Bringing up FatherDoes anyone remember the old American comic strip of the name ‘Bringing up Father’ by cartoonist George McManus?

As a teenager, this cartoon fascinated me (as a child I was initiated by ‘Phantom’ – but that was immature infatuation). I used to wonder – can it really happen? Can children bring up their fathers? I did not extend this to mothers because, for one, I had a tough old-fashioned father who tried to fashion many disciplines in me, and for another, I knew I was bound to become a father, which I did not want to cast in the same mould as my respective father.

However, this is happening all the time these days. Yesterday I read about the ‘twenty five’ things my daughter had written sometime, years back – twenty-five things about herself. It surprised me that this petite girl, a complete and complacent otaat (one-thing-at-a-time) person could so well state twenty-five different aspects about herself in one shot. I realized I have never done that and that I should do it if I were to let my daughter bring me up. So here they are, me starting with first writing down 25 serial numbers and then fleshing them up.

  1. I am an otaat, and may be the genetic cause for my daughter being an otaat
  2. Born a normal child, I grew up into an abnormal person. I was very emotional as a child; trained myself, apparently, to become unemotional; and yet, find myself crying over even silly advertisement on the TV where they show a little girl growing up.
  3. I do not like, or rather, I cannot subject myself to – music, reading and various other mental activities with which my friends proudly associate themselves
  4. A few things, mostly freely available in the environment in which I live, still stir me up – a sunny day, a soft and kind breeze, a blue sky, and my wife leaving me alone when I want to be alone.
  5. (Phew! It is getting harder and harder) – I like a certain kind of humour that is appreciated only within my family, and so we have many family jokes – one or two word jokes, some of them are.
  6. I like to be alone (as I have already professed)
  7. I have always wanted to write. The beauty of language that overflows the story line fascinates me. I was drawn to this by reading ‘Towards Picturesque Speech’ in ‘Readers Digest’.
  8. I do not think any particular part of life has been sadder or happier than the rest. In reflection, my life appears to have had the normal vicissitudes, and from a certain vantage point, it seems to be a somewhat rolling flat land. This leaves me neither too happy nor too sad.
  9. I cannot express my ideas except in very long sentences.
  10. (That’s great – getting up to here) I like to chat with friends who are good listeners. That way I learn more about them than they about me.
  11. I have tried my hand at various past-times but none has stuck to me. Of late, I have started making sandwiches for my wife to take to work, and every day for the same sandwich, she gives me the same certificate – one word, ‘yummy’ – that spells our mutual tolerance.
  12. I have a constant nagging – I am wasting time. My wife agrees with me on this one single point.
  13. My definition of perfect relaxation is having all the time on hand and not knowing what to do with it, and not bothering about it. For this, one need not go to the beaches of Goa. In fact, that is quite tiring.
  14. There was a time when I had to speak for hours to my daughter, then in college. These days we hardly talk. Nevertheless, it assures me to know that she is there somewhere ready to say, ‘Hi’ when I call her. I do not do that often because the excited beginning soon peters out for want of things to say.
  15. I have a nasty habit of buying books and not reading them for years. I have books that came out in print may be before I was born. One of them is ‘The Way of All Flesh’ – a very attractive name. I had bought it some 40 years back from a second-hand bookshop run by a north Indian on the Brigade Road of Bangalore. The author never reckoned with my lazy flesh and bones.
  16. I used to be very fond of wearing smart clothes. I lost the charm when they introduced dress code at my work place.
  17. I like to have friends appreciative of me. It is the only cure for being an egotist.
  18. One of the treasures I would like to gather all my life is new acquaintances. They always give you the warm and fuzzy comfort of ‘first love’. No one should let acquaintances grow into relations that are more familiar.
  19. I appreciate people, who are selfish. I justify this by believing that one who can take care of oneself can then think of taking care of others. This is the only moral way of justifying my own selfishness.
  20. I hate perfumes. Luckily, my wife does not wear any, except on rare occasions, where she feels that is the only way to dissimulate herself in a crowd.
  21. In all my life, I have had only one neighbor I ever liked. Both the husband and the wife liked to sleep as much as they could, and their children were not particularly intelligent. So, they pretty much let us be.
  22. I miss my childhood cousins very much. At that stage, we did not know that all of us would come to nothing upon growing up. Therefore, we were all equal in our eyes.
  23. I miss my childhood auntie (of the neighborhood) who let me read adult Bengali novels when I was not allowed to do it by my parents. I would sit most summer mornings on a sofa bed in their darkened bedroom and read on. She would just check up on me from time to time with an indulgent smile that reassured me that my parents would not know. Much of the romanticism in Bengali literature I learned of then, which proved to be a big handicap when I grew up into a young person without social skills.
  24. This list is getting longer than I thought it would. Twenty-five is sometimes more than twenty-five, is it not? That reminds me: relativity is one of the topics of physics that has fascinated me since I read Russell’s ‘ABC of Relativity’. I almost lost my dearest friend when I read this book, bombarding him with my excited recapitulation from the book.
  25. I hate physical work. Writing this has been very exhausting. If someone reading this has come down to this point – Congratulations! I envy thee, mein reader!

Indroneer / 29 Jan 2014