The Superhero

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Yesterday, my dad came to my home in Panvel. He stays in Mazagaon, with my brother and his family, where I spent most of my adult life. I was near the bus stop, when he alighted from the auto with my brother and started walking towards my house with unsure, shuffling gait. My eyes clouded and heart became heavy. I don’t want to remember my dad like this. He was the strongest man in the world. Anyone, who can bear to raise a brat like me is nothing if not the strongest person in the world!  

My dad was a flamboyant character in his youth. I have photographs of his heydays to back my statement. He was a truck driver. We didn’t belong to a much well to do family and could be considered as the lowest of the lower middle class of the economic stratum. Most of the necessary things, which we now consider blassé were unaffordable. My dad not only managed to make both ends meet but also arranged for our various demands anyhow. Still, we were never happy or satisfied. By we, I mean, I and my younger brother.

I went to a Hindi medium municipal school, which provided free books, as well as free mid-day meal. Most of my classmates belonged to the poor class. Sons of vegetable vendors, handcart pullers, taxi drivers etc. We had white shirt and khaki shorts as uniforms. I was the only kid with neat shining white shirt and polished shoes. Though the shoes were a bit on the worn side, they used to elevate me to a class above of the existing rabble in Hawaii Chappals. The meticulous attire also got me periodically thrashed by the budding scholars of that institution for being a bloody show off. Although I hated it a lot then, that was the conditioning which prepared me for the grueling life of a boxer in my later days. I took it as granted that I will always be in clean uniform and polished shoes. I never noticed the efforts my truck driving dad put in to maintain the status quo!

In 8th standard, I joined Shree Gauridutt Mittal Vidyalaya in Sion. It was a private Hindi medium school with a library, sports ground and a laboratory, things which were not available in the municipal school. We had only one teacher in the municipal school, who was considered a genius by the government, because he taught us everything from drawing to music. His drawing was worthy of a master.  He never discriminated between dogs and elephants. Both looked similar when drawn by him. When he sang, he sounded as if he was calling cattle from the other side of a mountain, who were terrified anyway by the loving words like ‘Piya’ and ‘Yauvan’, which sounded incongruous to his pockmarked and paan eating face. It’d take a better writer than yours truly to imagine him in love. He wholeheartedly believed in the Chinese saying ‘No pain, no gain’ and always wanted us to gain by inflicting enormous amount of pain. We never gained anything, in spite of his efforts. The new school had different teachers for different subjects.

I never gave it a thought that this school requires a monthly fee as compared to the municipal one, which was free. The shining uniform, which used to rule the roost in the lowly ècole municipàle faded before the luster of the upper middle class. Being the brat that I was, I raised a tantrum of which a banshee would have been proud of! I got a new set of uniforms and shoes and was proud to show off in the school. I was a real peacock. My dad didn’t buy anything for him that Deepavali to clear the delta of the funds spent on my foolishness.

Then came the annual outing to Borivali National Park, which is 30km from where I stayed. The municipal schools never take their wards to annual outings or picnics. Neither could our family afford it. So, I wasn’t even aware that I missed anything. Now, there were multiple attractions for me… Borivali was a far off place I used to hear off! It was an adventure in itself to travel through different time zones. Wasn’t Borivali beyond Dadar? The furthermost I’ve ever traveled! For me, it was a travel to Disneyland! Only ₹100? I enrolled myself. Confident that my dad will shell out that money. Well, I hated him then. He flatly denied. I cried myself to sleep. Next morning, when I was thrusting my unwilling feet into my always shining shoes, mom gave me hundred rupees. I was startled and then laughed happily! I didn’t even notice that my dad quit his passion for Benarasi paan for that month to adjust for this sudden contingency. Life is all about adjustments. Like a skilled tailor, we cut from here and stitch there. We cut from the hem and stitch to the sleeve. And, we ensure that the world doesn’t know the difference. We all are tailors. My dad was a master tailor! He was master of everything! He was a Superman!

Anyhow, I cleared my SSC. Got a poor second class and promptly blamed it on the opportunate accident in December, in which I broke my leg. I admit that I wouldn’t have accrued anymore if I would have really and wholly studied. I acquired a fascination and passion for boxing. My dad was a wrestler. The way he rejoiced about my new passion was more than when I cleared my Bachelor of Engineering with distinction! He himself accompanied me to the Nagpada Neighborhood House Boxing Club and paid three month’s fees in advance. He also met my coach Parvez Khan and insisted that I should not be spared in anyway and no mercy expected in the ring. He demonstrated some arcane throws to Mr Khan, which let the veteran pugilist upon his back. I was proud of my dad for defeating a national level boxer! Parvez Bhai still visits my home and is a family friend now. Even he was impressed by my dad’s charisma.

