For My Beloved Father

As I write this in the early hours of the 9th of May 2018, I realize now that it’s been exactly 50 days since my father breathed his last. As those who know me well might testify, I am quite vocal about most things I observe in and around me; I express my opinions without ever holding back. However, this was different. In the first 50 days, neither did I express a word about how I felt about this to anyone nor did I write my feelings down anywhere. I was not ready for this. This was all too sudden, happened way too fast. At the end of these 50 days, however, I have finally been able to make peace with what has happened.

As a child, like every other child does, I loved my father. I was however, reserved about my feelings. I never have expressed feelings openly. A childhood habit I had carried on to adulthood. In India, the general practice regarding this, at least in part, does seem to suit me. Most people do not tell their parents or their sons/daughters that they love them, at least not in a direct manner. This was not the case for my father, in the 18 years that our lives coincided, he made it absolutely certain that at every point I knew that he loved me, my mother, and later my sister. As he continued to do this, never stopping, I learned one of the most valuable lessons of my life:
we must express love now, not later.

As a little boy, I used to watch my father come back from office, tired. He would then rest very little and then proceed to indulge himself in more work, at home. I did not understand then, why did he have so much work? Perhaps his job required it, a younger version of me presumed. Gradually as I grew up, I understood what it was that kept him so occupied. He did not just do a regular job, he did a lot more. He was on a mission, one of the noblest ones I can imagine, to save the environment. Through Appropriate Technology Mission, Assam (ATMA), he led a host of missions of the type: The Chandardinga Bachao Andolan, Kakaijana Bachao Andolan, Sri Surya Pahar Heritage Movement, etc. Of course, I have to mention the one he was working on as he passed away, The Brahmaputra Bachao Andolan, in which he involved me. He asked for my help in the little things, where I could help: in expressing his ideas in words, in helping with the social media outreach, etc.

Perhaps it is a little curious that a son should mention his father’s work of all things, in the first thing he writes or says about his father, after his untimely demise. However, all of this is important to me. I have a handful of personal heroes and heroines, people who have all dedicated their lives to a principle I have tried to live by myself, “leave the world a little better than you found it”.

Whenever my father would ask me about people I look up to, I would tell him this exact thing: that I look up to people whose actions have suggested that they have lived by this principle. On occasions, I used to name a couple of them, but never all. It should be obvious to anyone who knew my father and was familiar with his work that he had to be one of the people I admired; that even though I never mentioned it, he will always be one of my personal heroes. At the risk of being repetitive, I must mention that despite all the work he had, he was a loving father to my sister and me, and a loving husband to my mother. I do not know how many people can manage this, but it is immensely difficult, so the number has to be down to a [relative] few; my father was one of those few.

As my mother can testify, I used to have spirited debates with my father, and we disagreed on a number of issues. We also agreed on a lot of other issues; one of those things we agreed on was that death is the final frontier. While a lot of people draw comfort from a belief in an afterlife, I don’t. I don’t believe that I will see my father again in some theme park, in an afterlife in “heaven”; I do not welcome that idea, but there is no evidence that that is what is going to happen. My father never trivialized this life by pretending that this was a dress-rehearsal for something bigger, he understood that this is all we ever get. In the brief moment we get in this cosmos, the few dozen trips I am privileged to get around our local star, I have been very fortunate to have such a beautiful mind as my father and to have lived a dozen and half of those trips with him by my side.

Written by Aditya Prakash
9th May 2018