Wednesday, September 05, 2018

My Father - A stream-of-consciousness tribute

When people outside the so-called family cherish your values, and of those residing in your hearts and minds for life, you feel blessed. It was a great thought session today with some new friends from Pune. Recounting the life and times of my dad for their benefit, in what proved a sweet tangent to the moot point, was an experience beyond words. I reproduce my two-penny tribute to mark this day, a very special one indeed, spent at a coffee shop bang opposite the iconic Bhandarkar Institute.

Thanks to an unimaginably difficult childhood and countless instances of injustice inflicted by mean, insular and insensitive superiors throughout his rich and varied employment tenure - whether as an academician, school teacher, professor, research officer or director, not to mention scores of odd, one-off jobs he did for a living - the real worth of his timeless work was never recognized in full measure. And he never believed in promoting his cause despite winning the admiration of and endorsement from renowned scholars like A L Basham of the University of London (and later Head of Department of Oriental Civilization at The Australian National University), Robert Bosc, S.J of the Institut Cath-olique de Paris, Institut d’Etudes Sociales, Action Populaire, France, Dr. J M Mehta, Vice-Chancellor, M S University Baroda, legendary geographer O H K Spate, eminent historians R N Mehta, D C Sircar and Professor Herbert J Wood and noted scholar A D Pusalker. His chart on the Dynamics of Indian History showing the operation of the Centripetal and Centrifugal forces in political history won critical appreciation from the world over.

These accolades did little to boost his official status in government, semi-government and private organizations alike. To make matters worse was his inherent inability to converse with the people at large. Many among them proactively came closer on the pretext of knowing him better. This often made him an hapless victim of hidden agendas and ulterior motives. The media and publishing tribe was no exception, drawing rich insights from him but force-fitting them in frameworks of their conceited and constricted minds, and, creative and counterproductive machinations. Somewhere the wounds of these experiences had left him scarred deep within. The most tragic fallout of this quandary was that he was neither able to spell out the Utopian independence he craved for all his life, nor could he ever measure his own greatness, often reaching out to the wrong people, trading instinct for intellect and vice versa in forging suspect relationships, largely ignoring the security checks to validate the trustworthiness of the staged affinities extended from the other side.

Add to that the long list of his manufactured eccentricities, more the result of sheer dejection than any inherent tendency, that forced him to develop a coconut-like disposition. Those who cared to see through, and look beyond, the hard shell were generously blessed with the sweet nectar of his pioneering thoughts - insightful observations on matters of life and death and a remarkably detached, holistic scholarship that knew no bounds of academic or professional disciplines. As his children, we did manage to make a few inroads in several 24 carat moments of togetherness but there's no denying the fact that we largely failed to look at things from his perspective, ridiculously consumed by our circumstantial preoccupations all along. Such learnings, rooted in unconditional acknowledgment, unfortunately happen only in hindsight.

And yet, something extraordinary happened during the last three days: when he was sapped of energy in a seemingly rapid onset of sodium loss as the doctors suspect in a convenient conjecture. He became exceptionally soft and mild mannered and we saw glimpses of my mom in his gestures and utterances. It's our good fortune that the three days had us wrapped together in a celestial bond of a lifetime that can only be experienced, never described. Towards the evening of the third day on 11th November, he was hospitalized for what looked like a case of chest congestion. Looking at his condition, we had given up all hopes but he came back in a miraculous recovery which we could sense was short-lived. Nevertheless, throughout 12th and 13th, as he went through scores of ups and downs, we had rich, fulfilling conversations that were amiss all this while.

My mom, although timid by nature all her life, won over her cancer when she called me and held my hand before she breathed her last. So we were more than sure something similar was planned for dad. And we were not disappointed. We have no reason to complain - for we were blessed with eleven wholesome years with him post my mother's demise knowing fully well that he was prepared to leave this world long before her exit.

Doctors could never confirm the exact cause of his demise but we know he timed his death in a manner befitting his sterling character. All his life, he played with words in a world of his own and the Jacques Derridas, Edward Saids, Bertrand Russells, Karl Poppers, Narhar Kurundkars, N C Kelkars and Dharmanand and Damodar Kosambis would have surely come to his rescue as he was going through the motions of the final act. No wonder, he was fully alert and mindful of everything till the very last.

To borrow his own words:

आता सरसावून पुढे जायचे नाही
केव्हा सरेल वाट ठाऊक नाही
पण चरैवेति चरैवेति
शिकायचंय अजून बरच काही...

No more putting my
best foot forward
for the dead-end lurks
around the corner
But I keep going,
keep going
for there's much yet to
learn and garner