I failed in 12th standard because I decided that it’s foolish to spend my time in college, when I can get better education in the cinema halls. After all, don’t the heroes know everything? Throw a guitar or a machine gun at them and they will handle it like pros. They also can ride a cycle or fly an airplane without any formal training.

When I bunked my physics exam to watch the movie Shahenshah, I redefined college bunking. That was the time when my mom was diagnosed with TB of vertebrae. The medication was very costly. So, I had to quit studies and start working and help dad, who started working nights as well as days to augment the always depleting funds. I’ve seen him sleeping on the truck steering wheel at long traffic signals and fresh as daisy when the signals flipped. He taught me something, of which I can never thank him enough. He taught me that sleep is like happiness. There are a lucky few who are bestowed a handful. Rest of us should steal whatever we can get in snatches. He taught me to control the worst enemy of mankind – Sleep.

I was very happy to get rid of the burdensome books. Considering my qualifications, I was unable to find any job. Whoever wanted a daydreaming and stupid kid whose only claim to fame was that he can take enormous amount of punishment and is stubborn like a bull in a fight? Dad came to my rescue again and fixed me with one truck owner. He always was and still is respected by everyone he interacts and no one can ever deny anything to him. This was how I started my colorful career by working as a truck cleaner, my debut job. It was then that I got a dim idea about what my father went through to earn money. I wondered how can a man come home in the evening smiling and happy after such a grueling day! I was spent like squeezed toothpaste tube after a 14 hours day and sometimes didn’t even have the strength to eat my dinner. That was when I realized the meaning of the English word ‘Responsibility’. That was when I understood my father and his sacrifice for his family. I learned my lessons the hard way and did study further, but I did odd jobs to pay for my studies. I didn’t want to inflict anymore burden on the gentle and strong ox, who never complained and was always happy. He indeed was my superhero.

Yesterday I saw that Superhero walking with faltering steps! When he saw me, he stopped in his tracks trying to recognize me through his failing eyesight and smiled when he did. My heart went out to him. I touched his feet and felt his hand on my head as if I’m receiving mana from heaven. After the brain haemorrhage, he tends to lose the track of time and still refuses to accept. A pure Taurus like me, my dad is like those proverbial Benarasi Saand, who stand in the middle of the road and dare anyone to touch them, causing a snarling traffic jam and then shaking their head irritably and moving away when they desire. I have inherited my irritating stubbornness from him.

We went home, where my son was on net and declared that he wants to go to Adlabs Imagica at ₹2000 per person. I flatly denied. He threw a tantrum and I was cursed by my father for not indulging my child. He consoled him that he will pay if his father won’t. My son looked at me triumphantly. His eyes were scoffing me. I looked at my father with respect. He always fulfilled our wishes and never gave any excuses, in spite of his tottering financial condition.

My father spent his life, toiled and broke his back to provide and sustain the family. Time, the merciless timekeeper has rung the bell. I, for whom he toiled and broke his back, never appreciated it then. Now, I am appreciating it because now I’m a father myself and going through the same phase.

Like me, my son takes things for granted now. Will he ever learn?

Time, the honest timekeeper in the ring of life will tell.

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43 responses to “The Superhero

  1. This post earned you my true support hence the follow. Your one talented writer, naturally talented. Captured my read from the first line to the last. This was heart felt and amazing. – Cezane

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very touching. Thank you for sharing. My dad used to bicycle from one end of Kanpur to the other, come rain or sun, everyday to office and home. He never complained. He was doing his part.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They have done their best to groom us, and transformed a generation while doing that. We can never thank them enough, sir! Just hope that we fulfil our role to satisfaction!

      Like

  3. Rakesh…this post comes straight from your heart with no strings attached..I admire your skills at writing even more now after getting a brief insight into your life and times and the schools that you went to with vernacular medium of instruction. Hats off to your determination and grit and I truly believe that you are the chip of the old block!
    Myself, a Taurus too and can therefore easily co relate to the behavioural attributes of the two of you!
    We all become insecure seeing our parents in old age with associated illness but I am sure with such caring and well brought up son like yourself, your dad will recover and be fighting fit. God bless to the two superheroes!
    Liked the Banarasi flavour too in the post:)

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    • Thank you very much, Sunita, for these words! You don’t know what they mean to me!

      My dad did a lot for me, in spite of his financial conditions. The best thing being, he made me appreciate the blessings I had and how to make the most of what I’m already equipped with, instead of running after wishes. He taught me to be practical.

