He convinced his five children that his birthday was SO important that it was declared a public holiday plus everyone had to dress up and go to Mass. It only gradually dawned on us that maybe Indian Independence Day and the feast of the Assumption of Mary had something to do with that.
When I was a kid he also convinced me I had a hole in my chin, which is why water always fell down my shirt when I tried drinking from a bottle. He also always asked if I had washed my face thoroughly in the morning, and I would say yes and then he would ask if I put soap in my eyes, which I firmly said I had, and I KNEW I had because my eyes were watering. NOW thinking back, I'm like, "Waaaaiiiit a minute, we're not SUPPOSED to put soap in our eyes! THAT WASN'T FUNNY, DADA!"
He had FIVE kids! And would transport us around on his bike! Well, not usually ALL five, just three at a time, that's all. We were firmly told to HOLD TIGHT, and every time our arms started slacking, he would yell at us to HOLD TIGHT. We had elaborate systems and rules to help our big family work- specific bath times, specific seating around the table, family prayer where each member of the family got one day of the week to organize the prayer. We had one-to-twos, where each of us got taken out for 'quality time' with my parents, and official 'family time' on Sundays, where we took turns to choose our activity for the week- a picnic, card games, movie night, throwball, swimming.
Family time circa 1998
He is the Idea Man, the Can Do Man, the Man for Emergencies, the guy who ran summer clubs, took teenagers from church on camps, was the one leading the way up and down mountains, hiding cold Sprite in his bag for the girls who were on the verge of collapse at the last leg of the trek ('Leave me here to DIE!'), the guy who, in his 40s, figured out how to use a computer by trial and error, and then proceeded to computerize the entire church office system, the man who regularly rescues his adult children from any and all kinds of emergencies. (Um.. Dada? I ran out of petrol... again. Dada? I think I broke the microwave. There's smoke coming out of it! Hey Dada, what are your thoughts on picking me up from the station/picking up my friends from the station/helping me move/dropping me to the airport?)
He is the Man of Many Secrets and Surprises, usually in a good way. He usually has what you need in his Cupboard of Stores and Surprises. Chocolate, jeera golis, Haldiram's potato chiwda, tins of rasagulla. We just have to look a little pathetic and hopeful, and out they come. He also stores something of everything you might need- handkerchiefs, safety pins, used envelopes, tachni pins, rubber bands, band-aids, you name it, he's got it.
He is one of the few fathers I know who has been humble enough to apologize with tears in his eyes to his children. All fathers mess up. Few fathers acknowledge when they have.
His ONLY expectation of me and my siblings is that we do whatever God wants us to. You know what most Indian fathers want from their children? Not bad things usually- a steady job, a degree, support for parents in their old age (not that they're old or anything), his daughters to settle down in their late 20s, give them grandchildren. Some Indian fathers are even more demanding- a particular career, a particular spouse, a particular age to get married. My dad? "Do whatever God asks you." So this single
Happy birthday, Dada!
Father-daughter dance at a wedding last week