He walked me, clutching my frightened little hand, to my first day at boarding school. He searched around for a responsive face in the sea of girls and landed me my first friend. Even when all the parents left, he lingered on, making sure I entered the dining hall. He would, with a great sense of bravado, face the sullen headmistress if we reached late after an outing, and charm her. She would grudgingly melt and let me off with a smile. He always made light of rules and would, laughingly, urge me to break a few.
In college, he would never let me take the bus even though it stopped right at our door. I would invariably be late for class as our ancient Fiat would refuse to start on a cold morning, and I would fret and fume, but he would insist on driving me. On the way to a crucial exam, he would drive casually, greeting bystanders on the road and humming songs while I would be pushing an imaginary accelerator, praying to reach on time.
Holidays with him were never planned. One fine morning he would squeeze us all in the car and jauntily drive off to the hills. Once there, he would take us for long nature walks, pointing out various trees and plants by their names and made learning fun. His stories always carried some nuggets of information.
His business suffered a setback but he didn't let us feel the impact. We were never denied anything and he would always smile and tell us that ups and downs were a part of life. With optimism and grit, he started all over again and proved his detractors wrong.
Passionate about cooking, he made us develop a taste for all kinds of cuisines and street food too. Donning an apron, he would shoo my mother from the kitchen. Then followed clanging of utensils, multiple crashes mixed with muttered curses but a few hours later, he would present us a scrumptious meal. Poor mom had to spend a long time to create a semblance of normalcy from the ruins of the kitchen once he emerged! He spent frustrating hours teaching us to eat with chopsticks because he would cringe at the sight of anyone eating Chinese without them.
When my children were born, he was delirious with joy and so proud. They could do no wrong and were permitted to piggy back him, pummel him and also pull his moustache. I would receive stern lectures on patient parenting if I lost my cool.
When he had to undergo a major surgery, he was weak but he proudly displayed his scars and flirted shamelessly with the nurses, making light of his ailment. Today, he is a pillar of strength for the family and a source of inspiration for us all.