One might have heard of kids who grew up in the absence of their fathers because he had passed away. That’s sad but still tolerable to some extent. It was an act of god. Humans could not have fixed it anyway.
But what’s tragic is the loss of a father’s love and affection even though he is around. My parents separated when I was in the first grade. Since then, I don’t remember having a proper conversation with my dad. Until he passed away recently, I didn’t even realise the kind of impact that their separation had on me.
This morning, I was triggered when I saw a few advertisements about Fathers’ day offers on some of the apps I use. Not in a psychological or traumatic way. But in a philosophical and nostalgic way.
Though I have very few pieces of evidence to back my claim, I think my father was probably a bad husband and an irresponsible parent. But he might not have been an entirely bad person.
I’ve forgiven him for not being there for me during my formative years, but I had never processed my emotions and thoughts about him. All these years, I was afraid to even talk about this part of my life.
But now, I think I should not only ponder over it but also tell the world about it. There might be many other kids going through what I experienced during my childhood.
I have retained a few pleasant memories of my dad. My father used to take me for walks during the weekend in a nearby park. He used to request big guys playing cricket to allow me to bat for an over even though I was not a part of the game.
He taught me how to chant sacred mantras and instilled spirituality in me. He used to apply sacred sandal paste (nama) on my forehead before I left for school. My friends used to mock me for it and I told my dad that I didn’t want to wear it. But he was adamant. “Let me speak to your teacher about it. You should not be ashamed of it,” he used to say.
He was probably a decent family man, though a patriarchal old-school guy. He was a government employee with a good title and pay. Otherwise, my grandpa would not have sought him as a groom! My dad used to shuttle between Bengaluru and Tumakuru (my mom’s place) every day. I remember train journeys with him during weekends and we usually got down in Malleswaram station. My dad’s house was in Rajajinagar, if I recall correctly.
I recall that he was passionate about philosophy, the Bhagavad Gita and writing. Till his final days, he ran a newsletter. I am not sure if it had a profitable business model or whether it was just a passion project.
My neighbour told me that I had got my smarts from my dad when I topped the 10th board exam. But somehow, I thought it was bogus. Now that I understand genetics, I am pretty sure they were right and I am actually glad to be carrying great genes.
The Turbulent Years
Life was pretty turbulent when my parents separated. I vaguely remember some fights. But I never understood what it was all about. Since kids are attached to their mothers, everyone felt it could be a good idea for us (me and my brother) to be with our mother. Though I didn’t appreciate it then, I must say that my father never resorted to violence or brute force.
He took the legal route and the mediation route to get back to us, but it didn’t work out. Though he could get orders in his favour, it never got implemented. The police could not implement it without the consent of kids, apparently. My brother and I were not sure what to do. I don’t even remember what happened then. Maybe, we just didn’t want to hurt mom.
Though I don’t want to delve into the details, I felt the entire legal drama did more harm than good. But, I remember my father saying this, “I am doing this because I want you guys to know that I tried. You must not feel that I never made an attempt to get back with you and your mom.” The intention might have been good. But he lacked the emotional quotient required to communicate properly, I guess.
For some reason, he didn’t agree to divorce either. I am not sure whether he did it for emotional reasons or monetary ones. Probably, there was a bit of pride and possessiveness at play. Anyway, the end result was a completely dysfunctional family situation and childhood without dad’s presence.
However, he managed to get my custody for conducting my upanayana (sacred thread ceremony). He celebrated it with grandeur. Though my relatives on the fathers’ side participated eagerly, my mother was absent. I just felt uncomfortable and didn’t understand the importance of the ceremony. It was awkward. We went to Kudli, a place where Tunga and Bhadra rivers meet. Once the ceremony was done, my father declared that I would become an ‘independent thinker’ and ‘independent individual’ due to the ceremony. Though I am surprised, I must say that the prophecy did come true. After upanayana, I performed sandhyavandane and chanted Gayatri mantra for a few days. But later, I went through the rebellious teenage phase where I became an atheist. But I wear the sacred thread even today.
A Pitiable Death
Even after the court cases and custody battles ended, there was no reconciliation between my parents. I think my parents had grown apart and were not on talking terms. I vaguely remember getting a Facebook friend request from my father. But I decided not get entangled in a fresh bout of fight. I had started studying in NITK, Surathkal, a very prestigious institution, and I decided to focus on my studies and future career. I simply accepted that I could not have a proper family and moved on.
When the news of his death reached us last year during the lockdown, I had to encounter my dormant feelings that had accumulated without my knowledge. COVID had claimed him. I felt pangs of grief. I genuinely felt sorry for him. People in my home didn’t say much. In fact, most of them were concerned about his property (which was pretty valuable if I am not wrong). The whole conversation was nauseating to the core. I simply signed the papers and refused to participate in any ugly conversations. Some of his savings did land in my account. But I plan to donate that to charity.
Here was a man, who probably suffered as much as I did. During his final days, he didn’t have the fortune of being with his sons and life partner by his side. But as soon as he passed away, his brothers and estranged wife were eager to grab his property. I feel that was the final insult that fate had planned for him. And I don’t want to judge whether he deserved it or not. Sometimes, I wonder if he was just a nice man who suffered a terrible fate.
Desire To Be A Good Father
I think I was hesitant to get married in my 20s because I feared that a similar fate could fall upon me. I was afraid of marriage proposals and didn’t make attempts to forge lasting relationships. I felt that I should figure out a career that I loved and then think of marriage. Deep down, I felt that I should be a better father than the one I had. But I am sure he was not solely responsible for everything that happened.
Finally, I’ve figured out the career path for myself. Though I have a fair amount of self-pity and regrets, I have realised that one should find a loving partner, be considerate and communicate well if one has to have a happy family life. I think it was a very good idea to reject arranged marriages. They are full of family dramas and shady deals. I am pretty sure that many fraught marriages are worsened by relatives. So many people in this world require therapy and professional counselling (pardon me if I didn’t get the technical terms right).
No one can fix the past. But, I am very optimistic about the future. Firstly, I want to find genuine and tender love. And next, I want to be a caring and responsible father. It’s ok if it takes time and effort, but I think it’s gonna be worth it.