It is apparently a day that the world celebrates fathers, along with music, and yoga. Friends and acquaintances on social media are putting up posters and photographs celebrating the lovable bond that they share with their fathers. Men and women smiling and posing with their respective dads. There is a deep void that I have when I see these photographs and messages. I have spent very little time with my father. Growing up, there is a big gap in my life, where I did not even know where he was, as a small boy, I was under the impression that he was working abroad. He made an appearance for my sister’s wedding and after a few days again he was gone. When fathers used to accompany their children for events at school and in the locality, there was a bit of pain, which always remained. As I grew up and I understood the complex dynamics of an extended broken family trying to pick up its pieces, I realized that this is how things are meant to be.
Finally in 1998, I had a chance to start life afresh with my father and mother. Moving from a bustling metropolis to a small town in Tamil Nadu brought several challenges. Realizing that here too I will be an outsider after being an ‘outsider’ in Calcutta, I continued to grapple with life. Within a few months I understood why my father had remained away from us. His addiction to alcohol ruined my mother’s life as well as mine. Quite early in life, I realized that I had to support my mother in any way possible to make this chance at a ‘family’ work. When others of my age used to enjoy the evenings after school and holidays, I would sell murukku and thattai (rice-flour based snacks). We got some orders to supply regular meals to a family and this helped us a lot. They were an elderly couple near our rented house and I would supply food in a tiffin carrier to them. There used to be ugly arguments at home and I tried my best to zone out all the ‘noise’ and focus on my studies. I have never been an exceptional student, just above-average. Engineering and medicine were ruled out for two reasons, lack of money and my lacklustre scores in Maths and Science.
Somehow got into college, got a taste of the big city, participated in competitions of oratory, writing, quizzing, and drama won lots of prizes and handed over the cash rewards to Amma. Biggest joy was when I got placed on campus, that one day, when I received the offer-letter was my happiest. As I entered corporate life and salary started coming in regularly, helped realize small dreams of my Amma. Starting with a refrigerator, a washing machine, a microwave oven, small things that made her life easier. As father’s dependence on alcohol increased, I tried admitting him to rehab to help him overcome his addiction, but of no avail, he ran away from there. One fine day, after a long argument, he just walked out of our rented house. It has been more than ten years now. My mother is also dead now. I don’t have any bit of affection or love for my father. Just bitterness and anger. I am alone. Sitting in the comfort of another rented house. As the world celebrates fathers and fatherhood, I wonder where did I go wrong, what was my crime to have not experienced the paternal affection that every child deserves. I do not have answers. There are times when I have nightmares where I see funeral pyres burning and I wonder who is it that is on the final journey? Wherever you are – I hope you have found the happiness that you wanted. Happy Father’s Day to you.