My dad would have turned 105 this year if he were alive! He died when he was 96. “Twenty-seven, eleven, nineteen hundred and nine.” That is how he would state his date of birth because in India, his birthplace, the date would be stated first, next the month and lastly the year. Though he lived in the United States for twenty-one years after my mother’s passing away, he never changed his ways of doing or saying things.
According to my father, life was better in the jolly old British Raj days in the Bombay that he grew up in from a young boy into manhood. He was born in Badnera, Maharashtra State. We constantly heard of the days when all good food was freely available like Kraft English Cheese, canned sardines, Peak Freen Biscuits, Bovril (Marmite), British jams etc.
My father’s generation never reconciled to the independence India achieved from the British and he often made blatant and depracating remarks about the Indian apparel worn by Indian Politicians in those days as being a dress that did not command respect in international political circles. “But what about Gandhi?” I would plead my case. “He was an Indian highly respected around the globe for his non-violence philosophy and he wore a dhoti?” There was never any response. His eyes were glassed over by British memories and his lips pursed in his characteristic fashion which spelled out “I’m not budging”.
He was generous to all with his time. Broken radios were always being delivered to our home for repairs for which he never accepted payment. He would sit for hours facing the innards of a radio with pliers in hand, studying the myriads of colored, coiled wires. After a few tweaks here and a replaced part there the muffled voice of a newscaster would be heard struggling through the crackling emissions signalling the beginning of recovery for the radio. We would be treated to another week of music now confidently filling our home with sweet strains. The final flourish before returning the radio to its ever-grateful owner would be to polish the entire front with oil. I think it gave him great satisfaction to make someone happy. Lesson learned.
Money was sufficient and we ate well but the meat was doled out and only consumed at one meal about three times a week. He would always place an extra piece on my plate saying “I have too much” and I knew we had all started out with three pieces each.
He was the best to have around when we were sick. He would rub balm into aching legs, bring little newspaper-wrapped packets of almonds and dried figs as treats, made the best soup and soft-boiled eggs with toast.
Never believed in doctors and said “Visiting them causes more health problems” hence he had this mini pharmacy on the shelf of his headboard from where he freely dispensed all kinds of remedies to those who would heed.
I will always remember the day our dad continued his journey back where his soul came from. He lay there in the hospital bed, peaceful as though in a deep sleep, while I stroked his soft silver hair and shed silent tears but not without an amused expression every now and then. My sister and her husband had just told me that when the paramedics came to take him to the hospital, he thought he was definitely going to come home again. So he instructed them to bring his glasses and his dentures to the hospital. He was vain to the core about his appearance and would never leave for anywhere without ironing his clothes, showering or carefully combing his hair! The cologne could be smelled across the room!
But that was my dad… a beautiful soul who taught me to live in the moment, enjoy life and if you can’t do anything about a problem just leave it in the hands of the Universe or sleep on it.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad!