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Fathering My Father

I have always wanted to write about my father but never did that for reasons unknown to me. My mother was very close to me but my father had a totally different status in my life.
He was a sports enthusiast and a cricketer himself in his early days, so what if he is lying on bed lately. It seems he has completely forgotten to walk . I have always seen him surrounded by his friends and admirers be it at office or home. I have heard of people urging him to utter some foul languages directing them, which they took as a blessing. At present he doesn’t even want to talk to people and more so if they ask him to walk.
I have seen him distributing tickets of cricket and football matches… the complimentary ones that he used to get from his friends. Probably he did so because he had to fight and beg for these tickets when he was young and yearned to watch the match live.
He was an apolitical trade union leader during his service period and always fought for people even who had committed mistakes that had severe repercussions. “Why should their family suffer?” I heard him saying several times. During his tenure if you went to any of the branches of the Bank he was associated with and took his name, your work would have been done in no time. From Managers to the security guard everyone knew him and respected him.
I know several people who have bagged jobs in banks due to this bed ridden old man. Though a very few people would admit it now. I know a vegetable seller from our local market who respected him like God after he got a job in a bank and got promoted as a clerk in due course.

For me, he knew anything and everything. He used to tell me stories on different subjects like sports, politics and his childhood days and even bedtime stories. Bedtime stories ranged from that of Jim Corbett to some serious real-life stories but they would have a bizarre ending everyday as he would fall asleep while telling these. Things like a tiger got arrested by the police or a bus moving kept under the water etc. I still cherish those moments.

Like every middle-class family we too had financial problems which he managed to hide very smartly. Spending his half a months’ salary for my first ever SLR camera and having faith on me with my passion for photography, was a big thing.
Now, I am a grown-up man and don’t urge him to tell bedtime stories or play with me. I don’t look for this bald-headed man if I am in any trouble. With time I have seen him becoming a childlike figure. If you listen to our conversations, I bet you would prefer that over any other comedy show.
A few examples will give you all a better clarity. Once he was served with a dish of prawn and bottle gourd curry (a Bengali dish called Lau Chingri). Expecting a happy review, I had asked him about the dish. “It’s good but I had to search for the prawns” he replied.
Very rarely we give him black. One day I found him drinking the hot tea, in fact gulping it at one go. I was perplexed and when enquired about it, “it’s black tea” he promptly replied.
It’s very hard to keep him seated against his wish. So, we tried an innovative idea, introduced him to Ludo (board game) with his attendant. During such games you can hear fights with the number rolled on the dice or may be which colour he would take and all. 

We have deleted several phone numbers from his mobile without his knowledge. They are just missing for him. It all started when he asked a neighbour to bring betel leaves, late at night and the latter complied. Once I had gifted him a Caravan radio for time pass. One day he just asked me to remove it from his room. Reason behind it being his physiotherapist who would toy with it. Now that radio has returned to his room as the physiotherapist is not coming due to corona.
Just to converse with him I would go to his room and talk nonsense for fun. After quite some time he would get fed-up with me and play a trick to make me leave the room. His trick involves asking his attendant for the urine pot. If his attendant complains about him, he would scold them for poking their nose into everything. If I ask him to do some light exercises with the count of twenty, invariably he would jump numbers and finish it early.

If I ask him to walk with the help of a walker, he would bring out a list of pains, whichever suits the occasion. Later he would accept that he was lying about the pain to avoid walking. Thereafter out of nowhere he suddenly reiterated yesterday ‘you should have opted for the bank job’. He had always wanted me to take it up.
After more than two years of his femur bone fracture we don’t know if he can’t or he doesn’t want to walk. One thing is for sure, he is not a 78 year old man anymore but a 5year old child. He has developed growth of hair on his ever-barren scalp thanks to the medicines he lives on.
With the increasing life expectancy day by day by all probability we all will experience this cycle of life.

 It’s not as humorous as I have described though. Treat every child as a child, be it 5years old or 80. When I had decided to come back to Kolkata, everyone had asked me to reconsider my decision. As predicted, I have lost my dream run, but I am getting to spend quality time with this child whom I fondly refer as ” Baba”. The question that remains is: If not now…. when?”

Text & Photo : ARIJIT SEN

Edited by : RAJASHREE SEN

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