• Debarshi Kanjilal

My Old Man | A Short Anecdote

Like most other 1980s-born kid in the then Calcutta, India, I was kind of petrified by my parents and their scolding, even thrashings every once in a while. This didn’t change greatly until I was past my teens. However, sixteen years of living in fear of people cannot possibly be an ordeal with no ups and downs or retaliation, and it wasn’t. I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but surely not more than five, six years, when I performed my first act of dissent against the authorities. After dishing out reprimand abound towards me in the morning, my father had left for office. I wasn’t thrilled about the talking-to that I received but at this point, I was being raised with values like ‘you should not to talk back to your parents’. However, my ego had been hurt and I had retribution on my mind. So, in the evening, I took a piece of paper and taped it up at the entrance of our home. On that piece of paper, I had written – ‘BABA GADHA!’ [Translation – My father is a donkey!].

Both me and my old man have come a long way since that incident. I was never a smart kid, but it didn’t take me long to understand that displaying to the world a postcard that said ‘My father is a donkey’ wasn’t so much getting back at him as it was making a humongous fool of myself. That was that, and it was the only time that we had called each other donkeys! We were both maturing, so was our vocabulary I guess – so I went on to being greater things – callous, un-smart, timid, introvert, etc. – all of those could possibly have been rightful adjectives for me at various times but there was one adjective which I wasn’t too sure abt. He would often call me – HBRRRRRRRRRRRGRRRRBRR!!! In essence, this word could hold anywhere between 12 and 273 other words and had the potential of being words of advice or wisdom or just more reprimand that would have to be delivered in a hoarse, high-pitch voice. Although it was all that, all I really heard was – HBRRRRRRRRRRRGRRRRBRRR!!!

I, on the other hand, was rather kind to him throughout my life. I had stopped calling him names after calling him a donkey that one time! Even in my mind, I was very kind to him – I merely thought that he was self-obsessed, heartless, greedy, brash, uncivilized, and a stupid person for giving so much importance to education! To this day, I stand by my belief that structured education doesn’t really do as much good to the world as we’re conditioned to believe. At the time, of course, my rebellion was against education as a whole, structured or not. You see education was the biggest barrier for me to be able to do what I actually wanted to, which was to while away my time. So, the names I called my old man in my mind were pretty spot on – he was certainly all of those things, and yes, vain too!

People thought I was closer to my mother. This wasn’t true. I was equally averse to both my parents, but it wasn’t worth my time to try to correct people and their assumptions. I actually grew up to resemble my father in some ways. By the time I was in my early twenties, I could already visualize his bald head sitting atop my face in a few years! I also grew up to be just as full of myself and just as condescending towards others! I grew up to be just as vain as him, and since you’ve come to this point of the piece, I don’t exactly need to provide another example! I grew up to become terribly proud of my cutting-edge communication skills – although I never really knew the words that would tell a girl that I liked them or the body language that would tell a friend that they could come talk to me if they needed! So, when the clock made circle full, I grew to legitimately respect my old man – even if that is most likely because I’m too self-obsessed not to respect what I am!

If anything, I only fear the day when, and if, I have kids and they turn four or five years old! I can only hope that when embarking upon their march of rebellion, they choose their words more wisely than ‘BABA GADHA’!

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