The moment I read the prompt “Ten”today, a number of lists of ten sprung to my mind- ‘the ten things that I am immensely grateful for’, ‘ten beautiful memories’,’ ten best holiday destinations’, ‘ten things I truly detest’,… Then there was this topic- a topic I have long wanted to write on but never knew how and where to begin because what one learns from a parent is endless.
However, the topic “ten” sets a boundary, so this is the perfect start for this subject. I have thought of writing this often, because who I am today is primarily because of these ten things that I learnt from my dad without him ever saying it. I learnt by watching!
My dad was and is a strict disciplinarian. I looked up to him just like any child does and trusted his ability to save me from anybody or anything. I am not sure if it was fear or respect or love or maybe all 3 in the same order that made me want to do things in a way that met his expectations. Dad never raised his voice. He just looked and that one look said it all.
Dad never displayed signs of love and affection, probably because men of his times were trained to be that way. He is not too good at displaying it even now. He was also very hard to please, in fact impossible; so we did not grow up with a pat on our back for any or every accomplishment. Strangely that did not break us. In fact, that’s what made us strive harder. Despite his show of strictness, he ensured he played games with us in the free time he had and told us a bed-time story every night; a ritual, he managed to continue with my daughters as well, when he visited. While most people who know dad would consider him insensitive, it’s strange how the kids follow him around, like the Pied Piper of Hamlin.
That was a little bit about my dad before I get down to the list. So here goes, things I learnt by watching. Nobody ever told me these things.
- Honesty: Dad is and has always been an honest person; honest to a fault some would say. He ensured, I am not sure how, that we did not lie. We were afraid of him but never feared telling the truth because he was open to listening. There were no hierarchical lines when one had to express one’s opinion as long as one did it in a respectable manner. Some people would call it back-answering especially in the Indian culture where children are expected to accept all decisions taken by elders and objecting is considered to be disrespectful. We were given the freedom to voice our opinion without fear.
- Hard Work: Somehow we were taught to believe that even if you are not smart, you can survive as long as you work hard. I do not really remember him telling me this but I have heard him telling my daughters that success comes to those who work hard but success is short-lived if smart people are not wont to working hard. My sister and I probably learnt it through the example he set.
- Do your duty, the fruit is in God’s hands: This is actually a teaching from the Holy Book of the Hindus “The Bhagwad Gita” and something that my dad told me when I got my first job.I have thought of this line a million times during the last twenty years and each time I have found strength in it, helping me to move on and find solace when my expectations were not met. If you only think about what you can control, then you will never stress because there’s no point in worrying about things that are beyond your control.
- Exercise: Dad wasn’t athletic but he ensured he exercised half an hour everyday. I remember watching him do “Jane Fonda’s” workout, at his own pace. It seems funny now when I think of it . To this day, he practices yoga with his big tummy. It amuses the children when they watch him but hopefully the need for exercise will be instilled in them too as it has been in my sister and me.
- Prayer: Dad was never a religious man but he was and is definitely God fearing. Again, he never asked me to pray but I would watch him pray every morning. He did it every-day of his life and would not eat until he had said his prayers. I simply followed him and it became a habit. It wasn’t ever forced upon me. Today, I know that those few moments of silence in the morning give me a sense of direction to carry through the entire day.
- Pride: Dad was a proud man. Not arrogant but certainly proud. I never heard him boast but there was something in his carriage that eluded confidence which gave me a deep sense of security. I never realized then, how important it is for a girl to feel secure but having faith in my father, as little girl, did give me an inner strength that has helped me through highs and lows.
- A person’s strength is tested in a crisis: Dad is a fighter and isn’t scared of taking risks, some of which tend to back-fire. But he has always managed to hold on and not break down where many others would have, showing us that money can come and go but it does not change the person you are and does not take away your education. Though the past does haunt me and I am averse to taking risks, keeping calm in a crisis is a trait I get from my father.
- Living without regrets: Dad does not believe in crying over spilled milk. He hated the words “should have”, “could have”, “would have”. He believed in talking about things that could be done ; not could have been done. That’s one principle I live by and is the tag-line of my blog.
- Feed Generously: Dad loves food and loves to feed. He has always believed that even the enemy should be fed, if he is hungry and at your door. Food was and is an essential part of all relationships, as per dad.
- Live and Let Live: I have never heard dad gossip or meddle in other people’s affair other than if they expected help. After mom passed away, dad’s been staying on his own. Not once has he complained or made me and my sister feel guilty of not being around him. Even today, if I am in distress and if I call him, dad is able to find a way to make me smile. This is something that I will have to inculcate from him so that I don’t end up being a grumpy old woman :).
I could go on and on, not because dad was perfect but because he showed us, it’s OK to be imperfect, it’s OK to make mistakes, as long as you have the courage to own your mistake and willingness and zeal to fix it.
There are so many other habits, traits, instincts that I have picked up from him- some good , some irritating, some funny, some inherited, some learnt along the way, but these are just the ten most important things that make me different from those around me, thanks to my dad.
It would be great to hear your list of ten- the ten things that define you, that you learnt from a parent, a teacher, a grand-parent or anybody else. Let’s continue this chain and acknowledge that person who was instrumental in making you, YOU.