Tribute: The wind beneath my wings
The clock strikes 7 am and the gong-like sound of the pendulum reverberates through the room where a fastidious father is kneeling down with a pair of crisp white socks in his hands trying to slip them on a four year old boy who is propped up on the couch. The father lovingly puts on the socks, stretches them up his shin and then holds out his tiny little shoes. He fits his miniature feet into those small black shoes and ties up the laces. While he’s engaged in these meticulous tasks, he wears an unusually happy expression on his face, full of pride and satisfaction on completion of this stint for his beloved son, who’s now ready to go to school.
Before he sends him to school, he casts a final glance at the apple of his eyes. Hair perfectly parted and combed, shoes polished, milk moustache wiped, knapsack ready and off he goes along with the older siblings.
It might appear absolutely incredible to see such a devoted father displaying maternal instincts but this is true, witnessed by my own eyes.
This is the actual account of the immeasurable fondness, that a father is capable of towards his children referring to his children as seven stars, the seven seas or comparing them to the seven heavens and seven skies, largely because of them being the lucky seven altogether.
The compassion of his heart led him to prioritise them above everything else in his life.
A quick sketch of this endearing man revealed an extremely handsome man who exuded a radiant complexion, bright and expressive blue eyes; a humble smile and a modest gait. He was extremely successful in his career and earned his livelihood through civil service; always referring to himself as a civil ‘servant’ without resorting to any other choice of words for his profession. His demeanor and mannerisms only elicited humility, grace, integrity and principles of the loftiest order and that is what he instilled into his children as part of their upbringing.
A tragedy struck, and the devout father, at the age of 40, lost his life partner to the cold and unpardoning hands of death. This irreversible loss didn’t estrange his lonely heart towards his children, but his tenderness towards the kids continued to smolder.
Even at this juncture of emotional strain, the helpless feeling of bereavement engulfing him, the responsibility of such young children, the youngest only two, loomed at him. On the other hand were the intractable pressures from family and friends to remarry and start life anew. The pressures seemed to mount particularly, in view of the fact that a motherly presence was required to nurture the offspring, which would be difficult for a father to assume all by himself. But somehow it didn’t drive him to the brink of surrender.
Until one fine day, he received a letter from his course mate which steeled the father’s resolve and he vowed not to submit to any societal or ritualistic demands. The letter carried a simple yet powerful message. It said, ‘From today, God has combined in you two major roles. You will be both a father and mother to your children.’ He never looked back as somehow the contents of the letter inspired him to a new dimension of responsibility and care. They awakened him to a higher consciousness, whereby, he became impervious to being cajoled by relatives of the most eligible suitors as a consort. The unconditional love that this father displayed towards his kids was miraculous. They became the focus and purpose of his life. He was as alert and watchful as any responsible mother could be. He literally ensured that the kids finish their milk and bread in front of his eyes. If ever a pimple or a spot erupted on the skin of any of his daughters, he’d remain perturbed and restless about it until it faded away. Should his sons not clean shave their faces, he would raise an eyebrow, for the obsession of being neat and presentable. A stickler for cleanliness and hygiene, he imparted the same immaculate habits to his children.
The way he groomed the kids and educated them, surpassed the best classrooms in the world. His classes used to be scheduled around the dining table at dinner time; his lessons were anecdotes and parables from history, religion, literature, politics, music and a variety of intellectual subjects. He imparted all the best values any parent could offer to their children. He encouraged the habit of reading in them, adopting a moderate approach towards life; teachings of religion were inculcated while the kids were growing up. He never admonished them in the conventional fashion, instead always conveyed the message through a narrative or an allegorical fable and it was this methodology which led to lifelong learning for his progeny. He conducted himself more as a friend than a father to his children, fostering a healthy bond of trust, dependence and friendship.
As the wheel of time spun by, the children grew into strong people, while the conscientious father began to grow frail and old. One after the other, they all left home in search of economic prospects to various parts of the globe. The youngest one of them all stayed with his cherished father, compromising upon promising career opportunities which could have flown him miles apart from the only individual he had known to shower on him unconditionally and irrevocably. Just like a mother gets anxious over late working hours of her children, he would tacitly express his displeasure when his son returned home late from office. Despite age catching up on him, the warmth and concern in his heart didn’t perish at all.
Post his retirement, he engaged in calligraphy and translation of the Holy Quran. Leaving behind a gaping and everlasting emptiness in his children, he passed away very peacefully in his late 80s. He was my father.
The author is the CEO of a financial institution