Understanding a father in retrospect
I lost my father on April 23, 2014. Though I was never very close to him when he was alive, his departure left a void in my heart and mind. A deluge of nostalgic memories overwhelmed my whole being. Bringing me up single-handedly as I lost my mother when I was an infant, he sacrificed a lot to raise me. This got me thinking. Doesn't the role of a father in a child's life often go unnoticed and get eclipsed by mother's presence? Fathers are often viewed as rather unemotional beings who leave their offspring to mothers' custody and conveniently shirk their parental responsibilities. This is a fallacious belief. Fathers, being men, often don't wear their emotions on their sleeves. They don't display their joy from the rooftops. I remember, when I stood first-class-first in my BA exams with Persian as my major subject at Oxford, my taciturn father just said, 'Congratulations! Keep it up.' I felt a tad let down and thought that if I'd a mother, she'd have been in the seventh heaven and on cloud nine. But at this age and stage of my life with a little more maturity, I understand that his controlled reaction to my 'grand' success was in fact, his own way to tell me that I mustn't rest on my laurels and work harder to add more feathers to my cap. We fail to fathom father's love because it's seldom ostentatious. Roman emperor-philosopher (a rare combination, indeed!) Marcus Aurelius observed two thousands years ago that a father's disciplined affection was more important for a child's perfect upbringing than a mother's cloying love (for her child). It was Shuddodhan (Gautam Buddha's father) who could foresee that his son Siddharth would one day become an enlightened one. Siddharth became Buddha because of his father who was pragmatic enough for not being in favour of Buddha getting married and having a family. If a mother provides emotional anchorage, a father gives survival kit to his child to wade through the harsh realities of life getting unfazed by them. At the same time, father's discipline also shapes up a child's future and imbues him/her with fine traits. When one is young, an ostensibly tough father appears like a martinet and a child resents his 'draconian' manners. But this very strictness serves the child in good stead when s/he grows old. Jawaharlal Nehru understood this when he looked back and introspected while incarcerated at Naini prison near Allahabad during British regime. Motilal Nehru was a strict father but that strictness inculcated noble virtues and qualities in young Jawahar. The first PM of India remained forever beholden to his father for that.
Alas, most of us understand this in retrospect. While my dad was alive, I lived in India and he was in Europe and now when he's no more, I kick myself for not spending quality time with him. This is life and this is hindsight wisdom, which's always futile.