The Man In my life!

He is 5.6 inches tall. He has a slight paunch and a receding hair line. On a busy platform in Bombay you will see him in a full shirt and a full pant, carrying a bag across his chest. You will not turn around and look at him if you pass him by. In Bombay there are millions of people fitting this description. Though when I will see this man, I will immediately have a smile on my face and my first instinct would be to hold his arm, much to his discomfort. You see ,he is extremely conscious about people looking at him. Even though I tell him that nobody is looking, in Bombay who has the time. He will smile and reluctantly let me hold his arm, feeling conscious all the while. This conscious man, in that crowd of millions would be my father. A man I dearly love.

 My early memories of Baba are not very pleasant. I was extremely scared of him. I was a really mischievous kid. I hated studying and any activity that involved sitting at home. I would constantly be out of our house in Bombay. I would mostly be with the boys, playing carrom, chess, cricket, badminton, table-tennis, anything but dolls. The only thing I could imagine doing with the dolls was  to use them as a target when I would practice bowling in our small house. Once as I was doing that I broke the doll into two pieces, my sister loved that doll, she went and told my father and Baba immediately grounded me at home. Once his temper had cooled down, I picked up a table tennis ball and started hitting it against the wall with a bat.  I hit the ball so hard that I cracked up the wall and Baba completely lost it. He almost had come close to slapping me that day but mother came to my rescue, as always. I don’t remember seeing my father so angry with me ever. After that day whenever dad came back from office I would pretend to be studying and he would believe it. Until of course I got my maths results after my third standard summer holidays. I had just about managed to pass. After that result my father would come back from office at nine in the night and take my maths studies. I would bribe mother to let me sleep before he came. Though he would come and wake me up and work with me for an hour. I was so petrified of him that I would want to say 4, when he asked me “two plus two”, but my tongue would always say five with nervousness. My sister and mother would look from the other room at my miserable face and always have a great laugh. After a few years though Baba would tell me that he was as bad at maths as I was.When he was in school,  to prepare for his 5th standard Geometry paper he studied a geometric figure ABCD and its proof. In the exam though when he got the same sum with changed letters PQRS, it kind of confused him. When he had told all of us this I asked him, ” Why did you give me such a hard time, when I was younger?” He told me, ” I really didn’t want  you to be as petrified of Maths as I was! Stop cribbing you did get better marks in your exams after I started teaching you.”  I had to remind him, more than his teaching it was the fear of him that led me to do better. 
         

Amused at our dressing sense, are we?

       
 Baba loves his wife. It is not  over the top Bollywood style of love. He has hardly written a letter or a romantic poem for my mother, or held her hand while walking in the park.  His love is subtle,supportive and receptive.  When he was in Delhi, he and mother had gone to attend a function in his bank. One of the lady employee there gave a great speech in English, and my father raved about how well she spoke. My mother isn’t extremely fluent in English. It is one of her dreams to be able to speak fluent English. So when they came home for the next two days mother was a little low and my father immediately realised what was on her mind. He gave me a call and told me to find an English speaking class in Pune and enrol mother in it. ” By the time I am back I want her to tell me, ” Go, do the dishes.” (In English) My mother always tells us that she would never worry about loyalty issues with Baba. Baba is extremely uncomfortable with female attention. He is shy and almost petrified of women. My mother always jokes with him saying, ” If you need a bodyguard give me a call.” Baba has great respect for my mother, for her sacrifices and the dreams she let go to let us fulfil ours. He always tells us she is the head of the family,not him. Her decision is the last word in the house and that has never been questioned by any of us.

Mr. and Mrs

Baba is slow in most of his actions. Like reading the morning newspaper, sending a message on his phone, find parking on a street, or driving his car. In his younger days in Gwalior he worked as an organiser in a small theatre group. One of my favourite Marathi writers V.P. Kale( Vapu) was the chief guests in one of the shows. He  signed him a book saying, ” Tumchya svabhavacha dheemepana mala phar avadla .” ( I loved the slowness in your nature ). When mother gets angry with him on his slow pace of doing things he immediately reminds her a great writer like Vapu was a fan of this trait, and winks at us. Both me and my sister  start laughing, forcing a smile on my mother’s face. His slow reaction though sometimes works in favour of the robbers. Once we were getting back  home by a local train in Bombay. A man came and slowly pulled my father’s wallet from his pocket. My father had no clue though my mother saw it and immediately held the robber’s collar. My father held both of us. The guy thankfully dropped the wallet and didn’t harm my mother. ” Such a thick wallet he is trying to rob and your father doesn’t even have a clue. One day if somebody takes me, he might react only after he reaches home and doesn’t see me.” We all bursted out laughing, and were laughing till we reached home.  
 My relationship with my dad has changed over the years. I am not petrified of him anymore, thankfully.  As me and him grew together as people I have seen a lot of things change in him. His ability to keep his calm in the toughest of situations, always surprises me. From a father he has transformed into a friend. I really love this transition. I talk to him about my dreams, about crushes, about politics, about life, relationships, about  anything under the sun and he always listens with detailed attention.  He has supported me with anything I have wanted to do. To his credit, if he went through a bad phase in life professionally I never came to know of it. He has never let anything disturb the atmosphere in the house. He has always instilled all the moral values in us never with force but with example. I owe a lot of good things in life to him.

