our casual attire.

The hostess of the Sea lounge looked at us and asked if we had a reservation. “

“No,” I said, “but I used to frequent the Sea lounge with my dad when I was a teenager.” 

“Surely,” said the well-trained employee, without blinking an eye and took us to a window seat in the restaurant. 

We sat down. I gazed out at the glimmer of sea. The silver waters stretched over the teeming heads of a madding crowd of Mumbaikers and their guests on the street below. In the seventies of my childhood, Mumbai was not so crowded!

I studied the scene in front of me like viewing a painting in a gallery. The boat with ochre and emerald trim and a hint of red. White billowing sails competing to mingle with fluffy cloud gestures in the western sky. The barely perceptible boats far away on the horizon, bobbing peacefully on the waves invoked tranquility.

With a great difficulty of a child leaving the sight of her companion, I turned my gaze inside. I looked around me. I was alone at the table. From the snowy white linen, my eyes jumped to a Blue China sugar bowl heaped with perfect cubes of crystallized sugar. 

Transported to my childhood, I took a cube and let it sit on my tongue. As it melted, I remembered how I would gingerly advance my fingers towards the sugar bowl as a child. At the same time, cleverly gauging how many I could stuff into my fist without catching the eyes of either parent in one go. Dad would be sipping his tea and mom would be pouring her cup. In that busy moment, when the spoon was turning, I would plan my sugar swoop.

Me and my younger sister with sugar cubes in our mouth.

I would manage to pilfer two or three of these extraordinary sweets with great ease. I would surreptitiously stuff them into my mouth and then try to conjure an expression of innocence. Alas, the two sharp bulges in my, then smaller cheeks, would give me away! My sister would take pleasure in my failure.

As I tried to assimilate the cubes, I was amazed at how much time they took to dissolve in my mouth in those days. My countenance would melt in embarrassment and I would beg for mercy at my mothers’ rebuking gaze. My mother prided herself in instructing us on good behavior. The tension would break as my dad would chuckle and say, “trying to avoid the horse’s eye, eh?”

I never understood that expression because there was no horse in this gathering! But I always obliged him to be at the butt of his joke. Then I would hide my face in my hands, but not for long because he would smile his dazzling smile and we would all be hypnotized by his presence. His lips would form his sweet singing signature moue that I have never been able to emulate and he would sing:  “Rum jhum rum jhum, (2) Chhupo na Chhupo na, oh pyari sajaniya, sajan se Chhupo na…

I brush a tear and listen to the sounds of the ocean. I can hear dad’s laughter rise and fall on the waves.  I catch myself singing the same song…

The waiter appears at my elbow, discreetly ignoring my faux pas of pilfering sugar cubes, “Would you like some champagne, miss?”

Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Decatur Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.

Daddykins Watches the Australian Open

When journalist Kalpana Mohan’s elderly father falls ill in Chennai, she is on the next flight over from California. Caring for her sometimes cranky, sometimes playful, yet always adored father at his home in Chennai, Mohan sets out to piece together an account of her father’s life. Here is an excerpt from her book, ‘Daddykins: A Memoir of My Father and I‘:

Daddykins concentrated hard during his hour of therapy. My father’s greatest challenge, Physio-Saar explained, was to tell the brain to teach the left hand to lift it high above the head. Daddykins would lift his right hand instead. My father was learning to build a link between his left arm and brain; he was using the code between his right arm and brain to apply it to his left. Daddykins’ neurologist was astonished by his patient’s focus. “I’m yet to see another man — even one who is in his seventies or his eighties — with your father’s optimism and fighting spirit. No one in the medical community will believe he’s doing this at ninety.”  

A few weeks later, Physio-Saar brought equipment that began reactivating my father’s nerves. Little by little, Daddykins began to feel life in his fingers although he never recovered sensation in his index finger. After a few weeks of physiotherapy, he was able to lift his left arm high above the shoulder. But his forearm flopped. He was permanently damaged by the stroke in countless other ways. He stopped enquiring about his family or the world outside. Sports drew out his old self for a time. We prayed for one-day cricket and tennis on TV. Late in January, on one evening during the Australian Open, Daddykins became his sprightly old self watching Roger Federer play against Andy Murray. A Federer fan, Daddykins claimed that he didn’t like Murray because he was Scottish and they were ‘all so arrogant.’ That evening, as always, his valet, Vinayagam, played the role of the sports commentator.

Aiyo, Federer, don’t hit a fault!” he yelled at our Sony Bravia. He turned to me. “The problem is our man always hits the net.” Vinayagam knelt by Daddykins’ black recliner. “Look, it’s 30-15, Saar, are you following the game?” Daddykins nodded and continued staring at the television screen. Nurse Bindu sat on her usual spot on the diwan on my father’s right. I lounged on a rattan chair between my father and my husband Mo on the rust-orange sofa working on his laptop.

