12% Aspiration

Everyone who tells me I don’t look like my mom deserves to be socked. Correction: I want to sock them. She has light eyes and all that, but I don’t think she is a looker or anything. I tell her that. You are ordinary, I am pretty. That’s a “ha ha” joke, if ever there was one.

I am more like one of two parents. And that would be dad. When he retired last year, he added one more prefix to his already crowded name co-ordinates….Retd Major General B K Mohanti. What a name for a gigantic teddy bear. Giant teddy bear is what my dad is….

His model and make has lifetime warranty but that kind of original equipment is out of production. I am saying that for my dad. Others would be saying that for theirs, maybe.

Dad hates most of the things I like. He has no idea who U2 are. He could not be bothered. He will walk away if I speak a sentence that goes like, “Bono blah blah”. Not deliberately, but that manner of noise / sound would have deflected off his physical form. But he will know what Nehru and Tito exchanged at a summer NAM summit. If its in the papers, including a tender floated by L&T for vegetable oil, he would know. He would know the coral reef crisis in Oz and he would also know SRK’s going rate for the latest wedding gig. I put that down as "need for knowledge" of which I got me a part, of course with fewer features. So "need for knowledge" in Dad got trimmed down to "need for trivia" in his daughter, thats me.

I don’t wonder why Dad and I get along. Because for most part of my life, we did nt really need to. He has a short temper and I was somehow always on the wrong side of the line of control. Or the fear that I was had me trying harder to keep that low profile. Its funny but only when I went to college did Dad and I really become friends. It was not that we did not care before. I think there is a time in our lives when we are born-again strangers and then the only way to go is to become friends. We always see that happening with old friends.

Mission control: Dad is on the line
Trademark Dad-me conversation
(includes completely disjoint flow and dischordant questions rolled into a beautiful je ne sais quoi)

Dad: L
Me: Hey, how are you?
Dad: ok, hey I checked this website today
Me: Cool, which one?
Dad: But you know it gave me this win-init error…
Me (thinking) win-it or win in it??
Me: Oh ok….so does everything else work?
Dad: No just that win-init error..what do I says to open this file or some registry
Me (not thinking, talking): I cant tell you what it is from all the way here
Dad: Ok I will call the UPS guy
Me (thinking): What the goose would he know?
Me: Yeah, great. You call him.
Dad: I made Chicken a la Qoof today
Me: You don’t mean Chicken a la Kiev do you?
Dad: Of course not! Its my recipe so its special. I call it Qoof.
Me (thinking): Dad, you will never be able to make the exact same dish even if you wanted to!
Me: Cool. Ha ha aha ah. (real laughter)
Dad: I went to meet Daffy uncle today
Me: Yeah.
Dad: His son, your cousin (he does not say this), is in town
Me: Yeah.
Contrary to popular belief, he is not fishing for some relative-meeting from my side here. He is just giving me information. Giant teddy bears dont do that. Innocent to the core.
Dad:Ok bye then
Me: Yeah, bye (he has hung up somewhere between “yeah” and “bye”)

Dad has a sensational sense of humour that finds manifestation in one very demonstrative form. He laughs through the punchlines always. Always always. He is laughing so hard, that for most part, people just join into the revelry not having a clue what Pedro said in the end. And so, when he starts telling a joke, I have to be very careful that I will hear the punchlines in installments. Insterspersed with quite a bit of laughs.

I read somewhere that leaders use humour to their advantage always. I observe my dad does that a lot. I got my “Pakistan” theory from him. He would scream at the army driver while the poor guy is indulged in the important business of driving. He does that all the time. That’s quintessentially him. So, when he says “Stop here Mangalram”, it means "listen you Mangalram, stop in the middle of the road, where you are, don’t even think of looking out for a clear patch". Invariably, this ends in Mangalram "getting it". And me or mom or “as the case may be” sitting with incredibly tense intestines. Like when they tighten up on you on an occasion of extreme worry or fear. That kind of tense. Then Dad will cool down and say “Mangalram, I asked for Delhi, did not ask you to park in Pakistan.” I always use “Pakistan” to imply great distances. It has that ethnic fun twist to it.

When he retired last year, I thought of how big a part of his life was now in past tense. The OG. The olive green uniform. Wearing which was a matter of unflinching pride. I have seen Dad in Rashtrapati Bhavan in his full uniform turn-out marching to Dr Kalam to receive his medal. I made a mental note that I have never been overwhelmed with such a vicarious sense of achievement and honour. I can relive those goosebumps anyday. I also think that if I could be 12% the human being he is, I could give myself an imaginary award in an imaginary ceremony and feel happy I have done him proud.

I have heard often the adage –“do the right thing”. I have seen in my dad’s life the toughest conundrums of actually doing the right thing or not doing it. After all these years, I know the tougher the conundrum, the stronger the conviction. These are the things daughters learn from fathers. I speak about living light, and I look in the far distance and think of a legacy I would never be able to ignore. Honour, honesty, humour all rolled into a giant teddy bear form.

Sometimes you can never be thankful enough for what you have.


Prasanna said...

Hi Lalita

Landed here via Subha's orkut page

Delightful post.

Keep Blogging.

Silpi said...

Extremely heart tugging... the spontaneity in the flow made it so for me!

chandana said...

This is great writing...

I always remember your dad from my Pune days...when he'd come over to meet my parents...and that pipe of his: he'd spend maybe half an hour cleaning it, putting it together, prepping the tobacco etc etc; light it up and it would go out in 2 minutes!!

Anonymous said...

Lilu, an awesome post. Just could see your dad right in front of me. I knew you write well, but didn't read your blog until Prasanna told me. Hmm youve got a true fan;-)