     

From Baba to Pops…We are quite chilled out now. :):)
Baba is a good man, a very decent man. Due to him, I have really high standards set for men. He has lead an ordinary life, setting goals and honestly worked hard to achieve them. He has done enough to let his daughters dream of doing extra-ordinary things. He drives a Maruti Alto with pride, because as a young man he nor his father could afford one. He loves his wife and his daughters and has never fell short of providing for them.  He has never tried to be a hero to us, he has always tried to be a good father, and has achieved that. My father is no Super- Man! He is slow in his actions ,he is worried about his receding hair-line, he forgets names of people and calls Ramesh, Suresh and vice- versa, he follows traffic rules, he always wears his seat belt, he worries about his daughter’s marriage and tells her that he is going to cry the hardest when she leaves, and  he is a little scared of his wife. To me my father, is just my father, and I really like it that way. He is and will always be the most important man in my life. The man whose arm I will hold, and wouldn’t care if the world is watching. That space right there, is the space where I feel the safest.

Happy Father’s Day Baba!!!

He isn’t smiling too much! People are looking no?

"It doesn’t matter!"

We haven’t spoken for a while,
We never felt the need to be in constant touch,
We start a conversation exactly where we left,
Laughing, teasing, listening with the same enthusiasm,
I never told you how much I missed you,
I always told myself it doesn’t matter!

You have seen me go through thick and thin,
You never lent me a shoulder to cry on,
You never showed me much sympathy,
You gave me solutions, told me this was temporary,
I never told you how much your support meant,
I always told myself it doesn’t matter!

You are crazy, yet wise,
You are selfish, yet kind,
You need money, but don’t want it,
You take risks, you are never afraid,
I never told you how much I respect you,
I always told myself it doesn’t matter!

You love women, and respect them,
You love love, but you are scared,
Courage isn’t exactly your forte, honesty is,
You are honest about your fear,
I never told you  I found your honesty refreshing,
I always told myself it doesn’t matter!

What would happen when you read this?
Will you smile and feel special?
Will you call and tell me, it did matter?
Or would you like me, keep things inside?
And just tell yourself, it doesn’t matter!

The Himalayas!

Life in general is monotonous. We  mostly do the same things, at the same time, with the same goals in mind. How do you learn or unlearn things? How do you re-invent the way you see life, people, nature and everything else that surrounds you? Being a player all my life I have lived a life on a time-table.  I dont do a certain thing at a certain time and I am restless throughout the day. There were no tournaments in sight until July and a golfer’s elbow problem restricted my practice sessions. I needed something that could inspire me, surprise me and motivate me before I started the tournament season in July. To achieve this I chose to climb a mountain. I chose to climb 12000ft above the sea level. There are three types of traveling. One is where you are all alone, the second one is with your family and friends and the third one is when you are alone with a bunch of an unknown group of people. Having experienced the first two I decided to experience the last one.

When I came home and told my parents about my idea. They said, “go” right away. No questions asked. “Take care of that knee!” was all they said. I admire my parents for the freedom they give me with my decisions. They let me live life. They understand my need to explore things, to find my own truth, my own answers. What is surprising to me is that they themselves lived in restrictions, in boundaries set by their own parents or by the society. But when it comes to me and my decisions, they have never set boundaries or limits. This freedom is the greatest gift that they have given me and I am extremely grateful.I went on to the net and chose to do the Deo- Tibba Base camp Trek in the Himalayas with an adventure group called Yuvashakti. I was a part of a very young and totally crazy set of 32 people.
A trek constitutes of a lot of walking, climbing and extreme adventure. We walked 10kms everyday, through forests and steep hills to climb. As we walked we always had mountains on one side and a river on the other. One bad step and you could fall a 1000ft down and die. You needed to be alert constantly. As I walked I saw the most beautiful sights and things. The sights were way beautiful for any camera to capture. There were dogs, sheeps,horses, vultures, eagles, bears, cows, snakes and around a 1000 species of insects for company. Treks arent your usual holiday destinations. They are tough and there is absolutely low standard of comfort. There are no deluxe rooms with lavish bathrooms. You live in tents, sleep in tents, and if you are lucky you get a tent to do your morning ritual, or you find your spot in the forest and get on with it. A bath is a luxury. A tent only has a sleeping bag for your company. As a principle I switched off my phone for 12 days. No calling, messaging, facebook or whatsapp. I wanted it to be just me and the mountains.

