Every year, I write a tribute to Nanin, my father.
Every year, and every day, I think about him, dream about him, during Christmas time even more so.
Every once in a while, I get an urge to call him on the phone or turn around to tell him something - to agree about an opinion or to comment on a Xavier Cugat song or to analyse the roots of a melody or to just TELL HIM about my life at the moment and then it suddenly hits me that the isn't there, neither at the other end of the phone nor sitting on a chair in a room in the house.
Nor am I in the same house.
This year, or rather 2016, I missed the year on this blog.
The calendar turned before I could formulate thoughts, get to a computer and unleash my most private corner of myself as I am wont to do. Moreover, 2016 was the 5-year mark. Yet, I missed it.
Then it came to me. While I celebrate my father and all that he wisely taught me, gave me, shaped me, I would like to celebrate the legacy of love that he left me. More than the beloved home that he built himself, the music he passed on to me, the education and thirst for learning, the values of goodness, honesty and kindness, more than all of those is the most tangible of all - the person who brought us together, my beautiful mother.
I've always believed (known) that my mother is the best mother in the universe. But it's true! It's difficult to be objective when you've been blessed with a mother such as mine. And I'm so grateful that my father found her and together, the two of them made the most wonderful combination of parents anyone could ever have.
Sure, we didn't really have picnic Sundays and family vacations. My father was too ill by the time I was in my teens for us to do a lot together. But we made it work. Although a movie buff, Nanin deplored movie outings, eating at restaurants, amusement park trips. He detested tomatoes, curd and varied such items in food. If we were watching TV together (mercifully, we got two separate TVs soon enough), it would have to be cricket/old Telugu movies/news/old Hollywood movies. And yet, Nanin didn't hold us back from adventure and life. Mum more than compensated for Nanin's lack of enthusiasm for things a kid my age sought. My childhood birthday parties ruled the roost - balloons, games, return gifts, and food, glorious food. It was as if the entire class at school looked forward to my birthdays, or so it seemed. I certainly did. We went for movies, all movies, we ate out, we drove all the way to Bangalore for an Enrique Iglesias concert when I was 15. Nanin said fine. And we did it. He didn't even chastise me when halfway en route, I realised that I'd left the tickets behind at home and had to come all the way back. And Mum, the best friend anyone could ever have is the best travel partner - if we're going someplace, let's live it up. Not about partying or splurging - but the little things, like eating well, checking out little shops, laughing loads and relaxing.
My father was a lot older than other fathers. He was also not as well as he would have liked to been, he once apologised to me. But why would I compare when I knew I had been blessed with the best? And when he connected me to a mother who leave alone, plays multiple roles, just simply, magically exists?
My Mum isn't a wild, woo-hoo, Mum. Her enthusiasm, easy laughter and sparkly brown eyes often get her mistaken for ‘being high’, even though she is a complete teetotaler. She isn't a big-time entrepreneur or social worker. But I am yet to meet someone as talented as her, as HILARIOUS, as much a force of nature as she is a dynamo of beauty, of kindness, of all the joyful, sweet and pure things life is truly made of. She is an amazing, soulful writer, was once an attempted flautist, was a fantastic Japanese interpreter in the making, definitely was a super Transcedental Meditation teacher, and would have made a hotshot IFS officer as her father wished, but she is so much more. My dream for us (and greed for me) is for us to travel together so that not only can she explore the places she dreams of seeing but so that I can see the world through her magical eyes.
This Indian Air Force child who grew up all over North India, absorbing trees and nature, seeking spirituality, finding motherhood and domesticity, devoting herself selflessly to her child and constantly, uncomplainingly, wordlessly, BEING THERE for said child.
Right from teaching me to read by surrounding me with books, making up the sweetest and most heartwrenching lullabies that still drive me to tears, orchestrating the coolest birthday parties, seeking out friends who had children my age so that this only child could have company to play with, being on time and every time at each annual day, school play, concert, guitar recital, reading every scrap of scribbled ‘prose’, being audience (and wardrobe supplier) to my directorial efforts at drawing room plays, being confidante to all my friends, sharing each other’s friends, being company at DTP centres for final projects, mobile phone repair stores, every college admission run-around, every dress material matching, every new clothes shopping (both whether I wanted or not), every jewellery fixing, every bookstore visit, my first ever job interview – waiting in the car, at the coffee shop, just around the corner - everything, everywhere, always.
You have taught me how to love life and see colour, innocence, truth, beauty, joy in every movie we have watched growing up together on Star Movies and HBO or at Sathyam and Escape, in every popcorn we share, in every pizza we indulge in on Sundays sprawled on the bed with newspapers, in every meaningful, spiritual message encountered in a book, on WhatsApp or in a dream. You have taught me, right from the start, to see the person beyond the judgement of their clothes. You have taught me to be polite to every single person one encounters in a day. That a smile, a gentle word, the use of their name is all it takes to bridge the gaping holes in humanity. That ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry’ do not bring down your character, and rather redefine it.
You have encouraged me to sing with my lungs, sing metaphorically, sing literally, sing unabashedly. You criticise my expressions, dialogues, movements on stage and my words, characters, storylines in my writing – not because you wanted me to become an actress and a writer, but because you know how passionate I am about both and how necessary it is for one to see their dreams through their course, never belittling or dismissing them.
You have taught my friends and I to be ourselves, without fear, only gently steering them away from possibly regretful adolescent experiences, sans lectures, sans condemnation – just like Nanin, only through expectation of excellent character. You have taught me the value of studying hard, “every minute is precious” and working hard, through your own unparallelled example of home making and as a person who never leaves a task undone or imperfect. You have taught me the power of phone calls, of getting things fixed, of resolving problems by asking questions and getting answers.
You have taught me the wonder of rainbows, the thrill of chilli cheese toast, the comfort of a soft, old T-shirt, the luxury of a freshly made bed, and the cornucopia of the ecletic cuisine you have nourished me on – muddu pappu-nayyee-potato-avakaai pickle, moong dal-rice-green peas-onion chutney, sambhar-saadam, gooey, melting khichidi, pasta with ‘roast’ potatoes, hummus, homemade pizza and burgers, Thai red curry after college, pad thai with crunchy, sprinkled peanuts, cheese parathas during board exam time, olan-rice, healthful spinach soup, delicious potato-leek soup and sautéed butter beans, hot chocolate and my favourite morning mug of cold coffee which ONLY TASTES GOOD WHEN YOU MAKE IT.
You taught me that I am of value, of worth and made me see past the chubby child, the introverted teenager, the uncertain college-goer, the dreamy adolescent into someone who can BE anything she dreams of. You have dreamed dreams of IFS and the UN and living up to my full potential for me. But are brave enough to let go of those dreams and think of a dream of ‘not being’, if I choose to!
You love me despite, inspite, regardless, nonetheless, nevertheless. And right now, when we’re miles apart due to circumstances of my choosing, putting you through unimaginable loneliness and discomfort – which no one in their right mind would do to anyone, leave alone to their pillar, the focal point of their universe, their most adored one - you love me anyway.
Songs about mothers make me cry. Movies. Stories. Because there isn’t enough that I can do to explain how much she means to me and that I feel the same yearning and pull as I did when I was a four year old, getting dropped at school for the first time. But tears apart, I get such a leap of joy in my heart every time I get a message from her. Not just because she’s my mother, but because she is possibly the most ‘anew’ person each moment – always an adventure, always peace, always progress, always acceptance and understanding, always, always love.
And for this, I must thank my grandparents for making her, my father for choosing her and God for sending her to me.
Happy Mother's Day and Happy Father's Day, Happy Every Day thanks to you, Mum.