THE YEAR 2014 -THE CENTENARY YEAR OF MY FATHER
My father would have completed 100 years of age this year had he been alive today. A posthumous centenary celebration would have been appropriate. But it was not to be. Mother occupies the prime place in a man's life until wife takes away this space little by little. Rarely a father has so much influence on one's life as my father had on my psyche.
As head of a large family of seven children my father always had a special place for me in his heart. One reason might be I was the weakest in constitution and health and the other I was the brightest as a student. My father was a physician in a village dispensary in a prosperous village in Guntur District, AP from the time I had worldly knowledge. To his credit goes the fact that he was the only doctor who worked in the village for more than a year and the only one who stayed put in the same village always available to the patients. He worked there for fourteen years. Other doctors prior to him and those who came later were staying in the nearby town, on duty during morning hours only.
Until I passed the eleventh class, I remember standing with folded hands in front of my father whenever he called me. Such was the discipline with which he brought us up. We used to have dinner together, all the eight members of the family sitting in semi circle. None was allowed to say a word during dinner time. Timings were strict. We used to complete dining by 7.30 PM and study for half an hour later. After we completed the studies, each one of us used to stand before him with folded hands and tell him what we read, take one or two questions from him and then go to sleep. On occasions he used to sit with us in front of the kerosene lamp and teach us English grammar. (I continued this practice in my later life with my children too and we used to put off lights by 9 p.m. come what may).And he persuaded us to read English news paper at very early stages of our lives. The habit remained in my family. I went a step ahead and inculcated the habit in my children even before they entered sixth class.
An event in my life left a lasting mark in my life. The dispensary where my father was working used to be situated on way to my school. One day, I required white papers urgently and my mother asked me to collect money from my father on the way. By the time I reached there he was out to attend a patient. The nurse enquired why I went there and took out a few papers from the cup board and sent me to school. That evening, while I was returning from school, the attender called me inside and without saying a word my father slapped me on my cheek so hard that I fell down. The nurse wept copiously and took me aside. After returning home he told my complaining mother that it was not about one or two papers but it was about stealing government property. That speaks all about his character.
By the time I completed SSLC my father retired from service with only one son settled in employment. With no savings, no assets and no income we had spent the worst part of our lives. The only income was Rs. 100/- p.m. from his share in private practice with another doctor, national merit scholarship of Rs.100/- p.m. I was getting and the occasional Rs.50/- my eldest brother was sending. The rest was through hand loans that my school head master and other landlords used to extend and they were insisting that I sign the promissory notes. With all this, my father slipped into depression and got severe abdominal ulcers.
A real break came when, before completion of my graduation I landed in a good job with LIC of India. There were celebrations. I dreamed of taking my father to Hyderabad, set up his private practice and see that he again lived life like the King he had been once. But God decided otherwise. The same day I joined service in Hyderabad, my father landed in hospital with a severe paralysis stroke and died 45 days later. At the age of nineteen my dreams shattered, my life took a u-turn. Rest is history. The only words that ring in my ears are what he said when I visited him in hospital. He was stammering as he lost his voice., "God punished me for taking your scholarship money and making you sign the promissory notes. Again I am leaving this world placing the responsibility of the family in your hands." and he cried like a child.
Whatever good I have done in my life, it was a gift given by my father. He made me a man. Whatever sins I might have committed intentionally or otherwise, it was an injustice done by me to the values for which my father strived throughout his life. To say he was a God to me is belittling him. He had been more than that.
This is a tribute to the man behind my successes in life. This is the only tribute I can pay him today since I am poor again in the evening of my life. God's ways are always mysterious.