Sunday, June 18, 2006

Childhood Stories - #3

Exactly one year ago, I was extremely thrilled and happy today. My family, visiting me for the very first time in the USA, had landed from Chennai only that noon. My mom and sis, in spite of my best efforts at keeping them awake till a reasonable time, had lost the fight against jet-lag and had turned in to sleep around 6.00p. My dad, meanwhile, was all fresh and chirpy. Even when mom, dad and sis got out of immigration, I noticed that dad looked brighter and more fresh than even me and my friends V and A (whom I had brought along as luggage haulers, and who, like me, were looking rather jaded after a two-hour wait in the international terminal).

Turns out the secret behind this daisy-like freshness was that dad had happily managed to sleep for six hours straight on the flight - much to the envy of mom and sis. And his body clock was hovering closer to USA time than either of the others'. Anyways, all that happened a year ago and I wish I was at with my family today too - but I am not. So I will stop reminiscing about that and will reminiscence about something else instead :-P.

Anyways, apparently, before I was born, everyone simply assumed that I would be a boy. Why? For the simple reason that my elser sister was a girl and now it was the turn for a boy to be born in the house. So everyone was a bit taken aback when I turned out to be a female instead (my elder sister had to be corrected several times before she stopped calling me "kutti pambi", her version of "kutti thambi" meaning little brother in Tamil) .

In those days, birth of a baby boy was usually considered a bigger blessing than the birth of a baby girl (yeah, right). My mom was very happy but some of my more backward-thinking relatives were apprehensive about how my dad would react to this news. To their surprise, my dad very proudly announced that he was extremely blessed to have two lovely girls, and one of them would become a doctor and the other would become an IAS officer. Of course, today, neither of us are either a doctor or an IAS officer - but I think we have still made daddy dear proud!

We were always brought up to think of girls and boys as equals. To this day, I cannot tolerate people who take exceptional pride in their sons just because he is male - duh! Education always played an important role in our family. Any spending on education was never questioned.

Education did not just refer to our school books. At some point, to force us to read the newspaper everyday, dad came up with a competition. Every night, after dinner, he would ask us ten questions from that day's newspaper - it could be from any section, including the advertisements - the one who came up with the most number of correct answers was the winner (I don't remember if we had any prize). So sis and me would feverishly scan the newspapers just before dinner. Sometimes, when my memory failed me, I made up names of personalities (and dad would ask in jest, "Who is that? The next door tea-shop owner?"). Regardless, after several months of this game, newspaper reading became a part of our daily routine. My sister has become a complete newspaper addict now while I scan the headlines without fail before beginning any day.

When we were small, we used to play games at home. The most favorite one was blind man's buff. Daddy would tie a towel around his eyes and try to catch sis and me while we ran, giggling, round and round the teapoy in dizzy circles. I never tired of that game. As we grew older, we took to playing shuttle-badminton, cricket and sometimes football. The family-playing used to happen during vacations. At some point, all uncles, aunts and cousins were becoming pretty good shuttle-badminton players - one of my uncles stayed in an independent bungalow which had badminton courts. We used to split into teams and have tournaments every evening.

Cricket was a whole different ball-game when played with the family. There was a motley crowd of adults and kids of various sizes. I remember one of the matches when daddy enthusiastically lifted his bat for hitting a sixer. The next moment, everyone dissolved into laughter - dad was just holding the handle of the bat - the rest of it had broken apart and had gone hurtling off into space!!

I think my sis and I owe our decent vocabulary in part to the travel games. Ever since I was small, as a family, we travelled a lot - either visiting relatives or just simply sightseeing. This travelling schedule was not eased even during the so called life-changing years of the standard 10 and standard 12 board exams. So there was a lot of time spent on cars, trains, planes and buses.

One of the games daddy entertained us with was the jumble-game. He and mom would spell out letters of an English word in some random order and there was competition to see who would find out the actual word first. Those days I used to be pretty good at it - I got the title "Jumble-Queen" from dad and was thrilled to bits (however, that talent disappeared just like that along the way :-(). It is a fun game for kids and when I play with younger kids, I teach them those childhood games too!

