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22 May 2012

Your Father is a hero...


Our batch in Engineering, batch of TEC 86, was the best batch of our times. Our batch excelled in Curricular, Extra Curricular, Co-curricular and sports activities with the same flair, elan and panache...
Each of us, in our small capacity made some differences, some contributions and efforts to make our batch what it was,the winners in any 'Inter Year Competitions'. Some of our batchmates  like Jiji,Tom Alex, Gopi, Santosh Mathew, Eipe, Habeeb, Ambika and many others made more contributions than others, but that do not lower the contributions of all of us. We created the 'eco system' of the batch around which all of us could grow and thrive.
To my mind, one person who excelled at what he did and equally helped in building a strong eco-system was Hanumant.
During our college days, Hanumant was the fulcrum around which most of us in the batch navigated. He was good at sports. He was a very talented badminton player, he was a member of the college Cricket team, and a member of the college table tennis team. In addition, he was a member of various arts initiatives and he was friendly with most of us in the batch. He was respected by the seniors, the batch mates and the juniors alike. 
This was not easy. 
During those days, our college was rife with political brinkmanship and skulduggery of huge proportions. One could not look at another college mate without labelling them as belonging to one party or another. Hanumant effortlessly navigated these rough and cloudy political seas with the ease of a trapeze artist. 

(Note to myself: this is a stupid, cliched sentence. Trapeze artists do not navigate the rough seas, a sailor does. I  should change the sentence)

Hanumant effortlessly navigated these rough and cloudy political seas with the ease of an expert sailor.
He was the Captain of the college badminton team, which also had the reigning mens national Champion George Thomas in its ranks. If my memory serves me right, under his captaincy, our college won the university title. 
He had his feet on different boats and he balanced the situation with felicity which was the envy of a lot of us.
Why am I saying all this?
I remembered this when I met Hanumant at Mysore this weekend. 
We had met over dinner, my family and his - wife Vaishali, daughter Manasa and son Krishna, during our quick, whirlwind visit to Mysore. We were talking about the new multiplex which Vaishali owns in Mysore.
"I never knew if Hanumant had cleared his Engineering", Vaishali was narrating about the problems faced while constructing the Multiplex. "of all the problems that I faced, installation of Electrical equipment was the most difficult. Hanumant helped me extensively during the installation that I realized how good his knowledge of electrical engineering was."
I looked quizzically at Hanumbant. Why did not his family know if he had cleared the engineering?
Immediately after the final exam, Hanumant joined his father in his textile business. Since he was clear that his career was in business, he never bothered to collect his degree certificate from the college. 
"So you always had doubts if he was an electrical engineer?" I asked incredulously.
"Yes", she replied half in jest. Vaishali has a cute way of smiling. 
"During the construction of our multiplex, I was flooded with opinions, views and advises on how to handle the electrical installation. This is the most challenging part of the construction of a public building since we need multiple clearances from various departments. All of them needed a lot of technical clarifications. I was becoming desperate. That is when Hanumant took charge. He negotiated with the vendors, went into details of each and every procurement and job, interfaced with the government authorities to get the clearances..." Vaishali was looking at Hanumant with that shy affection that most Indian woman display when talking about their husbands. 
"So it took the construction of this multiplex for you to understand the true potential and capability of Hanumant?" I was dumbstruck at the magnitude of the question.
"Yes, without it I would never have known how good an engineer he is", answered Vaishali thoughtfully.
"Let me get this clear. If it were not for this multiplex, you would not have known one of the most significant aspects of your husband, that is, his capability. Forget his knowledge of Engineering, but what he demonstrated in this multiplex episode is his flexibility in wading in to uncharted territory and successfully completing the tasks. In that episode he demonstrated a significant personal strength, and you are telling me that this was hidden to you all these 20 odd years that you have been together", as mentioned before,  I was amazed.
"Did you know that your father is a very good badminton player?", I turned to Krishna.
"I know that he plays badminton. I don't know how good he is", the child responded.
"During our college days, he was the captain of the college team. The team also included George Thomas, who was the all India Champion. While your father was very good, in one game, George gave your father 14 point handicap and beat him 16-14. Under your father, we won the university title" I told Krishna. 
The kid looked at his father with a new pride.
Friends, this is the question that I am asking you.
All of us were heroes, one way or other, during our growing years. While some like Hanumant excelled in different sports, most of us has demonstrated heroism during our child-adulthood. Even, small acts like throwing stone the farthest, climbing the tallest trees (and peeing from great heights on unsuspecting people walking below), or throwing stone, bringing down the mango, wiping it with green 'Communist Pacha' leaves, sitting under the tree and eating them...
All these are acts of heroism that our kids will be proud to know. 
The question is how many children know the capabilities of their fathers? (I am writing this from the father perspective, but this applies equally to mothers). How many family myths of our heroism we share with our children, our family? In traditional households, these tasks are done by the grandmothers, but in the modern nuclear family, the children are missing that important link that teach the children about their parents. 
In the absence of these family myths, the kids judge us by the 'standards of heroism' as it exists today. My father do not even have an email address, I heard one child say, how ancient is that? you know, my dad still use Windows XP, I try telling him to switch to Windows 7, but he doesn't listen to reason, says another kid.  Even now, my father do not know how to transfer files from one pc to another using bluetooth, says another boy. The other day, my father accidentally deleted a very important file and he was going crazy. I pointed out to him that the deleted files are in the 'recycle bin', what kind of ignorant person are you if you do not know about the 'Recycle Bin'?..
The fathers of today struggle to meet the new standards of todays kids and all of us fail, some miserably. 
How do we resolve this? Does it take a crisis (as in case of Vaishali and multiplex) for our family to know our potential?
I remembered the book 'To kill a Mockingbird' that I read some time back. The leading character is Jem, the daughter of Atticus Finch, who is a widower. Every time Jem goes to school, her friends talks about the heroic acts of their parents. Jem grows up believing that her father is an incompetent lawyer. One day, the village was attacked by a rabid dog. While everyone was sitting inside, it was Atticus Finch, who bravely ventured out, took his gun and shot down the dog. That was when Jem knew that in his young adulthood days, her father was the best shot in all of the state. 
Do we need our own 'rabid dog to kill' for our kids to know that we are all heroes in our own way?
Do the children need to know? Is it relevant for them to know what we did in childhood or adulthood? 
Just think about it. In case you think it is relevant, do not wait for your own 'Rabid Dog' moment to demonstrate your heroism. 

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