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Remembering Papa Jee

Comment on a post named “Scent of a Man” by Rohit Pandey in Sulekha 17-09-2019

“what matters that he was kind, infinitely kind. Is that all that matters ? Well, that’s all that matters to a memory, across a quarter of a century. The comfortable illusion to be true to that memory across this aeon of time. I realize that given the mind’s propensity for delusion, this may just be that. But at least the delusion holds. And the memory remains sacred in there.”

You have said it so well, I don’t think, I can do any better. Tomorrow is my father’s death anniversary and all that I want to say is that the fact that what I am today, is because, when I was growing up, he always put my interests before his. I am not a great man, nor was he but I am here today because he was there yesterday to see to it that I live, I outlive, the bit of legacy, he passed on to me and I be proud of my ancestry and yes, I am. I am here today because he was there to protect me, to see to my needs when I was a baby unable to look for my needs, fend for me.

Remembering Papa Ji

Dad passed away on 18th of September in 1992. He was hail and hearty. Except for type II diabetes mellitus, which he inherited from his mother’s side which had manifested itself a year or so before his death, he had no other health issues. Because he had taken a great care of his health throughout his life, he was very upset on learning about his diabetes as he believed that, no affliction could touch a man who took good care of his body. I was away on a ship that was anchored off the coast of Ras Tanura in Saudi Arabia  when I heard about his sudden demise. Not only signing off was difficult from Saudi Arabia, but since the ship was in anchorage, it was impossible. Because of the congestion in the port, there was no sign of her berthing for another fortnight, so I was left to grieve alone and I only prayed that I may be able to make it to the Rasam Pagri ( a formal ritual that involves tying of a turban on the head of the elder son, perhaps symbolic of passing on the responsibility of carrying the traditions) which is held on fourth or thirteenth day. Maybe, it was delayed to the thirteenth day in the hope that I might make it to bid adieu to the departed soul. In those days, there were no satellite coverage of the seas and it was only possible to call home when the ships could make contact through shore-based radio stations, they passed during the voyage. So, it wasn’t possible for the families to call us sailors but we were always on the lookout for calling home whenever it was possible. The Radio Officer would inform us if he could establish contacts with the Radio Stations. The charges were calculated in gold francs and converted in dollars and deducted from the salary. Different Radio stations charged different rates for providing the connectivity, but very often, it wouldn’t be convenient to call home at unsuitable hours because of the time difference, when the ships passed by the coastal towns. So, whenever the ship reached the port, everyone would line up to make a call to his family, at the earliest convenient time. On arrival Rasta Nura  our ship anchored late at night. I decided to make the call in the morning after waking up and the moment I called, I heard the sad news, broken to me by my wife that our father had passed away a night before.  Somehow, I got relieved and flew back to reach home, when the ceremony was being performed. I would leave the details about that to the memoirs that I may publish one day.

I have started writing about him many times but as is my wont, I can’t write on one topic for a  long time, a lot many thought about him are lying in incomplete articles. In one article, I have opened I find memories of one forgotten Father’s Day.

People have paid rich tributes to their fathers on Father’s Day. Now they have days assigned for all loved ones. Mother’s love is celebrated and sung about much more than that for a father, but it takes both of them to make you. If mother takes care of the basic needs of the child, the father has to provide resources for meeting those needs. I personally feel that the father’s contribution is no less important than that of the mother. Though you may have seem many poems and video clips singing praises of the mother, you may not have seen many hailing the father.

Watch this short video clip and then read my article, if you think I may have something better to say

 

Papa ji-That’s how we addressed him. My sons call me Papa but I think even still children use the pronoun ‘Aap’ to attach the respect that our culture has taught us is necessary for honoring the elders. Our rich culture has taught us a lot about social values, the rights and the wrongs. I remember a beautiful dialogue delivered in one of the episodes of serialized version of Mahabharata that would keep the whole nation glued to the television sets during the telecast some thirty years ago. I think Bhisham Pitamah explains to someone as to why Pitra Rin is called a Rin ( debt, not a washing soap). He said, that Rin is something that cannot be paid back. One can’t pay back the debts of one’s parents, he said. One has to carry that burden and likewise, when one repeats the same duties while bringing up his children, he passes the ‘debt’ on to his children, and the legacy goes on. So, it is the debt of the forefathers that we carry and pass on to our children.

I have brought this string of wisdom here after searching the internet

“Pitra Rin is not a curse of the Ancestors, but it is a Karmic Debt of the ancestors which the person in the family is supposed to pay. Since we enjoy the wealth, name and fame earned by our ancestors we are equally indebted to them”. Source:- https://www.gurushakti.org.in/291/article/pitra-dosha-pitra-rin-and-pitra-shraap

Our father was the eldest of the seven brothers. A sister older to him had passed away before we were born. He was a strong, well built, powerful man, genial and a likable, but he had a mercurial temper. He was principled, religious and upright. Besides having a short fuse, you couldn’t point a flaw in his personality. He was a proud Hindu and stickler of righteousness. He hated pomposity, conceit and the liars. My earliest memories of him are of seeing him participate in wrestling matches at Ruldu Bhatta ground which wasn’t far from where we lived. I remember we could see the ground from our house and hear the beating of Dholl which used to accompany the game, maybe to attract the spectators and to infuse ebullience in the participants.

