Father or Friend…???
There has been an endless debate on whether parents should behave like parents or like friends. I am not going to contribute to the topic, but just share my life in that context.
My parents have been my best friends since forever. Holi, Diwali, Lohri, and each day of life, they have taught me to live to the fullest. Never did we miss any festivity or let go a reason to smile and spread happiness. I have played Holi like aawara people, with blues and blacks and silvers and goldens, to an extent where the colours did not leave the skin for over a week. Diwali was not just about cleaning house, it brought to us the festivity and collective contribution of the entire family. My father would sit and clean the showcases, my mother took charge of the kitchen, bhaiya is tall, so he did everything which required height like cleaning fans and glasses of windows, etc. and I was petite, so I jumped and cleaned the nooks and corners which could not be reached by adults, like lofts, under the bed areas, etc.
We lived as a nuclear family for most of our lives, just the four of us for each other with no real money in hand for leisure. Basic necessities could hardly be fulfilled and thus we never even thought of going out and spending an evening in a mall, watching a movie or eating out. We were so busy with the work we had that the only time we had to ourselves was the post-midnight period. After all the daily jobs we had and chores we did, around 12 was our time to sit back and relax and that was the best time we had all day. After dinner, four of us used to sit together and play every night. Sometimes ludo, sometimes snakes and ladder, sometimes cards and the other times just sit back and talk, share our daily lives and experiences. Must sound stupid to some, but that was our lives. We stayed up late and never got up before 9. I guess the games kept us so busy and happy that we never realised that we could not afford to have fun by the society’s parameters. Trust me we were having the best time of our lives. School and teaching and cooking was all good because of what followed next.
My father has never been very particular about getting up early. Most of you might feel offended by this, but he had a different outlook towards life. He believed that work should not be hampered under any circumstances and so if you have to wake up at 4 in the morning, you must. But if your schedule allows you to sleep some extra hours, you must not leave that opportunity. He ardently believed that routines and its strict adherence never led to a happy life, rather doing what you love does bring a smile of your face.
I wasn’t particularly a bright student during my early school years and my parents never told me to study as well. They believed that if you like what you are studying, you will make time for it and if not, no matter how many times they tell me to study, I won’t. I might sit with books in my hand for hours, just to show them that I was studying, but what is the use of it if nothing is getting inside? I would just be wasting hours which I could have otherwise used fruitfully in other areas of my interest. However after VIIth standard, I started loving some subjects. I would take out time from whatever I was doing to read. After the midnight fun, I sat with my books and started making notes with the help of various books by various authors. It would always be 5ish or 6ish in the morning when I would sleep and thankfully my school started at 12.20 in the afternoon, so that never tangled my routine. I could do that everyday because my papa made sure that I got sound sleep in the morning. He would dictate everyone at home to remain calm and function at lower volumes when I was sleeping till 11.30 everyday. He would make sure that the curtains were tightly closed, so that the sunlight never disturbed my dreams. He let me be the way I wanted to be, never lectured me for my odd ways.
There were times when my mother used to come and close my books while I was studying in the evening on weekends and tell me to come out and maybe sit in the living room and watch some TV with everybody or maybe just talk with everyone and chill. Never heard of any other parent, do that to their children. Maybe if they had forced me to sit with books, I would not have developed my love for studies (because we are accustomed to work in the opposite direction of what we are told to do, especially in that age) or maybe if I was told to sit for predetermined hours with books, I would have sat there waiting for the clock to tick away past my study hours, without learning anything substantial in those hours. But I did what I did because that was my choice, not because I was forced to. My father would explain me the benefits of studying hard and working hard but never explicitly told me to. It was like he was creating conscience in me to decide what is good and what is bad instead of telling me to do the good.
In the process we got so close to each other that we would turn to each other for advice in various situations. He would too ask me for my take on a particular subject, not because he could not decide but maybe because he wanted me to gain confidence and be a decision maker, from the fact that I help my father decide things in life. This not only helped me broaden my horizons of life but brought us so close to each other that when I got proposed by a guy in school, I asked him for ways of polite denial. In college when I accepted my feelings for my best friend from school, I went to him and asked if he liked him or not before proposing him. His acceptance meant the world to me and I cannot imagine doing anything without his blessings (I would not say approval because he never approved or rejected anything, rather we discussed things and came on a common ground most of the time and for the rest of the times where we did not reach a mutual understanding, he would still let me have my own experiences, good or bad). By the way, he loved that guy more than me and that guy is my husband now!
Papa would do anything for a smile on my face and I knew I just had to open my mouth and he made it come true.
On a specific Diwali in my childhood, I wanted to fire the gun rolls so much that I started taking money from my mom’s purse. I would sneak in when no one could see me, take ₹ 3 from the purse and flee away to buy a roll of the gun caps. Thaaa, thaaa, thaaa, thaaaa!!!! I would love bursting those and thought that whatever I was doing, was not being noticed by anyone. Stupid I was! My mother knew everytime a took the money from her purse but chose not to catch me red handed and teach me a lesson. Instead she told my father about it. Next day I did the same thing and proudly came back home thinking that “Such a mastermind I am”. That night when we were done with the dinner and came back to our room, my father opened his briefcase and handed me a huge packet of the gun roll caps. It had 30 of those ₹ 3 ones, almost enough for a couple of weeks. I saw him in the eyes and he smiled at me and went outside the room. There I was, sitting on my bed with the packet I had only dreamt of till now, in my hands, when my maa came in. She smiled and asked me if I liked it.
“Mast hai na maa?” I asked her if she loved it too!
“Haan, bahut acha hai! Ab tujhe mehnat nahi karni padegi.”
I was taken aback and was stunned!
She knew about my wrong doing all this time, papa knew too, but instead of scolding me, lecturing me and shouting at me (which I deserved), they gave me what I wanted and taught me the most important lesson of my life – They were my family and I never had to steal from them, whatever is theirs is mine and I belonged to the family. The feeling I experienced that day was something I still cannot explain in words. I felt bad for a long time but I never stole anything again in my life. They could have shouted at me, and I could have later done the same thing cautiously, but they never brought this up, never made me feel bad about what I did, never were angry about it, but taught me things that were par my imagination.
I do not know what is parenthood yet, but I know that he did not just lent his sperm to make me! He isn’t just a father! Neither is he just a best friend!