For fathers, children embody hope

This man lacked the intellect the intellectuals are known to have. He was so ordinary that he believed in the goodness of all, more than his own. One could read him easily. He was like an open book, not judgemental. He hardly said this is the right way or the wrong way of doing a thing. He believed that people find out what the right way and the wrong way is. When this man was successfully steering his boat, he jumped from the boat midstream, in search of the shore. His family could not understand why he left them afloat. He never tried to clarify his standpoint. He thought people would understand him in due course. He never intruded into the lives of others. He also did not like the intervention of others in any of his matters. He was not a go-getter. He was happy if something ordinarily came to him. He was full of love as if the world was full of only good people. It never bothered him if some are ahead of him. He did not like to give or receive guidance. He was so ordinary that no one considered him his competitor. It did not bother him that people do not take notice of him. His invisibility, even to his people, was not a matter of remorse for him. He was concerned about others more than his own. He had limited desires. His bank account did not have a balance. What he earned, he spent. He believed in the present, more than the future. The difference between need and want was fully evident in the dresses he wore, and that included his specs and footwear. The only picture I saw him well-dressed was the picture that was taken at the time of his wedding. He did not like towels, Gamcha was good for him. He did not like to travel in the first class. He preferred his bicycle. He was confident of the mechanical prowess of his legs. He could not sing, nor he had any idea of what is good music, but he loved music. He loved it if someone sang for him. He loved it if someone explained to him what the song was about. He liked to serve good food to his visitors, but any food was good for him. He preferred to follow the laws of nature. He considered doctors more like instruments than humans. He liked home-made doctors, like grandmothers, who know everything about medicine without knowing anything about the sickness. He could bear the pain. Temporary relief from pain was enough for him. He did not like to offer views on most matters. He was also not asked to offer his views on most matters. He was like a wandering ascetic. He was not a householder of the usual kind, though he wanted to have a corner in his tiny home, among his people. He took particular care that he was not bothering anyone. He maintained this until the last breath. In his last moments, he could not be with me. He wished me all the best life can offer. He thought his children were his assets. I am fortunate that this ordinary man was my father. He never demanded any obedience nor showed any authority. Often I wondered if he was a mere spectator or an observer. Yes, he listened if I ever informed him. He was not concerned about my future, nor did he have any preconceived notions about my future. He had full faith in me.

I have seen many fathers. I am not sure what the right way to become a father is. Many fathers value authority. They believe that their children should do what they tell them to do. Some fathers value freedom. They believe their children should be what they like to be. They believe in giving choices to their children. Some fathers are convergent thinkers, some are divergent. Some fathers don't like their children to become adults. Some fathers begin to treat their children as 'adults' very early. Whatever the ways are, most fathers try to assure their children that they are always there for them.

I am a father. Like my father, I am not worried about the future of my children. I think my children can take care of themselves. I don't want to make decisions on their behalf. I don't want to believe that discipline and denial are the only ways to raise a child. I am not priestly, nor am I nightmarish. Often I have not shown enough interest in things my children were interested in. Despite my shortcomings, I possess the magic glue to attract them. My children are always there for me. If there is good news, I want to share it with them. I have seen reverence in their eyes for me. I think this is one of my big achievements.

I am the father of two children. I must admit that I have never tried to coach my children about anything. I believe they can find out what is good for them. Generally, if we listen to our children they trust us more. Small things (like discussing films and music) bind them closer. A father should know when to play an active role in their lives, and when to remain a mere observer. I am happy that my children think I am as contemporary as they are. A father can be their best friend, as a mother is.

I was reading Orhan Pamuk's Nobel address. It so beautifully describes the parent-child relationship. It goes as follows: Two years before Pamuk's father died, he gave him a small suitcase filled with his writings, manuscripts, and notebooks. He told Pamuk that he would want him to read them after he is gone. Senior Pamuk was looking for a place to rid himself of a painful burden. Ultimately he deposited it quietly in a corner. One of the things that kept Pamuk distant from this suitcase was the fear that he may not like what he reads. “My real fear, the crucial thing that I did not wish to know or discover, was the possibility that my father might be a good writer. I couldn't open my father's suitcase because I feared this. Even worse, I couldn't even admit this myself openly. If true and great literature emerged from my father's suitcase, I would have to acknowledge that inside my father there existed an entirely different man. This was a frightening possibility. Because even at my advanced age I wanted my father to be only my father – not a writer.” Pamuk’s father has never been a “commanding, forbidding, overpowering, punishing, ordinary father, but a father who always left me free, always showed me the utmost respect.” Pamuk believed that he became a writer because his father wished him to be one.

My father did not leave a suitcase for me. But I know another man existed inside him. This man was very different from the one he looked. He did not write poetry, but he was a poet.

I read a set of letters from a father by Mona Van Duyn. In the first letter, the father writes to his daughter about his state of health:

“Ulcerated tooth keeps me awake, … would have to go to the hospital to have it pulled, … but can't leave Mother, she falls and forgets her salve and her tranquilizers, her ankles swell so and her bowels are so bad, … ”

The daughter wants to give her father a bird feeder. The father doesn't see why she should spend money on it.

“I don't see why you want to spend good money on grain for birds, …. I'd buy poison and get rid of their diseases and turds.”

The daughter visits her father. The father says:

“We enjoyed your visit, it was nice of you to bring the feeder but a terrible waste of your money … ”

Mother likes the redbirds though.

The birds are eating and fighting.

Your Mother hopes you can send us a kind of book that tells about birds.”

The father acknowledges the receipt of the book on birds. He writes:

“one day we had so many birds and they fight and get excited at their feed you know, …

two or three flew right at us and crashed into our window and bang,

poor little things knocked themselves silly.

We felt awful and didn't know what to do.

… and (when) it come to life right there

in her hands and she took it out and it flew.”

Day by day father's enthusiasm for birds is increasing, and he is becoming less bothered about their pain and stability. In the last letter father writes:

“I pulled my tooth, it didn't bleed at all.

It's sure a surprise how well Mother is doing,

she forgets her laxative but bowels move fine.”

For fathers, children embody hope.