Sunday, January 31, 2016

For my father

For a heartbeat, a lifetime of devotion triumphed over dementia’s raging incursion. As the opening bars of ‘Jana Gana Mana’ to mark the end of this year’s Republic Day Parade in Delhi drifted from the television, my 89-year-old father started and then attempted to stand up on legs that no longer quite work. Somewhere inside a mind whose circuits have almost been obliterated by dementia, the old soldier knew that this was his country’s song and that he had to stand to attention.
He isn't perfect. But in the 30-odd years he was an officer in the Indian Air Force and the decades since, commitment to India and its people were the values he lived by. And one of those values was to stand to attention for the national anthem.
Once, a few years after he retired, we were at an event in my school. The school band struck up the national anthem, not to signal the end of proceedings, but as part of their repertoire. And like a shot, my dad was on his feet; this drew some strange looks, but we all followed. I squirmed then at the unwelcome attention that came our way. But now, whenever I think about that incident, it’s pride I feel, dusted with a pinch of shame for having squirmed back then. 
And that is what I breathed into his ear a few days ago. Hoping that somewhere inside what lingers of his mind a cluster of neurons would fire and let him know how very proud I am of him and how much of the good there is in me is largely because of him.

9 comments:

Anasuya said...

Oh, sending you love! a+a

Sankar Radhakrishnan said...

@a+a: Thanks. Much appreciated!

Lakshmi Viswanath said...

Tears are blurring my vision as I read this....tears of pride,tears of helplessness and frustration.....why does my poor loving father have to be reduced to this. You express so well in words what I feel every day. Dealing hands on with him day after day is heart breaking. Though physically not a huge man he was mentally a colossus and today to see him like this is shattering. But then as you said,we have all his strengths and his famous temper too!,

bernard pascal said...

Bravo pour cette belle sensibilité Sankar @+

Swarup said...

I am sure he knows deep down inside. Love and prayers.

Narayanan Govind said...

Shanker, Beautifully written as usual.
As Lakshmi stated, Uncle has always been a mental colossus to all of us.
A true Airforce officer, disciplined to the core.
Your words bring tears to each one of us, even though each of us relate to him in different ways.
God bless him with minimum pain or agony.
Bindu

Lekha said...

A thousand memories come pouring in.... As a child I was terrified of Uncle and his bristling mustache and gruff demeanor .... But then, somewhere along the way, as we grew, the years slowly closed the generation gap... When I was leaving for Delhi, he noted down his famous Bagara Baingan and Cornflakes Pudding recipes on sheets of paper in his firm and distinctive hand-writing... He visited us once in Delhi and had dinner with us.. I rushed back from French class to prepare a hurried meal... and he returned to Bangalore and told my parents that I had cooked a great dinner! When I was pregnant with my son, since we didn't have a car, my dad would borrow your Fiat to take me to my check-ups... and towards the end of term, Uncle would always keep the car filled with petrol in case we needed it at night... and sure enough, my son was born at 2 am after an anxious rush to St Philomena's ... in that Fiat car... Thanks, Uncle.. You were one of the best....

Sankar Radhakrishnan said...

@Lekha: Thanks for sharing those thoughts... it is heartening to know that he touched so many people in ways big and small. And I remember some of those rides in the fiat with Uncle (your dad).

suchitra narayan said...

Beautifully expressed Sankar..

He was a caring person and reached out to people in very subtle ways...he had a very positive spirit and that kept him going..as long as he could physically and mentally..