Life Lessons from Childhood Days…
This morning I realise (yet again) how your childhood stays with you forever. Lucky if it was a good one, and if it was not, then the lesson sticks forever too. In either case, the memories stand out longer than you could imagine fading.
Growing up under the edifice of my father was the most calming experience I could ask for. Things went on adding, and my dad kept influencing my path more as I think of it now, than I did when he was around, and I was still his small baby. (He passed away recently after a valiant fixture with prostate cancer that broke his fine armour).
I remember his habit of folding the newspaper exactly as it came, pressed and tucked faultlessly after he had finished reading. He would be happy to watch if my brother or I were to read the paper as it meant we were keeping ourselves updated with the current affairs, in part as he wanted us to compete for the Indian Administrative Services exam. IAS is the Westminster parliamentary system of government and is a part of the permanent bureaucracy of the nation, an inseparable part of the executive of the Government of India. He worked in the state secretariat in the finance department (and a few other departments) and would reproach us that to get through the rigors of qualifying for the exam was possible only with a disciplined regimen built around excellence at academics as much at extracurricular activities.
My dad played many sports and was naturally gifted in Badminton with a backhand smash his forte, as in cricket or volleyball. He was a star player with the elite ‘The Sheesh Mahal Club’ representing the UP Secretariat Cricket team. The Sheesh Mahal Trophy was a brainchild of cricket-crazy fan M. Askari Hasan, who felt that a vacant slot of summer could be filled with a tournament in Lucknow.
The first edition was played in 1951 and matches would start at around 6 am and finish around noon. Matches would be played at the K.D. Singh ‘Babu’ Stadium and Colvin Taluqdars’ College, and when the Chowk Stadium in old Lucknow came up in the mid-1980s, they started playing matches there.
Watching me growing up brusquer and more restless to make my own decisions as an emerging adult was never much a worry to him as it was for my mother. He would nudge that make your decisions in a way that you can back them up when you are not so sure as if to test and remind that not every thought is worth pursuing and if you chose one, pursue it hard until it becomes a reality.
His assiduous efficiency at work, where he was almost always spoken in high regards by his peers as he interacted with federal and state ministers as a senior bureaucrat with ease, taught a lesson in building one’s reputation on merit and eye for detailing in every piece of work or interaction with colleagues. He always said that your work builds your reputation and with good work, your reputation precedes everywhere you go.
While he would ask us to get habituated with aesthetics of fine arts & music and also get friendly reading fiction & non-fiction books, he would pass in whispers these reminders when there was not much warmth in our response to his memos. He was tacitly teaching us the value of incubating resilience or strategic patience, by not rushing through the process when you want certain ideas to reinforce into action instantly.
I graphically remember his bedside books, mostly classics, thick in volume and with dog ears, that I would have fun asking if he would ever complete them, confident to outmaneuver him, he would gladly take it on his chin to speed read and get to the next one! War & Peace, A Suitable Boy, Gone with the Wind or The Hobbit trilogy stare out from the echo of those childhood moments.
I recall pacing up with him learning the lines from Ulysses which frame a fresh perspective that was impaired while reciting on the school stage -
…”I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.”
These recollections often scintillate the visceral eye to the leisure childhood was, alongside the bashful adolescence where none of this made good sense.
Perhaps the most treasured heirlooms are the fond memories of a family, as back then you don’t realise much except that you were having a lot of fun!