In three days time, on May 10th 2013, if my father was alive, my parents would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. It would have been a great celebration, my father didn’t know the meaning of small. Sadly, my father is no longer with us. My mom will spend the big day alone in her compact apartment, like she spends so many of her days now. She no longer lives in the house where she lived for 45 years since she came there as a young bride. I feel a sinking sensation in my heart today, knowing it cannot be what it could have been.
My father was a larger than life, dominating personality. He lived life big. His appetites and his laughter were big. He dominated the room if he was in it. Tall for an Indian man of his time, he was a full foot taller than my petite mother. My mother is and was always a quieter personality. She blends in with people and listens more than she talks. They made an odd couple in many ways. Complete opposites who somehow completed each other.
Growing up, I remember my dad’s booming voice ringing out instructions and directions. My mom kept herself busy with her home and children. When I was really little the sound of daddy’s voice if it was talking to me angrily was a scary thing. Then I turned about ten and realized he was just a big softie at heart and I could play him very easily by turning on the waterworks. Of the three of us kids, I was the one who got into trouble the most and therefore got a lion’s share of their attention. My sister and brother were lambs by comparison. And yet, even at that young age I knew I could make this man melt if I cried a few tears. I got out of so many scrapes by this simple expedient.
My dad always thought he was a great feudal lord and could make all of us do exactly what he wished. It didn’t usually work out that way but he was always such a doll about it. He always said ‘no’ to anything we suggested and then let us do it our way. I realize what a gift that was to us, particularly us girls, for not many girls in our generation were treated so evenhandedly. Of course it took me half a lifetime to work that one out.
My mom with her quiet voice and a few well chosen words had us doing things her way. She inculcated a deep love of books and knowledge in us simply by her example. This is a woman who has read most of the great works of English literature in Kannada translations. She has no college education like many women of her generation. Yet the thirst for knowledge within her glowed brightly enough to light the way for my sister and me to reach for higher knowledge. I believe she has one of the most literate minds I have across in my life, much more so than many very highly educated women I have met.
And so these two lived together for 42 years and brought us up in a household filled with love, laughter and books. There were plenty of tears too, most of them mine, many of them crocodile tears. The greatest gift my parents gave us was the right to question everything. It has made for a lifelong quest for answers, even to the imponderables.
My father liked to think he made every decision concerning our family on his own. But I have seen that on each fork in the road of our lives, he would reach out to my mother for guidance and help. She was the flaming torch that lit his way and she was his sounding board. I only wish he could be around to celebrate this 50th year of their life together. I wish we could have the chance to talk to him one more time, so we could tell him how much his love and guidance has meant to us. In his last days as he lingered in a coma, my sister, my brother and I told him everything we felt in our hearts. We can only hope he heard us.