One of my biggest regrets in life is that I never really got to know my father or spend much time with him. He fell seriously ill when I was around three years old and was hospitalized for a few weeks, never fully recovered, or even if he did was never the same again and had become somewhat aloof. Few years after that my parents separated and he became the “enemy” – someone whom one is not supposed to think or talk about. However, I’ve learnt that most things in life are not so clearly black or white, but mostly shades of grey, and wish I’d taken some interest in getting to know him before it was too late.
Nevertheless, I do have a few vivid memories of time spent with him. He was a scientist who did research on plants, fruits and vegetables and worked in a horticultural institute on the outskirts of Bangalore. His office was around 25 kms from home, and in those days it was considered a formidable distance even though there was no troublesome traffic or pollution like now.
I remember that he used to often bring home huge amounts of flowers, fruits and vegetables from his institute. We could never fit all of them into our fridge, and would distribute them to friends and neighbors as well. They were all grown for research purposes and once the studies were over, the employees could take a few home, and the remaining were mostly dumped into the garbage. Used to often hear my mom lament about all those succulent vegetables being criminally wasted day after day.
Apart from being a scientist, he was also very enthusiastic about photography and music. There was always music playing in our house when he was at home, he had a huge collection of records and cassettes – mainly Hindi and Telugu film songs, but also some Indian classical and English songs. He would also buy the latest music player that had arrived in the market every six months or so. It was the same with cameras and photographs, he used to spend a lot of time and money on them, but I was too young to know exactly what he was doing. Have only two vivid memories involving my father. One has to do with rose plants and the other with vegetables.
When I was around five, he once brought 3-4 rose cuttings home, and very enthusiastically planted them into pots telling me that they were really rare and beautiful ones that he’d procured from someone. I was also very excited to hear that since I loved roses and couldn’t wait for them to bloom. We lived in an apartment on the fourth floor, so these rose pots were kept in our balcony. Every morning I would wake up and rush to the balcony to check if they had bloomed – of course I hadn’t yet studied biology and didn’t have any idea about how long these things take. Every morning, I’d be disappointed to find that there are still no roses on those plants. This went on for probably ten days and then finally few reddish green leaves popped out of the cuttings.
Instead of feeling happy that they were beginning to show signs of life, I was very disappointed to see those leaves. I grew very sure that my father had made some terrible mistake and that the plants he brought home were not really good ones, they were yielding some funny looking leaves and no roses. And in a fit of irritation and impatience I pulled them all out of the pots and chucked them out of the balcony. I had absolutely no regrets regarding my action because I was convinced that those rose plants were no good and deserved to be thrown out. When my father walked into the balcony that day he was shocked to see that the cuttings had disappeared and the pots were empty.
Suspecting that I had something to do with it, he asked me where they were. Very confidently I told him that I had pulled them out of the pots and thrown them out of the balcony because they were no good and were not yielding any roses. His face turned angry and red and I’d never seen him looking that scary before, and he screamed “How could you do something like that, they were really rare and expensive ones?!!”, and I got a resounding slap on my face. This was the only time he ever slapped me 🙁 🙁
I guess I fully deserved that slap not only because of those roses, but for all the other things that I used to chuck out of the balcony. It had become kind of a sport with me to hurl things down from the fourth floor to the ground below. Used to chuck my toys, mugs of water and almost anything I could lay my hands on out of the balcony.
It was so bad that my parents had begun to regret having opted for a fourth floor apartment, given the fact that they could have chosen a ground floor one. After hearing my mom talking about this a couple of times, I asked her why they’d opted for the fourth floor. She replied that both of them were from small town Vijayawada, and had never seen a “high rise” (back then 4 floors were high-rises), and wanted to be on the topmost floor. There had been vacant apartments on all floors including the ground floor, but they had been most excited about the fourth floor. But I was glad they did because one certainly derived more pleasure chucking objects from the fourth floor compared to lower floors 😉
The second vivid memory I have involves visiting his institute and of an incident that happened there – a pretty embarrassing instance when I actually flicked something, was immediately caught and reprimanded. It was the first and last time in my life when I actually tried to steal something – will write about it in my next post.
PS: Photograph my father took in Lalbagh.