Born premature, incredibly skinny at 1300 g, unable to feed or move, and fighting to stay alive, I was the antithesis of the healthy baby parents look forward to having. When I was barely a few days old, on a visit to the hospital, my father picked me up on an impulse from the crib despite my being too fragile to be handled. Beneath, there was an army of ants that would have eaten me alive. I was being bitten, and too weak to make a sound. My father was an intuitive man, and his intuition for me was very strong. I witnessed and experienced it many times throughout my life. Till he left.
My bond with my father was special. As a child, he was my protector and my refuge. Though he loved all his children, I know I held a special place in his heart. My fragility and vulnerability, both physical and psychological as a child, made him extremely gentle, tender, protective, nurturing, and sensitive towards me. He was my hero and my first love.
Too sensitive a child, unable to deal with any sort of rudeness, roughness, harshness or perceived threat, I would go and hide under the bed or inside the laundry cabinet for hours. And only my father’s arrival could convince me to crawl out into his arms exhausted, and fall asleep instantly, comforted and secure.
When I think back, it seems quite a miracle that I did not turn out a basket case! My father made a huge contribution there: He often repeated and impressed upon me that like him, tenacity, resilience, self-awareness, and adaptability were my strengths. He nicknamed me ‘stainless steel’ and raised me believing that I live up to that nickname; that none had greater inner strength than I did.
Being good at observing people and learning from them, I watched my father. Humane, strong, decisive, dedicated, a doer; I always saw him do what needed to be done, irrespective of personal cost, likes or dislikes. He set personal examples of inner strength, patience, forbearance, respect, duty, compassion, and love by caring for my grandfather in ways that a lesser man could never. I followed and stepped into his shoes for this specific role when he was away at work. In my mid-teens at this time, I was a dedicated caretaker, emulating my father. It was the best education I ever received. It taught me things school never could. I am blessed and indebted for the opportunity that was mine.
When I grew up, I was aware that any man who is special to me would have very big shoes to fill. Would have to match all that my father was. Would have to continue my education in building me up as a person. Would have to be a good and kind human being.
25th July will mark one year since he left us. Tears fill my eyes often when I think of him. They are not because he is gone, but in acknowledgment of his having been here and in gratitude for having touched my life so profoundly.
I do not miss him because I know it was his time to go and that had to be so. His physical presence alone has ceased; I am him in so many ways.
He was such a good, kind, joyful and loving human being! Remembering him today again, with love.