It is a misfortune that befalls man that we get wiser (supposedly) only as we age and live through a considerable part of our existence. It is no wonder that the eponymous tooth of wisdom, the wisdom tooth breaks through the molars at a later stage in life! And in the middle ages of our life or when we are all most over the hill that we look back and feel what was in store for us and what we missed, what we did not. Then you feel having wasted much. But then it’s quite late for introspections- to bring back time that went by and we have to sigh with breath of regret-for moments that we missed, things that eluded us, that we did not notice, we did not appreciate, perhaps with little bit of wisdom, it could have been different. Why did it have to be me? The question comes up.
Someone once told me long ago, when I was single and leading a fairly irrepressible living that it was only until he became a father that he knew what it is to be one. He said he then deeply regretted his missed opportunities and life denied, as a son. I did not think much about the statement then. But as years went by and now often, I could feel deep, the pang of the reality of what he said. I can only hope and wish the A and R may not three decades from now sit back and muse like I do. Because with relationships, what we miss and lose at the moment is lost forever. There is no time machine or “black hole’ to board and journey back in life, in time.
My relationship with my father as (brief) as it was for less than two decades was not even a roller coaster like, it was cold- from my point of view. Yes, now I do remember that, he had mourned to mom on a few occasions that I maintain a painful distance from him. Indeed that was the case. The simple matter was that I did not much like him, was afraid, was uncomfortable when he was around and that reflected in my moods and my behaviour. Quite a misfortune as a father for him and as a son for myself!
Why and how that feeling enveloped my relationship with him is not quite known to me, its genesis is something I cannot now recollect or point precisely. However trying it is to build up stray incidences and bits from distant and faint memory! I can recall that he was a disciplinarian of sorts. He, I feel often targeted me and was critical of me, reprimanding me often from my early age I can remember – let me say as six year old. He used to compare me with the boy next doors and ridicule me for not being like the jolly good smart fellow like his friend’s son , a distant relative – a boy or girl displaying a flowing outward charm and speaking without fear the good Anglican language. He, I do not know if it was the fall out of his Air Force days insisted that we speak English and converse at home in English. Something I detested because I was not comfortable speaking that language. Though the early education was in a respectable convent run by a very old order of nuns, there was no diktat that only English must be spoken at school. Yes the nuns who were at that period mostly from outside the country did not speak Malayalam they never were not silly and false like the Neolithic educationist of this day. I remember that once he slapped me in the face, for something that irritated him. And mom was quite harsh with him for that. Not that Mother was an epitome of softness and feather touch. She was quite tough and would vent her other irritations on me. Father would, whenever he could and have me in his sights, begin his advice, his lecture on how to be in life. Perhaps there was a bit much of the dose that was not to my liking. Not that I was a saintly fellow at that. He, I now feel was a bit unsure of my direction .And did he fear that I may turn out to be the lamb that went astray? Now I understand that the apprehension about one’s children is in every father, parent.
But should that constrict the child to an extent where the freedom to breathe freely in their presence do not exist? Freedom to be with children of the same age? Freedom to dream like children does? But be sort of incarcerated within the four walls what was called a home? I feel that the answer to these asking will be provided by my children. I’m certain they are at home and do not feel asphyxiated.
A particular incident that is still haunting me when I think of him was one that bled me to a considerable extent when it happened. I was eleven or twelve years of age and not more. There was this very important football tournament that was held in Thpuram in the 1970’s. It was an All India affair where clubs like Mohan Bagan, MH Sportings, East Bengal, Vasco Goa, JCT Mills etc used to compete. The carnival used to be for forty five days. The match began at 5 in the evening and was over by 6.30pm. My maternal grandfather who was among the respected gentry of that time was given a VIP complimentary pass to watch the tournament in full. He gave me the pass and asked me to enjoy the matches. I was thrilled and it was seamless. I ran home from school and was at the stadium in the elite VIP box before the players began their warm up. It was a dream come true. The next morning back in school I was the cynosure, the one who has the ticket for the tournament and that too an elite pass.
The exhilaration and euphoria was mercilessly wrenched out and my father was the villain of the piece. After a few days he found out that I have been rollicking at the tournament. He asked me from where I got the tickets or the money for them. I told him appuppa (grandfather) gave me a VIP pass. He asked me to fetch the pass. And when I did, he snatched it from me and curtly decreed that it was time that I began my studies in earnest and not waste time at these places. Later I found that he gave the pass he wrenched out from me to one of his close friends. I still cannot chance a word to describe his doing or my feelings. Did I begin to hate him then? I think I did, it was the gradual slide into gradation from not liking into hate.But that was just one of the few incidents that began to eclipse him from my mind, sadly though.
Looking back I feel miserable for him, but the damage that he perhaps unwittingly inflicted on his image as a father and my psyche resulted in losses to us both.
And no time machine can help!!