Looking at the cracked boundary wall of my society’s compound, I sit by the window, bathing in the mustard yellow morning that gleans through it. And while the tea does calm the nerves, it doesn’t stop me from peeping into my past. Much like the cracked boundary wall, through which pass an occasional crawler, the boundary walls of a few much-cherished chapters of my life begin to give way to memories.
The first few years of life are a little too few, too soon to expect anyone to correctly memorize the place of warts on their parents’ faces. Yet I remember seeing one on my father’s right cheek. I was also a serial convict of pressing it like a button. The wart had a rubbery texture to it, and I could see its rounded edges contract and expand as I pushed it with my little fingers. Little must those fingers be, for my father’s seemed to be bloated and huge in comparison to mine.
Similar to the wart, I’d also press the veins that protruded on his fingers. I never stopped doing it; he never complained. He would crush me into a smoothie with his embrace when we would lie down under a blanket during winters. I must have been four years old, then. Maybe even three. I watched a lot of Cricket with him.
Fast forward to today, these tatters of the once perfectly woven fabric of alive, afresh moments cloak my naked soul, speak for my inner self, and tie me umbilically to my roots. Within this passage of time, however, I have also realized why embracing my daughter is so familiar and satisfying. It has the same warmth of selfless, unconditional love.
Amongst the few memories I have of my father—Baba, as I called him—none matches the finesse in his voice when he sang and whistled to the songs sung by Talat Mehmood Sahab. How valuable was the whole panoply of the songs! The natural vibrato, the depth, and the bass-heavy endnotes in his voice have etched their presence down the memory lane. (Here’s one of my father’s all-time favorites: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHs3O4f516I)
But I don’t think I can face even a small percentage of the challenges he had overcome. I lost him to kidney failure before I had turned seven. The first seven years of my parents’ marriage had yielded them three kids, and countless Carrom and Billiards trophies—Baba was a champion of almost all indoor games. The last seven years of their married life had had them through pressing times.
My mother told me once how both of them went to the government rationing shop for a name-change procedure. Baba, foreseeing a short life, sought a change in the name of the head of the family to my mother’s name. He had the willpower to face destiny. He struggled for life for six or seven long years, each of which he spent showering his love upon all four of us.
Of all that’s childhood, stepping into father’s shoes or wearing his tie or coat, all of that, was only the logical sub-steps to how I wished to be like him—there is so much that my heart says, yet my expository writing can’t put into words. Within these years, I’ve come to grow a mustache that is as thick as his. And even if I might have come to look and sound like him, I’d still want to match up to his self-belief and will power. Those few things, as my mother told me once, differentiate cubs from tigers.
I realize, a fruit-bearing tree perched quite comfortably by the compound wall. The tea tastes better. It is past seven—rise and shine.