Father, Daughter – Readers

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Today is my dad’s fourth death anniversay. I kept thinking about what I should do to celebrate the person he was and honour his memory. This is easier for people who are religious I guess. Like my mom. Every year, on his death anniversary, we are supposed to have a puja at home, and feed brahmins. But that is not my way of remembering a person I loved.

So I decided to do the one thing that I can do, and that I have been doing since 2019, in his memory. Write about him. I wrote about how I felt without him in my life in the last three year’s posts. About grief and that void that cannot be filled. But from today, I decided that every year on this date, I will write something about him instead. A story from his life.

Because I realised, that memory is a slippery thing. That maybe when people say “we are sorry for your loss”, they probably don’t mean that they’re sorry that we lost a person we loved. Because technically we can’t ‘lose’ a person. They are not a thing we own. And they are not something that can ever be found or replaced, once ‘lost’ to death. Maybe what they mean instead, is that we are sorry you will start losing the memory of the person who had such a big influence on your life. Maybe they meant that we are sorry that you will start to forget one amazing person as the years pass on.

And that is why, I decided to write stories from his life. So I don’t forget. Here is one, that my grandmother used to tell me about his childhood:

My father was the eldest of her four children. She used to tell me that he always loved reading. Whatever he could get his hands on – the local newspaper, or fiction books written in our local language. He studied in the local school initially where English was taught much later as a language. But his father was a lawyer, a well educated one. And the first few books that my grandfather bought for my father was an Oxford dictionary and A Wren and Martin book of Grammar. My father would read and devour books by the lantern light sometimes way into the night. Much like me, he would always have a book with him wherever he went. People used to wonder about this quiet boy, who was steadfast in his principles, a very good student, and very unlike the other boys his age who preferred playing and getting into trouble.

He told me later that he loved reading about Vivekananda when he grew up. And then he read a lot of Western action thrillers. I don’t remember the names of the books though, because we didn’t have them at home. But he was the person who introduced me to books. Every time he would go on his sailing trip overseas, he would bring me back at least one book. A book of folktales usually. I wish I had had the sense of saving all those books for my daughter, because they would’ve been a keepsake, something else to remember him by. But we don’t always have the foresight for these kind of things when we are young, do we?

He got me my first library card and introduced me to the wonders of libraries and free books. He never stopped me from reading. No matter what I would read. They could be comics or romances, he wouldn’t bat an eye, as long as I was reading. My mom couldn’t understand why he was so lenient about my reading habit. She would tell me to focus on my studies. But my dad would tell me to focus on both – the world of fiction as well as the world of reality.

Sometimes I wonder, if I remember all this correctly though. And how much of what I remember is the actual truth and how much is romanticised? I do have a very active imagination after all. No matter what, I think that every story has an element of truth to it. And for this story about my father, the one truth I know and have proof for, is that he loved reading books and he was the one who taught me how to fall in love with books. Thank you for one of the most beautiful gifts you could have given me papa. I miss you, and I love you.

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