Ostrich - Speak... Hell what more can i say???!!!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

My Captain, My Captain

My Father was a military man. From the tip of his stiff, white peak cap to the toes of his cherry blossom blanched navy shoes. He demanded order, punctuality and discipline. He was very good with his hands. Our various garages were always converted into workshops while our old trusty Standard 10 stood outside in the humid coastal air. He made my very first bicycle from parts of an old Russian circus bike and then helped me learn to ride it.

Never one to show much emotion, me and my brother knew how to discern his secret pride at our youthful accomplishments. The smile that looked like a straight line when I topped first grade, that nod when my brother won the Cochin Refineries Tennis Tournament and that quiet appreciation when my mother made an especially delicious chicken a-la-Kiev. My brother and his friends used to slink around him and called him Rambo behind his back. Unfortunately, this rigid, impenetrable demeanor was often frustrating for me as a young girl. The few times when I’d seen him let go was on our many long distance drives when Abba was playing on the car stereo. He would stick his head out like a turtle and withdraw in time with the music and it made us laugh. When I was in the seventh grade he bought me a cheap Phillips walkman for doing well at my boarding school.

Four years later, he and I were on driving down to Calicut on the first leg of our journey to Goa. My Mother was taking the evening train there as she couldn’t miss that day of school. He was in a particularly cantankerous mood and had been recently diagnosed with diabetes. There was no Abba on this trip. Only a grueling drilling about the whereabouts of that ridiculous walkman. The thing had broken down, been repaired, broken, repaired again and eventually lost by my brother who took it to college. He insisted that I was careless with my things despite my strenuous defence. It was a bitter session and frustrated, I ended it by telling him to never speak to me again. The rest of the journey passed in silence and when we reached my uncle’s home in Calicut, he took off to play a game of badminton at the club. I stayed home.

After the game he thought he had acidity and sent his friend for some Gelusil while he waited in the jeep. He had a cardiac arrest and died alone. He was two months away from my parent’s 25th anniversary, four months away from my high school graduation and six months away from his fiftieth birthday.

My dad had been known to say “When your Visa comes from above, you have to go.” It was so offhand. But I was the one who crumpled my mother with the news as she got off the train, glowing from her facial and all set for our week of family fun in Goa. My brother arrived the next day from college in Madras and the rest of my relatives flocked there in no time at all. I didn’t cry. Instead that night after putting my mom to bed I made jokes to my brother about how he’d look dressed like John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever” and stayed numb. In the following month I helped sort out our finances, pensions and wrote scores of letters to banks and insurance companies and tried to look after my family as best as I could.

When the month was up I went back to boarding school. On the very first night I realized I had no one else to look out for there. I thought of the last conversation I’d had with him and cried so deeply and incessantly in my bed that I woke the matron down the hall and everyone in my dorm. After a couple of hours there was talk of medical sedation and as suddenly as it began, the storm ended. The idea of all that drama made me sick and I went to sleep.

Thoughts of you made me crawl out of bed at 3 Am and write. I’m sorry.


At 8:20 PM, Blogger transience said...

there are no words to express how moved i was reading such
heart-wrenching honesty. i hope you've found your peace.

At 11:09 PM, Blogger Manish Bhatt said...

*Respectful silence*

At 11:54 PM, Blogger Sray said...

I am calling my parents up first thing tomorrow morning.

At 2:31 AM, Blogger JP said...

I'm told I have a dad.

I'm glad you did. :)

At 4:58 AM, Blogger Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

Very touching story...brought tears to my eyes.

At 6:43 AM, Blogger Mint Chutney said...

Thank you for sharing that beautifully written piece. I'm a little embarrassed and surprised about how hard it made me cry.

At 8:39 AM, Blogger Anurag said...

I think you didn't write this story for others or for comment, but I will still leave one -- it is a very touching piece.

At 9:15 AM, Blogger Roger Stevens said...

Lovely and sad.

Here's a children's poem I wrote for my Dad who died about ten years ago now.

Spell For My Father

But if there was a spell
To bring my father back
I would gather its components at once.
His watch, still ticking,
His old, grey, baggy jumper
A photograph of his smile
A compass and a candle.

I would whisper the spell late into the night
I would say it loud, shout it, sing it
The whole world and his neighbour
Would hear me singing

But there is no spell
To bring him back
Only the sun rising in the East
And a prayer
For a new beginning

At 6:04 PM, Blogger Jay said...

It's odd the memories we have when someone has passed. Sorry for your loss. I hope that you are finding peace, every day.

At 10:21 AM, Blogger Vignesh said...


Thank you.

At 7:32 PM, Blogger Saltwater Blues said...

hello Ostrich: your profile is most interesting ... its nice to get paid to do the things you love love. Must say I'm very envious.

btw, do you happen to know a guy called Manu (http://manuscrypts.blogspot.com) from Worldspace?

you have a good weekend. cheers!

At 11:23 PM, Blogger Boomsa said...

Ostrich, this is a most lovely post. Snwiff.

At 12:43 AM, Blogger banzai cat said...

Sorry to hear about that. If it helps, parents always know in a subconscious way.

It comes with the "love without conditions" kit, I guess.

At 5:38 PM, Blogger retarius said...

that was a wonderful tribute to him.

At 10:59 AM, Blogger Mandar said...

hey! read ur blog for the first time. and i must say that its a great joy to read a wonderful, heart-felt tribute, first up. i havent been thru anything half as painful as u have... but, i kinda have a feeling of "sahaanubhooti" towards u. one of my friends and i believe that there is no word in english for "sahaanubhooti". its a special feeling. i hope u know what it means. girl, rite now, ur dad knows what he means to u and just how much u love him. and rite now, he is thinking, his is one of the best daughters ever. and from all the others' comments that i have read here, i can safely say that every single one of us thinks ur dad is rite. obviously, ur dad has sown a great set of values... very deep... rite in the very poetry of ur soul. i think visiting ur blog was the best thing to happen to me today, because it has made me realize how important it is to just speak the truth - to urself! i am bookmarking ur blog rite away.

At 1:10 PM, Blogger YetzerHara said...

...remember post easter, post scrapped gig i left one under yr pillow while you slept as i left to go home, tired, crashed out in the car, came back in the morn for water to find you awake n we chatted, laughed and passed it back n forth, you treated me like a kid which you always did, while the janta were either sleeping or smashed, even though i felt so close to you that day it seems so far after reading this post. missing you ostrich.

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