Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The book I hope to write one day!

Just wanted to share this little piece I wrote about my Father. I keep adding bits to it. Hopefully, I'll tell the entire story one day.
"Give yourself a month, Yakub," said the senior doctor and friend. And that's just about what he did.

It's the littlest of things you may be experiencing with a casual aloofness, without attaching much value to them that you actually end up remembering the most. Growing up, I remember, hearing of these interesting historic tales from my father. On the word 'historic, by no means do I refer to the grand events across the seas that have shaped the world to what it is today. Quite the contrary, these chronicled snippets were far too small to make a significant difference to anyone but a world of difference to us. The stories were about him, his childhood in a village, his growing up under the 'far too indulgent to be strict eye' of his parents, his struggle to find a footing for himself, basically his life until we happened. Each told with a delicious tenacity that the scent of his happiness combined with the sweat of his hardships lingered on even after.
Dadaji, a very tall, lanky, villager from an even lesser than humble gaon of Pokhrapur was known less for his aam ke bagheeche but more for his vocational pursuit of being a wrestler. Pa would recall, "Pitaji would get up at 3 am everyday to take a bath in cold water. All set for his vyayam, he'd spend hours at a stretch doing the various kasrats in the openness of the night only to finally oil his body to make it relax and glitsen in the rising sun." The joy I'd feel on hearing this tale would eventually get sort of glazed with disbelief when my eyes would meander on to the quite corner where Grandpa sat somberly wearing his signature pristine white kurta, dhoti and the traditionally Maharashtrian netaji topi. His golden HMT watch, with its well-worn khaki-coloured straps in a way that their current state added more character to them than before, ticking as he turned pages of his Arabic-in-Hindi prayer book. The calmness of his personna just refused to gel with the flamboyance of a pehelwan in the eyes of a kid. But that was the title he enjoyed long enough to stick. Well, this gentleman of a person used to go by the name of Yakub Baddruddin Shaikh for the roughly 65 plus years he lived.
Married to my grandmother who was lovingly called Ma by all who knew her, not necessarily just her children, he lived through a happy but childless phase of approximately 10 years. It took a lot of prayers at various mazaars, dargahs and blessings from the elders for Dadi ma to have been borne with her first child, my father. So one fateful day, Gulphat Bi gave birth to Shaikh Shahajahan Yakub. I still cannot fathom why the family surname exchanged places with my grandfather's name, which was added to Pa's name in accordance to the Marathi standard of baby christening. My father celebrated 1st June ever since 1956 (most probably) as his birthday, so did most kids in Pokhrapur. Blame it on providence or the simple fact that the pathshala ran a new session from June every year and the parents were far too entangled in their rustic existence, lives of their neighbours, participating in weddings which like festivals lasted days together; and for some, basic issues of. human survival than bother to remember the actual date of birth of their young 'uns.
In spite of such fragilities, my father was brought up a total brat. One could owe it to the fact that he was a few shades fairer than most of his compatriots in the village, or could it have been his high level of intelligence, or perhaps it was because Dadaji was having good business from his aam ke bagheeche, or maybe because his next sibling, a sister, followed some five years later and the last one to land on earth 14 years after that 'fateful June day' in 1956; and that he enjoyed the monopoly of being the only one and later the eldest one for a long long time. Only time would tell how the same prerogative would cost him in his later years.

Times change. "I want my children to enjoy things that I couldn't," would sometimes rue my father. He had come a long road from the carefree yet bright days in the village to the hard but fruitful ones in the city. I am told that my father had soon realised the limitations of living in a coccon. He far wanted to leap across it but was not permitted to. The jawar ki roti prepared in much earnest and with a lot of skill held him back. It was really Dadima who simply refused to part with her eldest on whatsoever terms. Now that I think of it, it must have taken my father immense courage to have jump right over those walls of love and attachment.
Having suffered constant loss in business, Dadaji's aam ke bagheeche ended up being wistful subjects of Pa's tales of yore. Hard times had come. The eldest was about to turn eighteen and was itching to make his mark on the world and the means were starting to fall short.


  1. And that will be my catharsis. I hope I write it.
    Thanks for your kind encouragement. :)