Whenever my sis or I travel, we plan for it ages beforehand. Then make neat lists about the things to be done (the number of lists depends upon the number of days we would be away). This trait is directly handed over from dad. I remember being very irritated about it when I was younger - we seemed to spend as much time planning for our vacation as actually being on it. However, the result of the meticulous planning was that the vacation itself would be extremely relaxing. Even though my friends sometimes complain about me being Ms.Perfect-planning, I am still glad I inherited this trait.

My dad is great fun to be around with (as attested by many, many friends and family members). A cool sense of humor coupled with an inexhaustible supply of topics ensures that everyone around is entertained. My sister and I both inherit the sense of humor (hallelujah!). I think the funniest converstaions I have ever heard are the exchanges between my dad and his siblings when they start their funny takes on some random topic.

Then of course, punctuality! My dad is very well known in family circles as being extremely punctual. Once, when my sis and I were visiting our uncle by ourselves, my uncle (who is notorious for his impunctuality) was scheduled to drop us at the train station for the return journey back home. Much to our annoyance, we wound up on the train at4.30am when it was scheduled to leave at 6.00am. Uncle decided that he would miss out on a few hours of sleep rather than incur dad's wrath in case we missed the train!!!

As recently as two years ago, another incident happened. I was visiting another cousin (who is several years older than me and is directly related to my dad) in New Jersey. On the day of departure, my cousin was supposed to drop me off at the airport. I missed my flight due to horrible traffic on the way to the airport. The very first reaction he gave when I informed about this news was not sympathy for me. Instead it was, "Archu, please don't tell daddy that you missed your flight"!!! My dad is no longer on-the-dot punctual - however, my sis and I have inherited those traits and succeed in either paining (or when it works, intimidating ;-)) everyone else to be punctual or spending half of our lives waiting for the tardy ones to turn up!

As with most other fathers, my dad is obsessively fond of watching news. From 7.00p in the evening, dad watches all half-hour news-casts on different channels, right upto 9.00p. I don't know whether he makes comparisons among the channels to see if they are sayiing the same thing or not!! Anyways, since all news is right at his finger-tips, all my phone calls home results in me being updated with the latest news.

Recently, my friend V told me excitedly about the Indian sensex having the biggest crash ever. Even though I was hearing about this news for the first time, I calmly told him that this was no cause for worry. V was incredulous - "How can you be so sure?". "Because", I said simply, "I just called up home last night. If it was really serious, my dad would have definitely told me about it." Needless to say, the sensex recovered soon enough.

Oh well, I can go on and on about all that I have learnt from dad and about how important a role he has played and is still playing in shaping me into the person I am today. But I think I have already been indulgent enough with my reminiscences on this post. So I shall stop.

Though I love, respect and adore my dad every single day, since I inadvertently posted about mom on Mother's day, I thought I should write a post about dad on Father's day :-))! Happy Father's Day, daddy :-D!

p.s. Sindu, if you know when Sister's Day is, please to let me know. I shall do a post on you too ;-)!


Archana Bahuguna said...

Was waiting and hoping I will see your post before I retire to bed today :-) just in time ...

Can relate totally with some of your "2 sisters" "birth and upbringing" stories and "dad watching all news channels for 2 hours" experiences! :-) pretty much the same at my place :-). Nice blog.

Archana said...

Archana - :-D! Hey, do write about your childhood experiences too - would be fun to read it :-))!

B o o said...

Wow! It was nostalgic to read your post. Ditto in our house with 2 daughters and a father with a great sense of humor. Dads are so underrated!!!!!!!!! :)

Floridora said...

How fortunate you are to have such a great Dad, and how fortunate he is to have such fine and appreciate daughters.I think your whole family deserves five stars.

kuttichuvaru said...

aaha!! nice...... childhood memories will always remain the most pleasant in life!! here's a toast to all the wondeful dads in the world!!

