With Father's Day coming up on June 20, Abhishek Mande takes a walk down memory lane and discovers why a father-son relationship will always be special. Illustration: Uttam Ghosh
As a child, my idea of a father was Atticus Finch from Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird.
In retrospect -- and now that I am almost the same age as my dad was when he had me -- I realise what a tall order it must have been. Needless to say, Dad fell way short of the ideal image I had in mind.
He worked in a government-run bank (still does) that offered little or no perks and had never owned or driven a car or a bike (still doesn't).
On the other hand, my then best friend's father, a customs officer, bought him an imported toy practically every month and my uncle was the proud owner of a scooter -- a Bajaj Chetak, no less -- with a side car!
To this day my dad's friends gleefully remind him of the fateful day he tried to learn riding a two-wheeler. He crashed into a busy Sunday market and had to pay up a few hundred rupees, a considerable sum then, to make up for the losses.
Handing money unfortunately hasn't been one of dad's strong points. Ironic, you might say, because he's a banker.
I learnt terms like 'overdraft' and 'loan' very early in life simply because Dad always seemed to be in the middle of one...or both!
Then at one point he did the unthinkable. He sold off an apartment he owned...at a loss! I mean, who makes a loss on property unless it's a distress sale! His justification for it is that 'it seemed to make sense then'. How, I am still not sure.
This was for the longest time a bone of contention between my father and me. It was the house I had spent my many vacations at and held some fond memories of my grandparents.
Later, when I agitatedly mentioned this to a former colleague who lays claims to a royal bloodline, he simply smiled, "Ever wondered why I am working? My dad gave away a factory and a haveli!"
That day I let go of the issue.
When I was older and got my first newspaper by-line, he bought all (yes, all!) the copies available at the local stall and distributed them among his friends. I suspect that remains the paperwallah's biggest sale till date, because even eight years later, he remembers me and tells me what a fool I am to have moved online.
Like all dads, my dad had (and continues to have) his moments, which make me wish I wasn't born at all.
If there is one thing that Dad hasn't done to embarrass me, however, it is talk about sex. My father and I never -- and I mean never -- spoke about sex. Although Mother and I did have a chat about the birds and bees on a couple of occasions, Father avoided the topic like the plague.
He didn't utter a single word even on that fateful (sigh) day when he discovered a good half-dozen girlie magazines in my cabinet. I remember turning red in the face as he opened it in all earnestness, to give it a cleaning. He said nothing. He put them back exactly where he found them and went on with the cleaning.
Then a week later he took me to the family doctor for a friendly chat (yes, that was what we did in the '90s). As the doctor started speaking, Dad promptly stepped out of the consulting room and waited outside! The doctor in the meanwhile assured me that it was 'normal' to have an interest in such things and everything was 'okay'. Ten minutes later, we were out of the dispensary and buying groceries.
Dad never breathed a word of the whole episode to anyone in the family -- ours was a joint family complete with grandparents, an uncle and a regular retinue of relatives. Eventually, the magazines mysteriously disappeared from the house, never to be seen again.
Very recently, when he was over at my new apartment and we were by ourselves, I reminded him of the incident. He pretended to have forgotten about it. I insisted on jogging his memory and asked him what his reaction was when he found those magazines.
Without so much as batting an eyelid, he replied, "I was relieved to know you weren't gay!"
I smiled and went out to buy groceries.