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A Man Of Honor
A Man Who Made A Difference

July 27, 2012


In Sweet Memory Of My Beloved Father
Part 3 - (His Private Life)

I lost my father, at the age of 89, on the midnight of 3rd/4th Aug.

His Childhood:

Writing draft records for land transfer was our ancestral family profession. Born into such a family of writers, with barely a hand to mouth existence, my father was the fifth child, the youngest in the family.

He was a good 25 years younger than his eldest brother. He was observed to be meritorious in his studies from his childhood, so my grandfather decided to have him pursue higher studies, as and when he grew up. But it was an irony of fate that my father lost his father at his tender age of 12.

Made to struggle, with a widowed mother and siblings much senior to him, his eldest brother goaded him to seek employment to supplement the family earnings instead of continuing with his studies and adding to the family debts, which made him uncomfortable.

It was only his fervent desire, the sympathy of the immediately elder brother and the benevolence of Maharaj Krushnachandra Gajapati, which enabled my father to graduate, albeit three breaks, midway, in his educational career. During each such break, he took up petty assignments to supplement the family earnings but returned back to the studying table, his passion, with a vengeance.

There was a time in his youth, fed up with the break in his studies, when he withdrew to be a recluse under the guidance of an ascetic, who taught him astrology.

He seriously was considering pursuing astrology as a profession but some well-wishers advised him against it, on the pretext that astrologers donít lead a decent family life and are reduced to a measurable melancholic life. Better sense prevailed and he shunned that idea but piously carried those books, from his guru, with him throughout his life and it was his favorite pastime in his retired life.

He served in different capacities and tried his hand at varied professions for years but his self-esteem landed him in the teaching profession. Finally, he got the offer to head one local high school, in its formative years, which he grabbed with both hands and never looked back.

His Family Life:

He married into a well to do family, through a close friend, and led a decent and honorable life.

In the good old days, the roles between the parents were clearly defined; ladies stayed indoors and gents went outdoors, as the breadwinners.

I continue to enjoy the company of a Loving, caring and doting mother but she was confined to the four walls. An illiterate mother was the norm those days but she did her duty as a housewife with aplomb, before the daughters-in-law arrived on the scene.

We grew up seeing more of him as a headmaster than a father. In a patriarchal society, fathers those days were autocratic in running the houses and my father too was no exception.

He used to command everything instead of rendering advice. Consulting or requesting something was never his cup of tea. His authority extended beyond our family, to the kith and kin.

Everyone in our family circle used to shudder on hearing his name, let alone standing in his sight. Yes, he was short tempered and used to pick up a rage at the slightest pretext. But scratch the hard sheath on surface, and the encompassed fountain of love underneath was ready to flow.

He was like a friend, eager to play with us at times and eager to help us do our homework but being afraid of his ire, which was unpredictable, we were not too eager to avail the same. So, playful moments with him were few and far between.

We avoided even sitting down face to face or conversing with him, in his prime days. Never did we dare to look into his eyes while occasionally talking to him. We preferred the easier route of extending our requests through our mother, then. It took days for her to return back with feedback from him over the issue.

Like everyone's father, my father too was very caring. My father was my first real teacher, not in any literary sense but he was my headmaster and my first idol.

He fixed his own parameters and very pristinely followed them and expected everyone to follow him. He was very responsible as a man, as a teacher and as an administrator; a strict disciplinarian to the core. He was fanatically obstinate in its implementation. He tried to live a very uncluttered life, with very frugal habits, so as to enable him (read us) to have time for what was most important in his earthly struggle of life.

All through my childhood, we, the family members, often despaired at his total disinterest in anything remotely luxurious. But we are thankful that these habits have kept us in good stead today.

His was a character bubbling with confidence, to the extent that he presumed he alone could execute any assignment better than the rest of the world and believed in completing every work by himself. But in the later part of life, when he was relegated to the place of an onlooker, he felt his children to be thorough novices, not fit enough to face the present day world, and all the while kept himself busy in locating probable problems and finding solutions to the non-existent problems.

He was too principled to buckle under external pressure and yes, the semblance of values and virtues you find in me, I owe it to my father. The only blemishes I can locate were his penchant for good food (perhaps an influence from my maternal grand motherís side) and neglect of everything else including clothing. Yes, he fed us really well, during our childhood and educated us to his mite, despite all the financial constraints.

Work, for him, was worship. And hence, devoted full time to the School, his temple of learning (or rather teaching). He was not an atheist, but never a serious devotee of any clan either and yes, he believed in propitiating Gods every now and then.

After the school hours, he made it a habit to pick up a racket, on the school playground, and join the students on the badminton court. He played with them till late into the evenings and he continued this practice wherever he was transferred, until his retirement. We, the sons, were starved of his company at home so we would grab this opportunity to watch and subsequently as we grew up, participated on the court. Thatís how all of us took to badminton.

If we found him angry, we would run helter skelter in search for cover, since my mother was also helpless during that period.

He used to dictate and command others, including my mother, and all were required to meekly follow.

Mother had a unique way of protesting, by silently weeping to draw his attention. Yes, she did protest, once in a while, when it brazenly came in the way of the interest of us, her children.

Of course, in the last decade of his life the table was turned and it was my mother who was calling the shots. But during the last year of his life, again my father exercised his authority and made a forceful come back, re-exerting himself from the bed and mother withdrawing to the background.

Mind you, my father was confined to his bed for last three years and his mobility was restricted to moving about with the aid of a wheelchair to the dining room, only once a day for lunch.

Yes, my father was my source of strength, my ego, pride, self-esteem. Needless to say, his passing away was a great loss in my life, which left me shattered.

But, after availing his company for 54 good years, I still crave for his company. So, my heart goes out to the orphans, as they are deprived of the feeling of a father, in the first place, for their whole life.

It wasnít about God taking my father away from me, it wasnít even about him possibly losing his life, at the ripe old age and that his life was bound to come to an end some day. It was about having had a father in the first place and a wonderful life in his company, which I will relish and treasure for the rest of my life.

--- Copyright © 2012 Golak Bihari Kar

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Read "In Sweet Memory Of My Father" - Part 1 and 2

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