Archana said...

Boo - welcome aboard :-)! Another two-daughter household - cool! Dads rock :-)!

Floridora - thank you so much :-))!

Kuttichuvaru - I second that!

Prabhu said...

There were definitely some times when I thought why is Appa making me do this, but when I realised it after getting older it made the perfect sense to me. Wonder I would get the same stares when I tell my kids "Do not do this" :)

and LOL about the 7pm to 9pm, I wonder the same thing about my father as well :)

Happy father's day to ur dad.

Shilpa said...

Nice post Archu !

Ur dad reminds me so much of my dad. I miss my dad boo hoo hoo.

I can totally relate to your comment on being brought up with equal I am the only child, I was brought with so much of freedom and independence; my chores included everything right from helping in cleaning to changing fuses and what not !
Most of my friends say I am a tom-boy and I am not like a typical girl...thats probably because of the way I was brought up :-P

Hey Arch...'friendship day' will be coming soon and I wont mind if u write abt me hehehhehe

Thanu said...

OMG our families are so similar.

Dad is so puncutal and now Veena and I are never late to anything.
We used to do the same thing with news papers.

dinesh said...

Nice post..

A silent observation..Somehow, mother day's seems to be so much more popular than Father's day. I get the impression that father's day was made almost as an afterthought, so that the fathers of the world should not be left out :). Like a weak "Love you too" to an "I Love you". But your post I thought was heartfelt.

And yeah, if you're catching a flight from Newark international, you better start the previous night :). Our NJ traffic sucks !

Archana Bahuguna said...

I second Shilpa for friendship day stuff ... I am sure there's also gonna be a Blogger's day that would start celebrating sooner or later :-) so why not assume just any one day as that and write about how you feel about us :-D :-D.

ROBBIE said...

Very interesting post!! Loved it, was very innovative your way of reminiscing about family life. Very nice!!

Archana said...

Prabhu - that's true, there are so many things we don't understand why we have to do when we are kids. My parents always used to tell me, "Wait till you have kids of your own". I am pretty sure our descendants will give us plenty of weird looks!! This dad and news-watching-mania seems to be a universal phenomenon!

Shilpa - Thank you :-)! Lucky you, you will be home soon in a couple of days :-)! LOL :-D! Amaam, u r my friend too - so nee first ezhuthu :-P!

Thanu - wow :-)! You used to do the newspaper thing too - I always used to wonder if any other household had the such competitions - glad to know I have company :-)!

Dinesh - thank you! Somehow a mother's role is always more hyped up when compared to a dad's role. I think each of their roles is very important to the well-being of any child! Ah, it wasn't even the Newark airport - it was JFK - my uncle nearly went crazy driving me there that day - :-)!

Archana - :-D - a blogger's day shd be fun. You know what? We should nominate a day as Blogger's day and spread it around to as many bloggers as possible. We can then celebrate it by posting stuff abt other bloggers :-D - that's a cool idea! Now, what are the nominations for dates???

Robbie - thank you so much :-)!

Prasanna said...

Lovely post archu! One more observation about Dads in general -they get cuter and cuter as they get old!

Saranya Kishore said...

Heyyyy Nice post there Arch!!
Happy belated Father's Day! Your Dad sounds like a lot of fun.
My Dad used to make us read newspapers in the morning too. Boy! How I miss my Dad! :--(

Ginkgo said...

oh...fathers day kku thaan intha jaal ra laam..
So for mothers day...enna panneenga madame Jee...:-p

Archana said...

Prasanna - Thank you! I am totally with you on that :-D!

Ginkgo - idhukku thaan, you shd read the post till the end :-P! You won't ask such doubts then!!

Archana said...

Saranya - ah, I forgot to reply to your comment - please excuse - it was a long day and my eyes were not working too well, you see :-)!

Thank you - yup, dad is a lot of fun :-D! Wow, so many families seem to have cultivated this newspaper-reading habit :-).