GANESH PAI shares memories of his father and the lessons learned from his father’s behavior, presence, and attitude of forgiveness.
The tempo1 was ready to depart. It was a short 30-minute journey from Bhatkal to Uppunda, a sleepy village in coastal Karnataka, India. My father, sister, and I were traveling together. Since we were first in, we quickly found seats. Pretty soon, the tempo was jam-packed; even an ant could not have entered. As the journey started, the conductor started collecting fares, and as he neared our seats, he asked me to stand up and let an adult sit in my place. I was about to get up when my father tapped me on the shoulder to indicate that I should stay seated right there. The conductor told my father, “Sir, you will have to pay full fare for your two kids.” So he handed over two notes without batting an eyelid, and my sister and I traveled comfortably that day.
We may not have been rich, but he made us feel rich that day. That’s my father for you. I have many such beautiful memories from my childhood about my father, watching him up close and being inspired by his outstanding qualities. Let me share a few memories from my childhood that have left an indelible mark on my memory.
Growing up, I was a big fan of cricket. Not a difficult choice to make in a cricket-frenzied nation. One of my uncles had gifted me a cricket bat and I looked for every opportunity to wield my new willow. My brother and I would play cricket in the living room on the first floor of our home, and our mother’s warning not to play there would fall on deaf ears. My father had also advised us to stop playing inside. It was a Sunday afternoon when my brother and I decided to have our bilateral series. Things were looking good until the ball smashed against a beautiful chandelier hanging on the ceiling.
To say I was nervous will not do justice to how scared I felt that day. I had no idea how to deal with the mess I had created. My fate hung in as much imbalance as the chandelier on the ceiling. When my father came home for lunch, my mother did the honor of breaking the bad news. In my mind, I was pretty sure that I was about to get a tight slap. My father heard my mother, gave me a deep look with his penetrating eyes, and left without uttering a word. He was upset. However, in that instant, he had forgiven me. His love for me outweighed his liking for a materialistic possession. I can never forget his act of kindness.
My father had a rock solid routine. He would have been a perfect brand ambassador for a Swiss watch. His clockwork started at 8 a.m. when he left for the restaurant, where he worked as the Manager. At 8:30 a.m. he was in the market, purchasing vegetables and groceries. At 9:30 a.m., he was at the bank. Since he was always one of the first customers, he wrapped up his work fast. From there, he completed any other work. Finally, he dropped the bag of vegetables and groceries he purchased for our home and then returned to the restaurant.
He was forgiving, but never gullible.
He was prudent with his time and money,
but not a miser. He was centered even
when surrounded by a cyclone. Intuitively,
he seemed to know that he was much greater than
any situation he would ever face.
With this well-planned schedule, he never needed to step out again. He believed in the economy of efforts. He would advise us to plan our activities to accomplish the most with the minimum amount of time. He would urge us not to go out four times to complete four different tasks. Instead, step out once and complete four tasks in one shot. He believed in return on time as much as return on capital. He may not have read productivity classics like Getting Things Done or Eat That Frog, but he could have given any productivity guru a run for their money.
I admire my father’s emotional stability. I remember an incident on a late summer evening when I was around ten years old, and we had a short circuit at home. There were sparks coming out of the power meter and my mother and I were shocked.
I ran to see my father in his restaurant and told him, “Bappa, there is a fire at home.”
Without panicking even for a moment, he patiently heard me and quickly concluded that it wasn’t something serious. Then he coolly said, “I see. It should not have happened. I will send an electrician. Don’t worry, I will see you and Mom at home later.”
I was shell-shocked to see his calm demeanor in the face of what looked like a disaster to me. His calmness gave me a sense of assurance, and I instantly felt relieved. Personally, it was like watching James Bond effortlessly conquering a high-stake crisis.
When I look at how my father led his life, I notice that he did not operate out of 101 philosophies. He had just a few, and he followed them irrespective of the situation around him. He was forgiving, but never gullible. He was prudent with his time and money, but not a miser. He was centered even when surrounded by a cyclone. Intuitively, he seemed to know that he was much greater than any situation he would ever face.
1A small van
Illustrations by ARATI SHEDDE