It might come across as appalling to you, but allow me to confess that a few hours ago I was googling interesting subjects to talk about while having a phone conversation with your dad. Yeah, this is Kaliyug, people, right here.
Before you jump to any conclusion, no, we never had an abusive relationship to begin with. Unlike most of the Indian parents, mine were quite responsible. In fact, before I was even conceived in their minds, my father purchased this hardcover book on child-rearing from pustak mahal and finished it cover to cover twice.
In its encyclopaedic span, it discussed in extraordinary lengths the nuances of raising a child. Treat them like a flower till they are 5, it said. So my parents let me happily peepee on exquisite quilts and fluffy pillows till I was 5. After that they spanked my butt red. Just kidding. It wasn’t red. To tell you the truth, my father used to beat me very sparingly, and only on the palms, that too, with blows as light as feathers. Nevertheless, I used to howl as if he was amputating my hands. But now that I think of it, it wasn’t so much of physical pain. Crying was actually a defence mechanism. Anyways, after I got into my teenage, they stopped disciplining me with a stick. I sort of missed the stick for a while and then got used to the sorry state of my unadventurous life.
While in the latter part of my teenage, my father stopped poking his nose in my affairs, i.e., he stopped asking me about my studies and everything. I was flunking maths and accountancy anyways, and he had to be the Man of the house, despite a broken leg, sciatica and what not. So we gradually drifted apart. There were a few more developments.
One, the realisation that my father wasn’t the superhero I had thought him to be when I was 6. When you are a kid, your dad’s the world’s strongest man. Whatever happens, he shall protect you. Kids really believe that. When I held my father’s fingers, I knew I would be safe even if skies broke open and rained fiery meteors. My father was tall as the next building. Then, I started growing, reached his shoulders. That was when I knew. He could not protect me anymore. I wouldn’t fit in his embrace…too heavy to be lifted. He couldn’t help me with Maths anymore. As my demands grew costlier, he couldn’t fulfill those anymore. That was heartbreaking. Heartbreaking to realise he wasn’t the creator of the universe.
Two, you become something else in your teenage. There’s a lot going on and your dad doesn’t fit anywhere in those scheme of things. There are girls and friends and your dick. There’s pressure of studying science. You don’t have a hair of an idea what’s happening inside and outside of you. And he didn’t say much. Just answered things I asked. We watched cricket, but not like buddies. He would leave the tv in the middle, even while Dhoni was batting, as he had more important things to do. Moreover, I could never run errands. I am not the guy who does these little shoppings. So the burden on his shoulders only grew. When my mother fell ill, he had to take up cooking as well. I secretly learnt preparing basic food but could never make anything out of it.
Then, I had to leave home. And that’s when the boat began to crack. We, men, are quite incapable of expressing emotions. That gives us the illusion of strength. But to be honest, it sucks sometimes. My phone conversations were mostly limited to my mother. My father only asked if I was eating well, and in return, I would ask if he was alright. That was it. From sharing DNA to sharing two questions, that was the depth of our relationship now.
But things have changed today. He’s old, almost 50. He has started losing his hair. His moustache is all white, his eyes more sunken than ever. Now is the time you let your child love you, says the book. But I don’t know how to love him. Yes. Nobody taught me that. Nobody told me you will have to love your father one day. All these bollywood flicks show is cheesy romance. In half those movies, the father is an abusive drunkard. In the other half, he is just background. Nobody portrays father-son love with the same seriousness they portray other things.
So I don’t know. Frankly, I don’t even know how to react at their death. I was googling this other day. They said cry a lot. But what does that accomplish? I think once the shock is over, you probably let them rest in peace. No idea.
The articles suggest I should talk about baseball. He does not know what baseball is. He has limited passions. Never liked anything too much. Maybe because he doesn’t want to be missed. People clutch onto their belongings after the loved one is gone. Maybe that’s why my father wears the same clothes till those are shredded. The other day, Gabbar sir was asking everyone how they wanted to be remembered after they die.
I don’t want to be remembered after I die, I thought. I didn’t know why I said that, but now that I think about it, maybe it was because I am my father’s son.
Maybe loving someone’s not so easy. Maybe love is just a trick we pull up to endure life.
Maybe my father knows how hollow love is. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t want to be loved.
Or maybe I am too incapacitated to love people.