      Thanks again for reading! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is such a heart-felt post Rakesh. Little do we realize as children, the hardships our parents face. Monetary challenges, sickness, studies, expectations – they have so much to handle while we as kids loiter around in our own dream worlds. But the struggles your father faced have brought good results in the form of a son like you who is sensitive enough to acknowledge his own weaknesses and rises above them. Your kid will learn too, there is no denying that. The values that are rooted in you will find their way to your kid’s heart too. I also wish your father recovers soon. Give him all the love you can. Fathers are always so precious.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is right, Sunaina. Our parents have gone through a lot to ensure that we reach where we are. They never complained or boasted, except sometimes, may be in sheer frustration or pain. I just hope that I’m able to do justice to my role and don’t fall flat! Amen!

      It’s really heartwarming to see all you nice people with similar sentiments! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Rajesh. Isn’t it a circle? Once they were scared for us and now we are worried about them? But, the emotions always remain the same! Love and respect. God bless them!

      Like

  5. We stumbled over here by a different page and thought I might check things out.
    I like what I see so i am just following you. Look forward
    to exploring your web page repeatedly.

    Like

    • It’s indeed introspective, the way our parents toiled to shape our lives. Without a hope of reward! I appreciate people, who are likeminded and understand their sacrifice. Thanks a lot!:)

      Like

  6. Hi Rakesh … Our Parents are our superheroes.. During our childhood we don’t get to know.. But when we step into their shoes .. All of it automatically reveals by itself. Recognising that fact, like you did is the what need to do.. Hope you also become a superhero in the eyes of your son 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are absolutely right. That’s the pain of it, you see? We don’t value it then, but realize it later. Just imagine how they must be feeling it when they see all their indulgence and dedication going unappreciated? It’s enough to damp anyone’s spirit, but they still never give up caring, irrespective of our antipathy.

      Wish to God that we realize this sooner! Amen!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Rathish! A mother may be a child’s first teacher, but father is a their first superhero. The strongest man they have ever seen in their weeny life, who’s capable of miracles and setting things right., when out of hand. For example, a yelling class teacher etc. 😀

      Thanks a lot, buddy! 🙂

      Like

  7. We all were like that in our childhood. Life was much harder at that time. Today, our kids get things even before they are demanding for them. They have all kinds of luxuries. But, our time was different.
    We should be proud of our parents for all they have done for making us happy. Yes, we didn’t understand the ‘sacrifice’ at that time, we took it for granted; in the same way our children do these days. But, one day, I hope, they too would realize…perhaps… 🙂
    Respect to your father, Rakesh.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah! The Age Old Lament! The grumble of the Generation Last about the Gen Next! ‘In our time, things were…’ 😀

      But, now that I’m slowly and inexorably sliding down towards the Gen Last, I truly understand what my parents meant when they never let us forget that what angels were they as compared to us brats. Dil me hota tha ki, ‘Haan haan! Aap log hi to Manoj Kumar the! Apan to sale Shakti Kapoor hain aur Gulshan Grover hi rahenge!’ 😀

      I understood it much later, I think when my son was in 1st standard, that he tends to lose pencils more than I used to. As soon as I said that ‘When I was his age.. ‘, I was kicked by my dad and was reminded of my own misdemeanors, which would shame Lucifer. It was then that it dawned upon me that we always tend to measure others by our own yardsticks. Because, we have only that handy to measure the world. We magnify our strengths and their faults. I always see parents grumbling that, ‘In your age I didn’t sit all day before TV!’ Arre bhai, tha kaha tab TV? I have never seen anyone saying that, ‘At your age I didn’t know a thing about computers, which talent you seem to be born with!’ This realization has made me a lot tolerant and I remember my own rebel days, when I used to do certain things just to spite my parents because I wasn’t supposed to do them, like eating non veg food etc.

      May be, I was really Gulshan Grover! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • In that case, you are lucky to have the best father possible, Purba! Taureans are considered an ideal father, husband and friend because of their certain flaws, which work in their favor. They will always be at your side, immaterial of what anyone else says (stubbornness), temperamental (sometimes this make them cute. Sometimes, mind you!), fiercely loyal (because they have a narrow perspective and don’t want to see beyond their immediate surrounding or explore other options), very gentle (because they are bit lazy, so don’t want to trouble themselves with unnecessary arguments) and easily mollified and agreeable (getting angry is too much trouble! Except when rubbed the wrong way, then they are fierce. The raging bull!) I know it, because like my father, I’m a pure Taurus too. 😀

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  8. How perspectives change with time! A person, however strict he is with his own child, melts like an ice cream when it comes to his grand children. Besides, the admiration and reverence with which you have written beautifully about your dad, I found the tale of your teacher quite interesting – one who did not discriminate between dogs and elephants in his sketches.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are speaking like my dad, when he grumbled for my grandpa’s affection for me! May be it’s he was jealous! 😀

      In fact, that’s an absolute truth. May be, because the stentorian ruler in us is tired out after handling our own kids and relaxes when it comes to our grandkids. So, it gives a leeway, which hitherto was not present. Even my dad gives in for things for my son, which he was very strict about with us!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. How beautifully you have written about your Dad, recognising your younger self’s lack of appreciation. But weren’t we all like that? I don’t know if that’s any consolation. Your story brought tears to my eyes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are right, Kalpanaa. We all are ungrateful to a certain extent at times. I think, Ungrateful is quite a harsh word! It’s simply that we think from our own perspective and experience and ignore what they intend. Always thinking that we are right. We do realize later on that they were blessed with wisdom of years they have lived, which we lacked. I’ve seen that they were invariably right. I think, we all are like that, just lack the guts to admit! 😀

      I do consider myself lucky that I realize the value of them before it was late!

