It's been way too long…six years, I believe. I was looking at your picture and reminiscing about how you were so peculiarly adorable. You were anything but a regular father. I remember talking to my friends about their fathers and I always wondered how you were nothing of those sorts. I wondered sometimes if you were even cut out for marriage or for having kids because sometimes you did not seem to fit in…your world seemed more fit for solitude. I am not sure if you were actively my mentor or my guide, but I do know that you taught me a lot about love, life and embracing my individuality.
I think I would miss our tea-time conversations the most – I wish there were more of them and I wish I had the opportunity to know you more. Regardless, I was looking at your picture and felt the need to write about your colorful personality, your ideologies, and quirks.
In a world where nothing but selflessness is expected out of parents and the most sacrificing parents are placed on the highest pedestal, your focus on self-care came as a welcome change. You taught me how it is not selfish to have your own opinions, choices, and idea of life and to not change it for anyone. You taught me that it is okay to care for yourself first because one cannot pour from an empty cup.
You taught me that you must always keep the child alive in you. You taught me that you're never too old for jujubes, gifts or stealing toothpicks from restaurants. I remember you getting mad at us for not getting gifts for you on your birthday. You taught me that we must say ‘I love you' to each other and say it often. "I love you the most, Charul. I will live with you after you get married. You must clearly lay this out as a precondition with your boyfriend". Later, you would add, "Also, don't get a boyfriend at this age. All men of this age care about is sex."
You taught me that it is okay to embrace your individuality and not blend in for the comfort of others. I remember how you would much rather sit with the women and discuss food than get into the men's room and watch cricket matches because you did not feel like it(much to mother's embarrassment, though). I admired how you valued people for who they were and how beautiful their souls were, rather than attaching importance to their social status. I remember how you would become best friends with some taxi drivers and spend hours talking to them and conveniently ignore certain VIPs because you just did not like them. I am dazzled by how you loved without bias, loved often and loved intensely. You always stood up for the people you loved, even when you were at your lowest. “You need to be there in people’s grief, Charul. In their happiness, they can still do without you. In grief, they need more support.” I still remember how your students doted on you and how everyone loved you too much. I covet the candor with which you could just be who you were, love the people you want and do the things you love without caring about the world judging you for it.
You taught me that it's okay to be brutally honest (I still believe in being kindly honest, though!). I remember asking you how I looked on my farewell, to which you replied (much to my displeasure), "You look ugly, Charul. You have a terrible dressing sense." I did not feel like talking to you then, but I do laugh about it now. I remember asking you what your hobby was, to which you looked me in the eye and said, "A poor man does not have a hobby. Hobby is a privilege." You taught me the importance of money, albeit in a harsh manner, "The day I stop giving you money, you will stop calling me your father." I loved how you did not believe in pleasantries and small talk, how you spoke what you felt and felt what you spoke. It was almost funny how you reacted at demises and said ‘Everyone dies', ‘It was due time' rather than the usual euphemisms.
I admire your zeal to be the best at whatever you chose to do. You didn’t believe in second places and you were unapologetically blunt about it, “There are no second places, Charul. A miss is as good as a mile. You just lose the first place.”
You taught me that men can cry, feel pain and be hopelessly vulnerable. You showed that true strength lies in embracing our weaknesses. You taught me that it was okay to ask for love, affection and even gifts. It was funny and adorable how you would cry even at Ekta Kapoor serials. I loved how you could laugh at yourself and not take yourself too seriously. "Why did you choose to become a teacher, dad?". I remember you laughing and saying, "It was a mistake. Never become a teacher, Charul."
Most importantly, you taught me to believe in destiny, stars, magic, and love. You taught me to never give up on life and to make the most out of it every single day. You traveled to your favorite destinations till your last day even though your health was critical. You traveled and lived life with the vigor and excitement of a 12-year-old. You lived the phrase, "It's not the years in your life that count; it's the life in your years." There was so much life in every moment that you lived, daddy!
You were beautiful, charismatic, unique, and stood out as a shining star in my life and the lives of so many. You will always be missed Dadda and your idiosyncrasies cherished in fond remembrance.