 

The matches were held on Sundays in the morning. I must have been less than five years of age then, because I remember I started going to nursery in Lady Irwin school with him from our house in Constance Lodge at Upper Kaithu, where we must have shifted in 1957. His office was in the Railway Board building which was opposite to our school. I used to go to his office after the school and stay with him till his off time and we would walk home together. As such as I have told in tales narrated elsewhere earlier that I needed a strong, dependable companion to walk that infernal road to our home, infested by the creatures of the nether world and there could not be anyone else better than him, I could trust.

He had a long sharp nose, broad forehead, a square face and a typical way of laughing, heartily.  He combed his hair backward and pressed them in to a tuft right above the forehead. Our mother would say, that she taught him how to comb the hair in the style that he supported and that he didn’t know  how to comb his hair when they got married. They had got married when he was twenty and the mother was eighteen. He was hard of hearing, and he attributed it to his contracting typhoid when he was a child. It was believed then that typhoid, left its mark on one or more senses of a child it infected but, I have a reason to believe this trait was there in his genes, because it has got passed on to three of us although we didn’t get typhoid when we were kids. Our grandfather who was in Police Service had got him to join the same profession, but according to our father, the thought of his deficiency becoming an impediment in his promotions in the police service, forced him to leave the job and he resigned and joined as a clerk in the Accountant General’s office. I reckon he would have been a tough cop had he decided to stay put in the job, but because he was a very principled and an upright man, he would have made life difficult for the colleagues and the thieves and although the system wasn’t as rotten then as now it is because the aspirations of the people were little, the legacy of the British was more pronounced in the Police Department then what it was elsewhere. Accountant General’s office comes under C.A.G. the powers of which were not understood by most of us Indians till Mr. Vinod Rai took the reins. He was working in the Pension Cell when we lived in Shimla, but later he opted for a touring job of an auditor to supplement his income and would go around the state, auditing the expenditures and use/misuse of the government funds. There are many stories that I still remember and I will put them down here as I write more about him later. If he had worked in today’s environment where even an inconsequential file doesn’t move without the bribe and the important one’s go missing, I wonder how would he have survived.

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Navneet Bakshi

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Ushasurya
1 year ago

DEAR NAVNEET
A lovely video and a beautiful blog.
Yes..a father is a very important person in one’s life. I was very moved reading this..as from a son!! Do we see such love and respect, these days ?
I think I wrote a blog a couple of months back on Father’s Day.
I am sort of blessed because my parents were staying with us for two years before they both passed away. And they were very happy. Yes..I do wonder at times…we have taken care of our parents ( Mani’s and mine ) well. , But I read in the papers about old parents being driven away from homes!! It is heart wrenching !

Chander Kiran
1 year ago

Navneet a very well written article

Chander Kiran
1 year ago
Reply to  Navneet Bakshi

Infant the contribution of father has always been underestimated .
.people don’t realize that the expressive mother derives her sense of security and comfort from the father..Even a working mother like me could not have nurtured and reared the children so well without the formidable support of their father.

Our times were different ..the fathers inculcated a sense of fear …the appreciation comes later ..sometimes it is too late ..we repay the pitr- rin bytaking care of our children …that is the cycle of life

Suresh Rao
1 year ago

Navneet; I can understand your emotional attachment to your Papa jee! I had a similar situation when my Dad passed away in peace at age 85. In those days he used to occupy the portion of a 5000 sqft house that he had already demarcated as my entitlement from among his six sons (he had already rebuilt the property and converted his own house into 6 flats by then.) News of his death did not reach me for 2 days as I was traveling in USA by road with my immediate family on a holiday; we did not have cell phones then; the telegram sent by a relative in Bangalore awaited me when I reached home from my travels. However, I could take time off and fly into our hometown by 5th day of his passing away when we, southern brahmins, start ritualistic offerings to the dead. I could join my brothers on that day from USA. Btw, we also celebrate either the 12th or the 13th day as ‘Vaikunt attainment Day’ when all rituals to the dead end with a feast with kith and kin.

Suresh Rao
1 year ago
Reply to  Suresh Rao

By the way, all bonds with parents end once you complete ‘Gaya Shraad’ rituals during ‘Pitr Paksha’ (Sanskrit: पितृ पक्ष), also spelt as Pitru Paksha, Pitr Paksha (literally “fortnight of the ancestors”) is a 16–lunar day period in Hindu calendar when Hindus pay homage to their ancestor (Pitrs), especially through food offerings. The period is also known as Pitru Pakshya, Pitri Pokkho, Solah Shraddha (“sixteen shraddhas”), Kanagat, Jitiya, Mahalaya Paksha and Apara Paksha.

I have done ‘Gaya Shraad’ in ancient Gaya in Bihar near Vishnupad Mandir@ https://www.facebook.com/VishnupadMandir/reviews/

Prajvi Bakshi
1 year ago

Great story papa! Would love to hear more 🙂

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