I realise now why people take even the compliment as complaint. We have assumed that only finding faults and criticising gets things done. Compliment is rare.
In teenage, I had the notion that my father made a mountain out of every molehill about me. Yes, I was a naughty boy, but even when I showed any spark of my genius, he would say at once: "Kaka, toon jinna utte hain oona hi dharti de thalle hain (Boy, you're as much below the earth as you are above)." I always took it as an insult and wondered if he ever saw anything good in me.
After passing the matriculation examination in 1965, I went to Government Barjindra College, Faridkot, which to my mind was a place far away. A relative offered me a safe and secure stay, even promised my father he would watch me, lest I go astray. True to their expectations, in the college I felt like a free bird, and enjoyed loafing a lot. While father had the idea that I was working hard at studies, I would be watching movies at Jubilee, city's only cinema house then.
During my days at the village school, father was my strict guide in every subject except English, of which he knew little; and we had even no English teacher at our school then. Crazy about learning the language, I took the help of college seniors or the teachers who I thought liked me.
Being away from father, I almost forgot his taunts.
One morning in BA final, on way to the day's first lecture of English, a flat bicycle tyre delayed me by seven minutes. The teacher had taken the roll call, closed the attendance register, and started reading from Shakespeare play "Othello". He denied me entry, firmly. As he was a fascinating teacher and I couldn't miss the lecture, I sat at the threshold, taking notes.
The principal came over making the rounds and walked over to survey why I was sitting there. He didn't ask the professor to let me in but told me: "Kaka, toon jinna utte hain oona hi dharti de thalle hain... see me in my office after the period." This had to be a bigger taunt that my father had ever thrown at me. Fear stricken, I entered the principal's office, expecting a punishment.
Instead, he entered my name among ideal students of the year.
He even clarified: "The remark means that you are very intelligent. What you do, how you behave, and your body language are all tip-of-the-iceberg signs, while your brain is nine times deeper and sharper. Keep it up." It was the turning point of my life, when it occurred to me that even I could achieve something, and that my father had paid me a compliment after all.