Flashback – Happy Birthday Charles

My dad used to tell us bed time stories. That was the time when my sister and I got our own room (separate from the parents) for the first time and we no longer had to all sleep on the same bed. It was trouble at first cause we couldn’t fall asleep without listening to our father either singing off-key or cracking French jokes. Jokes that we never understood but we laughed at anyway cause of his ridiculous dramatization of EVERYTHING – including knock-knock jokes.  It was the beginning of a tradition.

We couldn’t afford expensive “children’s books” that he could read from so he made stories up, sometimes remembering old stories his mother used to tell him for the small duration that he was home. Most of the time though, he would mix and match stories he heard while in Spain or Philippines or Canada or New York. Through all this though, one thing was constant – Charles Dickens. His were the only stories that remained unchanged and growing up, we didn’t fear the Bogeyman or monsters under our bed. We feared Fagin. We befriended the Artful Dodgers even when the rest of our classmates shunned them. If someone was being stingy, we wouldn’t make racist comments about that certain community like most of us Indians do, we’d just say “Don’t be a Scrooge”. And much later, we tried to rescue the Charlottes of the world, have adventures like Mr. Nickleby and we fell madly in love with the Oliver Twists.

By the time we were teens, the storytelling shifted to the dining table and the stories changed to how my dad tried to seduce my mum by twirling his moustache. The moustache is long gone and we’ve all grown up in our own ways but every now and then we’re glued together by those stories we heard so long ago written by a man who would’ve been 200 today.

And as a subconscious tribute, we still giggle when we read the name Charlotte and think of how dad used to pronounce it as Char-lot-tay. We still say things like “He’s such a scrooge!” and we still think back in pride of how we were the only 10 year olds in perhaps the whole of Bangalore who knew and abused the word “bourgeois”.

A tribute by Google

25 years of togetherness!

Dearest Mamma and Daddy,

It makes me sad that I can’t spend this special occasion with you. Usually I’m making a card or putting balloons up on your bedroom door. What do you give as a gift to a couple who are so happy in each other’s love to never need anything? Trust me, there were times when all three of us have pulled out our hair trying to figure out what is the best way to celebrate your marriage.

And then I realise that my life is a celebration of your love for each other. I am living my dreams. I have solid values. I have my heart in the right place. My life has become a living monument to what you both can do together. And what you both can do … it’s magic!

When I look back on our life as a family, I realise small things I never noticed before – The holes in the walls, the black and white TV, the long, claustrophobic corridor that was a kitchen, one single bed that housed us all. It is the kind of house that a child I work with could live in – vulnerable, poverty stricken children. I just never realised that you both had to struggle so much to give us the life that we can call nothing but privileged. We were poor? Nonsense, I had a mother who would tell me stories late into the night, who would teach me important lessons that made me such an ace in school, one who would break all societal borders of caste and class and smile. You taught me what it is to be human and therefore compassionate. I had a father who would ride around till I fell asleep, read Olivers Twist, pronouncing all the names and French words wrong like Char-lotte, then there was the CUSH-ON joke & Nakkan & Munji whom I grow up with. A father who would not be ashamed to hug us and let us know we are loved, always bringing back treats after every trip, teaching me that the greatest reward is in putting others before self. You taught me what it is to be humble and remain so even after reaching a point where people you never met, recognise you.

There were troubles. Of course there were, we were not superhuman, just brought up extra-ordinarily. I remember the first time I ran away from home in a fit of teenage rage and rebellion – I was 12 and I was hiding on Father John’s terrace. Daddy came to the terrace and sat down next to me with a newspaper – you never said a word. No “What happened?” No “How dare you!” You never hit us or said anything to wilfully put us down. It was your silence that calmed me and let me know, you were really there. Unlike most parents, my father is there for me. You may not agree with what I would be doing at that point but you have always had the knack to see the big picture. Despite that, you have never forced your view points on me. You have always given me that freedom. And it is because of that that I have learnt all that I have and even now, when there is trouble, I ask myself, “What would daddy do?”

I remember Mamma threatening to pray when I was 17 and had my first official relationship. There was no “Get out of my house” No “I disown you” Just prayers. While daddy instilled in me logic and a sense of reality, you taught me what it is to reach into my heart and not be afraid to love. I had distanced myself to such an extent; I could have been a robot. But you have taught me how to be sensitive, how not to be ashamed of being in touch with my emotions. You taught me how to understand myself. I remember the fights we used to have all the time because I didn’t want to be dragged down into social work. I wanted to travel the world, be cold hearted, to write my heart out, and to live far, far away from home. I didn’t realise it then but I do now, it was because I saw your strength and your passion and it scared me. I saw how you silently suffered and took it all in whenever there was trouble. You never fought; you let others have the last word, even if they were wrong. You listened. Oh how you listen! It is because of your strength that I learnt, slowly but surely, how to be like you. To be like you, even if only just a shadowy image, that was my biggest dream. I knew that if ever I fell along the way, you would be there to pick me up. You have always been there. I just didn’t know it. I learnt about who I am, only because of you. You gave me wings and a heart that can carry the weight of the world if it wanted.

I could never thank you enough for all the support, all the magic and the adventures, all the lessons that I will never forget all the good times and the not so pleasant ones. They have rooted and grounded me. I will always tell your stories to anyone who cares to listen. You are the reason I keep moving forward. You are the reason I will continue helping people where I can. I am so SO proud to have you as my parents and I just want you to know that I love you … SOOO much it hurts. I have always loved you even in my rage. I will always love you, come what may. And when I’m back, we shall celebrate this fact … together … as always.

I love you and miss you madly.

Your daughter,

Anju

 Oh, and P.S. Happy 25th Anniversary!