      Like

  10. It is a heart-touching story. Your dad has been a great dad. Thanks for sharing.We tend to take our parents for granted.
    Love the way you’ve infused humour in a serious post. “He never discriminated between dogs and elephants.” Lol, rare to find such a man in this discriminating society. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Kiran! We indeed take our parents for granted! Sometimes we do realize their value, but either it’s too late or our own ego holds us off from displaying the real affection we feel for them. I have had my own share of differences over values with them, which is called ‘Generation Gap’ in other words. But, luckily I came around, realizing my fault in time.

      Thanks a lot for liking it! 🙂

      Like

  11. Rakesh, you must really be proud of your Dad. Respect!

    We were lucky to have born in that era when things came at a price. Unlike the abundance our children live in these days. I relate to your story very well because I do have a similar Superhero. Hats off to our parents for what they are. I doubt if we could ever manage that kind of hard work.

    My Dad came to Delhi at 16 and his first ever job was that of a watchman for a typing institute at Rs.2 a day. Today he is personal assistant to the chairman of a reputed organization. Sheer hard work and dedication. Blessed we are to have born to these real-life Superheroes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, ma’am! I’m deeply proud of him! He taught me many things, including never to give up.

      You are absolutely right when you said that we are lucky to understand the price of everything. The other day I was trying to explain this to my 12 years old son and failed! 😀 I explained him how we never got any ready made toys and had to improvise from whatever tools were available, like a discarded cycle wheel was clubbed with a short stick and we chased it in the streets all day, and so on. He failed to visualize that! Imagine!

      The older generation did their best and managed to create a heaven for us, in spite of living in crunch themselves. The baton has been relayed to us. Hope that we can fulfil our duties as successfully and grandly as they did!

      Amen!

      Like

  12. I don’t have words to ‘comment’ on this.
    It is not a story though you told it off like a story. It is a mighty lesson of life! I have picked up a few notes from this lesson.
    I appreciate your courage to share this life story of yours.

    Like

    • Life is usually more intriguing than a story, although not so interesting. The harrowing troubles we go through our lives become funny after a few years, which we fondly reminisce and regale others with. That’s why I love your feature ‘Faces of India’ which depicts so many untold stories. Simple people with simple life!

      Thanks for liking it! 🙂

      Like

  13. That’s what life is all about. You are dealing with your son in the manner, your dad dealt with you. But he was indeed a master-tailor. A cut here, a stitch there and he created the best outfit called life. Your father is a superhero even today, the way he understands his grandson better than you ts commendable.

    As always, I visited here to read a beautifully woven story, but fond something beyond. The description of the municipal teacher is what I liked the most. That only fun element enlivens the story a bit more. And your son will learn in the very ring of life your father has created.

    A heartwarming story. I salute your father’s spirit to live life in the wrestling ring, always. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Sangeetaji. We all set up a benchmark for ourselves and then try to shoot up to it. But, at times I feel that he did a better job than me in raising kids, although I never thought much of it then! I keep trying and improving.

      Thanks so much for reading and liking it! I’m not very good in non-fiction, especially, biographical. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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    Like

    • Well, my father ensured that I’m shaped nicely enough to face the ordeal called life! 😀

      He brought me up with a iron hand. He was never overtly affectionate, but he did and always will love me. He belongs to the old Indian Male School. In India males are not supposed to be sentimental, you see? And, as usual to every standard norm, I’m against it. I believe that men SHOULD be sentimental. They should cry and hug when they feel like it! I do. I cry a lot when required. I let my kids know that their loony father loves them. 🙂

      Thanks a lot, buddy! For reading and commenting!

      Like

  15. Your Dad sounds like such an admirable man. I think he did all these things for you and your brother because he wanted you to see and experience the world. There is more to life than where your are born and helping you realise your dreams made you the success you are today. We all try and do things that our parents did or didn’t do. I think as a father yourself, you will be able to gauge which experiences are worth sacrificing for . Thank you for sharing your story. It was beautifully written

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Daisy! You are right when you said that life is not just being born and then stretching it to the expiration date. There’s more to it. It’s the way that we live it matters. That’s called living. Thank you very much!

      Like

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