Many of you might already have read this story from the link on the right side of the blog.Those who haven’t here’s something from the archives!The one that started it all so to speak!Have been a little busy over the past week,but regular posts coming up from tomorrow!
**The Proud Father**
Reach for the stars…That’s what Col.Dasgupta had always wanted his son to do…After many disappointments, his son had achieved something he could be proud of.
I HATE MY FATHER.
Maybe I should refer to him as Col.Dasgupta as he pompously calls himself. My aunt told me that the first thing my father said (grumbled would perhaps be more like it) on seeing me after my birth was,
“He doesn’t look healthy enough..It seems I will have to give up the dream of having a son in the army.”
For once he was dead right too. Growing up, I remained the thin unhealthy Rohit Dasgupta I was born as; and with both my elder siblings being sisters, there didn’t seem to be much hope in his dreams. But then the colonel wasn’t the type who gave up easily. While other boys of my age were awoken up lovingly by their mothers, being told they were getting late for school, I would be shoved out of my bed by the Indianized version of Herr Hitler and pushed to the wash-basin.
“What did I do to get such a lazy son?” he would say everyday. Almost made me wonder if he just switched on a recorded tape somewhere. ”It’s 5 in the morning and you are still sleeping! Brush your teeth and come down fast,” he continued,”we must do some body-building exercise before you go to school.”
An injury had long since stopped his postings in the field so all he had was a desk job at Fort William, and of course the self appointed job as my trainer. If you make a ten year old boy exercise like an army jawan, he is bound to collapse someday. When that boy is both as weak and unfit as I was, that would happen sooner rather than later, and one day while walking to school, collapse I did! I had to be hospitalized, and even in that condition, I swear I almost hugged the doctor when he said, “Rohit should avoid all types of strenuous exercises”.
The torture stopped. Though we never talked much anyway, now, with his job as my ‘trainer’ standing terminated, even the minimum came to a nought..Not that he let go of opportunities to take potshots at my perceived ‘softness’. “There!,”he would say,”While Mukherji’s son is playing cricket in the field,my son is reading Shakespeare!”I didn’t bother to correct him by saying that I had moved on to Maupassant.Besides, the only French he would have known is Napoleon! You get my point.
Through all this, the only thing that made life liveable was the presence of my mother. She was a saint if ever there was one..I remember wondering how she could have loved the colonel so much so that she married him! Then again, wasn’t it more surprising that my father spared his time to love someone? Love, as they say, is a strange thing! I knew my mother hated the way her husband was treating her son, but she knew better than trying to correct the colonel’s ways. As soon as she sensed that I liked reading books, it was as if she took an oath to never keep me waiting for a new book. From Blyton to Sheldon, she led me into a world that helped me keep my mind away from my problems with my father.
And then, one fine day, she left me…mowed down by a truck. Believe it or not, it was, what else, but an army truck carrying jawans.That night while I lay sobbing in a corner of my room,Col.Dasgupta comes in, cool as ever, and says,
“Come now! Bear it like a man should..Why are you crying like a fool? It must have been your mother’s fault…She should have realized that the army truck was in a hurry and let it pass by before crossing..”
I couldn’t believe the man! How can he, someone who loved(supposedly, anyway) her be so idiotic and cold-hearted at the same time? But then, that was the colonel all over. No matter what, you couldn’t make him utter a word against the army…Somehow I controlled the urge to hit him. The last thing he said before leaving was,
“You disappoint me Rohit.”
Looking back, maybe I should have gone with the flow and hit him…
Life slowly returned to normal, or as normal as it could be with no mother in your house and a Hitler walking around in your drawing room.
It was around this time that the bug bit my father. The bug that bites every Indian parent alive…Yes, the IIT bug! While on a morning walk one day, he met one of his army friends and the man told (make that boasted ) him that his son had cracked the IITJEE.Suddenly my father found something to hold on to. As I have always maintained, there never was method to my father’s madness. So what if his son wasn’t good enough for the army, maybe he could get into one of the best engineering institutes of the country…He gave up on his walk for that day and shook me awake on returning home. I almost went towards the basin on reflex ,thinking that the torture was to begin again, when he said, “How have your results been like?”
Now, if I have been able to give you even the slightest of ideas about my father you would know that this question was as surprising as snow in Timbaktoo!Still wondering what might have brought about this sudden interest in academics, I gave him the half-yearly report card. After he had seen it for a full five minutes, the colonel spoke again,
“How did you get such low marks( for the record I got 89) in maths? You better improve fast.I want you to get into an IIT and this time I don’t want any excuse Rohit.”
Before i could croak out a yes,he had left.He knew I didn’t have it in me to go against him.l hated myself for this.
I HATE MY FATHER.
I could barely believe the transformation in the colonel.The very man who would nod absent-mindedely when my mother told him about my good results now started taking me to tuitions! The minimum conversations continued though…Sometimes he would say,”Did you pay attention?” to which I would mumble an affirmative; and sometimes it would be “Did you get the highest this time?” to which I would generally mumble a negative. To this he would deliver his stock dialogue, “You will disappoint me again.”He never bothered about asking my actual marks and I never bothered about telling him either, though most of the times it was just a few marks short of the highest.It wouldn’t matter.To him finishing second was as good as finishing second from last.
Results day at school now became as ominous as our body building sessions.That, inspite of the fact that I was generally in the top-3 of the class and the teachers had nothing but good things to say about me..Whenever I came second or third he would call me up as soon as he came out of the school gate, not of course to share his happiness, but to express his ‘disappointment’. I would then get ready for a round of flogging. Yes, I was perhaps the only boy in India who got beaten up because he had missed the first place by a whisker (but again, you never know, do you? Ours is a huge country!).The couple of times I did manage to come first, there would be no agitated calls from the colonel. He would come home, give me the report card and go to his room. No words of praise, encouragement..forget a pat, not even a smile(it’s strange but I never remember a moment in which his poker-face broke into a smile!)
I had learnt to live with it..It helped that this time we had a common aim. I did want to get into an IIT,and somehow I managed not to get disturbed with his methods(I guess I am a tough nut after all!).The beatings continued, but then, as I said, you learn to live with it….
Today is the day. The IITJEE results will be put up on the internet at noon. The colonel had left for the cyber-cafe an hour in advance…The only thing he told me at the breakfast table was, “Hope you get in son. It’s time you deliver.” It was then that I made the decision I had been considering ever since I was a thirteen year old boy whose mother had just passed away.
The colonel had of course asked if I wanted to go along, but I declined and he didn’t insist. Thankfully. I was confident of making it, but so were thousands of others students. As I said, ours is a huge country! I knew if I didn’t get in the colonel would ring me up immediately. This time, however, I wouldn’t let him beat me…I had other plans..All good things come to an end colonel.
The mobile flashed….”baba calling”.
Rohit reached for the bottle of rat poison…
In the cyber-cafe, few hundred metres away, Col.Dasgupta wondered why his son wasn’t answering the call. He was a proud man today…In a monitor screen in front of him was written,