My father was 93 when he died. People came with solemn faces and folded hands to pay their condolences. Dad was an ordinary man born in a modest family in 1894. He got a job in the Railways and his work took him across the hostile tribal areas of Kabul and Kandahar, mostly on foot. This made him physically fit and mentally tough.
The Partition was not fair on him either. He witnessed three of his brothers being slaughtered by a mob at a railway platform. He barely managed to escape by hiding in a train toilet. The onus of bringing up his brothers’ children fell on his shoulders. Post-Independence, life continued to remain a struggle for him.
Surprisingly, despite the odds, my father was a positive man who breathed optimism with every heartbeat. He helped those in need by living in denial himself. My mother supported him. A connoisseur of food, dad relished spicy food and sweets, particularly jalebis.
He doted on his children and never lost his temper with us. He would enthrall us with stories and anecdotes. During the 1857 mutiny, his grandmother had fought against the British and had shaken hands with the rani of Jhansi at a public meeting. He would tell us inspiring stories of his British colleagues, about their integrity and loyalty to the Crown.
In his twilight years, dad became weak but his indomitable spirit kept him going. With failing sight and impaired hearing, he would watch the world pass by from his rocking chair. Sometimes, he would quietly slip away to the nearby market on a rickshaw, enjoy a plate of pani-puris and jalebis, and be back in time for lunch. Mom knew the game, but sportingly played along. It’s been 30 years since dad left.
The other day, I saw my grandson reading a comic on his iPad. It was a story about the rani of Jhansi. And by his side lay a plate of jalebis, which he was clearly relishing. Surely, God does have unique ways of connecting generations.