Mountains are scary and beautiful, they are extremely silent yet buzzing with activity, they are unpredictable yet predictable, they look the same but are different every day. The people living in the mountains are extremely simple, hardworking and innocent. Their lives are untouched by all the ‘tamasha’ in our cities. Life in general is extremely tough. The basic things like food, clothing and daily utilities are only sparsely available. In one of my chats with a local villager he told me, ” Well I once forgot to get sugar in my monthly ration from the shop in Manali. To reach Manali I have to walk 15 kms with my horse. My father sent me on foot that day just to get some sugar. I haven’t since then forgotten to get anything mentioned in the list.” Food is mostly prepared on wood. I tried my hand at cutting some wood, I was dead tired in 10 mins. The men do it for hours. It is part of their daily routine. The children are used to walking a minimum of 6-7 kms everyday to schools. There are more girls being educated in the schools than the boys, which was heartening to see. ” In our culture we believe in empowering our girls,they are no burden. They are equal to the boys.” a lady told me. The villages are spotlessly clean. People there are seriously offended with tourists dirtying their spaces. They should be! Mount Everest today is one of the largest garbage dumps in the country. 
My trek had 4 camps at various heights until we reached Deo-Tibba. On every camp we had a group of local people travelling with us. They were there to take care of our three meals a day. They cooked us reasonable food. For the height we were at, the freezing cold and the limited resources available, I think there was nothing to complain about. When one of our group mates had his birthday I was really touched when the cooking staff surprised us with an eggless chocolate cake. It was delicious. We played cricket and badminton in our free times. It was great to play outdoor badminton, it reminded me of my younger days when I would play with dad in Bombay. In the nights we would collect wood and have a campfire. This involved dancing,singing, ghost stories and dum charades. The part I enjoyed most of these camps was the night. It was plain unbelievable. The night sky had never been so beautiful. There would be absolute silence, no other light but that of the countless stars above me. I would sit for long durations just staring at them, wondering why had I not done this earlier. I also did river crossing and rappling for the first time in my life. It is all about the rush you get when you do these things. You actually hear your own heart beat. It was an exhilarating experience. 
The Himalayas is a major destination for the foreigners and hippies. Majority of them come here for self exploration, for spirituality and meditation. You quite often see them sitting and meditating and chanting’ hare ram hare krishna’. Some of them stay back and never go back home, they are so mesmerised by the Himalayas. With them they also get drugs and booze. They hire some bikes for months together and travel around the region with a guitar in their hand. 
I think with my 10 days in the Himalayas I kind of understand why they never get back. Himalayas are a place for adventure and fun, but they can easily be a place for silence and introspection. You are with nature for company all the time. You are reminded of how small you are in the scheme of things.  A life in Himalayas is a life with nature. People living there believe that everything in the forest can be used for something or the other. In the older generation you see a sense of fear of losing their young ones to the city. ” My grandchild left us for a better job in the city, to make more money. Money has become so important for this generation. You get everything you need to live here. The forest provides for your every need. But well I guess he will be back soon, if not for us for the mountains. You cant stay away from them for long. We live in hope.” 
This ten days were by far the most exciting ten days of my life. I came face to face with things I didn’t know about me and about the world I live in.  I met a set of people from a different generation, and a time untouched by technology, untouched by phones and laptops. I met children who lived in  houses smaller than my hall, but offered me water and their share of biscuits because they saw me tired. I saw the world from a height of 12000ft and there was no place for pride, but just wonder and awe about this wonderful place called earth. 
Out of all the memories I have about the Himalayas the one that  will stay with me for a long time is when I saw a shooting star in the night and I didn’t wish for anything. When I saw it for that one moment I really had nothing to ask for. Not trophies, not love, not happiness, not money, not blessings, I wanted  nothing. All I felt was joy, the purest form of it. I was happy, just really happy.