At one point during the match, Daddykins told us not to breathe. Federer’s going to hit the ball, he said. Federer slammed the ball. The house came down in Rod Laver Arena. 

Vinayagam shot up and screamed. “3-2 for Federer!” He clapped. And Bindu clapped. And I clapped. And Mo clapped. Then Federer thwacked another point. “Yes! 4-2 now! Yes!” Daddykins could not clap. But he lifted his right hand high into the air over the top of his recliner. “Yes! 4-2. Federer, enough! Stop!”

Vinayagam turned to address me. “Amma, your father and I watched every game—Australian Open, French Open, US Open and Wimbledon—together. He taught me the rules. We used to set our alarm clock to get up in the middle of the night to watch our favorite games. FIFA World Cup. Grand Slam. World Cup Cricket. We used to be crazy like that.” For years Daddykins bought himself the best seat at the Nungambakkam Tennis Stadium to attend a whole week of Chennai Open.

Then, as we went into a commercial break, Vinayagam called out to Mo who was tapping away into his keyboard. “Saar, my boss has taught me everything there is to know about tennis. But now he doesn’t even know the rules anymore. Saar, do you know that this is much like a banana plant giving birth to its sapling?” 

Fully in the spirit of things that day, Daddykins cheered for Federer while insulting Murray. Perhaps it worked because at the end of a tense match, his beloved Federer emerged the victor. But he was angry because Federer didn’t show the grit of his old game. 

“Go home now,” he grunted to Federer as his square face loomed into view on television. “Your wife’s going to have your head, I’m telling you.” Then he turned to Bindu. “I’m so fatigued now after watching this fellow win.”

 “Thatha, but you didn’t play,” Bindu said, hugging his frail shoulders. “They played.”

“Yes, I know. But it’s so easy to tire out when you’re watching tennis. Especially a game like this where it took that mutta payal took two hours to win one silly point.” Daddykins patted her head. She laughed. Her white teeth sparkled against her pretty black face.

“Anyway, all this has made me hungry,” Daddykins said, looking at Vinayagam and Bindu. “And I need to celebrate this victory with some Ensure.” His face now wore a woebegone look. “Please?”

******

One morning, Daddykins walked again. Physio-Saar and Bindu stayed close on either side of him but they did not hold my father as he walked towards the dining area from the living room. “There, let me walk towards her,” he said to me, pointing to a laminated photograph of my mother on the living room cabinet. “She was my inspiration to resume walking.”

Daddykins lifted his left leg consciously and walked with his arms up and down, as if he were a soldier in an army regiment enacting a drill. “Walk normally, Saar,” Physio-Saar reminded him. Daddykins continued to walk as if he were part of a military unit.

“Great! Now let’s walk towards mother’s other photo, Daddykins,” I said as my father walked past me. “Look, she’s on that wall too,” I said, pointing to the collage of our family out on the dining room wall. 

“Yes, there she is, my inspiration,” Daddykins said to Physio-Saar, stopping at the wall to point to a photograph, in black and white, of my mother in a pensive mood. He stood there with Bindu and Physio-Saar, staring at another photograph of himself and his wife taken a few months after their wedding. Daddykins, twenty, in a formal western suit. My mother, fourteen, in a sari. Both looked timid, a little anxious, perhaps, as news about the end of the World War and the allied troops readying for D-day came in through the wires. 

My father’s face creased into a smile. “Yes, your mother was an inspiration, but many times she was a source of my perspiration,” he said, as he stood by the collage crumbling in toothless glee, his late wife frowning behind him.

Kalpana Mohan writes from Saratoga. She is the author of two books, Daddykins: A Memoir of My Father and I, and An English Made in India: How a Foreign Language Became Local.

A Daughter’s Prayer

A Ray of Light enters my Heart

And I know it is You

A Constant Source of Love and Care

My Whole Life through

 

A Shining Path for us to follow

Your Footprints will never fade

Oh Heavens Rejoice, your Loving Son 

Restored to your Grace

 

The Sun has set, and risen again

Another day has dawned

Time does not wait, Life moves on

But you will Shine on

 

A Noble Soul, whose gentle wisdom taught us all

In matters big and small

Sweet Memories circling in my mind

With laughter and tears, through it all

 

A Life of Truth, Beauty, Courage and Joy

Extraordinary Scientist, Mathematician and Artist Combined

Reunited with Blessed Parents, Wife, Daughter and Sister

Your Soul Soars Free, in the Divine

 

In Memoriam
Dr. Sundaresan Naranan
Survived by his 2 daughters Venil and Gomathy, and 2 grandchildren Ashwin and Amrita
April 17th, 1930-November 28, 2019