I Miss My Father

I miss my father!
Yes, I miss my baba!

I miss the sound of his laughter-threaded voice, his calm untroubled approach, his gift of serenity. His happy eyes behind his glasses, his big walrus mustache, his walking stick on the coat rack, his mischievous smile, and most of all his corny puns: different ones for different people in different languages.

Even at the end of his days, with Parkinson’s making it near impossible to speak or walk, he never lost his sense of humor.

Trained as a doctor, he practiced one single day and gave up because he could not bear to see people hurt each other in the riots. So he went back to college and became a chemical engineer and lived the better part of his life in the shadows of the coal mines and steel plants, reading endlessly and listening to music from the time he woke up to the time he went to sleep.

At 69, he was called on to consult in the building of a high-tech steel plant in Kanyakumari: a truly long, arduous, inconvenient journey from Calcutta. They wanted to learn how to use the “Dasgupta Process” – one he had invented and gave freely away.

Weeks later, when he stopped by with us on his way home, he said he felt a bit unwell. I called our family physician’s home. When the doctor was leaving, he stood up and saluted my father. He said that in all his years he had never met anyone with such immense willpower. His mother, he said, was younger, had the exact same thing and she wouldn’t even get out of bed.

I miss that I can no longer turn and lean on him, to draw on his strength and make myself complete again.

I am a wife, a mother, a sister, and an aunt: but I am no longer a daughter.

And even though I live a charmed life in a beautiful villa, I can never go home again. When I look around me, I see that I am not alone in this. And here’s what else I see.

Without fanfare and without hesitation my father kept his hands on my head long after I flew away.

I also know with recognition, precognition and everything in between that children carry away a sense of belonging.

It’s a common enough belief that a mother’s hand defines a child’s life. But I know for certain that my father’s hand helped keep me steady.

We cannot know until one day love disappears that chances are few and death comes soon enough.

Take love if it’s in your grasp, take love if you can reach it.

Perhaps in commonplace lives, it is our single act of poetry.