Friday, February 25, 2011

One Sunday

There’s an old funny song my kids used to love about ‘Jack the Peg’ who had an extra leg:

"Wherever I go through rain or snow
The people always let me know
'There’s Jack the Peg…
With an extra leg'"
sings the character.

Guess many of us ‘chinky’ Indians get the same kind of treatment in some parts of the country. It used to be like that in Kerala where we went for vacations. People on the streets would turn back to stare. Same in Madras where we stayed a few months. Eyes would glare till i was tempted to poke with a finger to see if they could blink! It was like that in Hyderabad. And so on.

It’s not so bad these days, at least not here in Mumbai. I didn’t get it bad in Bangalore either. Can’t say whether things have changed in general, or it’s just the cities.

And in this church we attend in Santa Cruz, i even forget that i’m different. Meetings are in English, mixed with Hindi. The members are from diverse communities like Anglo-Indians, Goans, Maharashtrians, Mangalorians, Malayalees, Tamilians, Telugus, etc. I’m the only snub-nosed, chinky-eyed, yellow-faced one in the crowd. But the loving, caring folks make me forget that i hail from a remote place and have alien looks and ways.

But one Sunday it was brought back to me in a funny way.

After the meeting, a little NRI boy came up to me and said, “Hello, i’m J, i’m eleven years old. I’m from Dubai….”
“Hello, i’m M,” i responded, and we got chatting.

After a while he asked, “Are you Chinese?”
“No,” i replied.
“Are you Filipino?”
“What are you then?”
“I’m Indian” i said, curious about how he was going to tackle the question.
“But how come you look like Chinese or Filipino?” he came back.
“Many Indians look like i do,” i told him, still playing the game.
Then he got clever. “What language do you speak with your parents at home?”
I finally told him i’m a Mizo, from Mizoram, a state in Northeast India. I asked him to look up a map and find Mizoram in it.

Hope J’s knowledge of Geography or Social Studies improved a bit that day. Such a sweet kid!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Peace with my dad

My dad was an army man and a strict disciplinarian. Growing up under him wasn’t easy. And once I was grown up, I couldn’t agree with Dad about a lot of things. Not daring to confront him, I would gripe and gripe behind his back.

Towards the end of the year 2000, I was at a camp for women. At a session, one of the resource persons spoke about how we tend to have unresolved anger against our parents, especially our fathers. She gave us an assignment: “Now everyone go back to your room and write a letter to your father.”

I spent a long time reflecting about my dad and my relationship with him. And with a lot of tears I wrote the following letter:

‘Dear Dad,
I’m so sorry that I have been carrying grudges against you in my heart for words you said to me in anger and human weakness. Yes, you often lost control of your temper, like I do with my own children. How mean and unkind of me to remember all those and still seethe over them! Forgive me, Dad. Forgive me, Lord Jesus.

I’m now thankful to you and to God that you gave me birth, that you and Mum were alive to bring me up, that you did so to the best of your ability and knowledge. I thank you for bringing me up to godliness, to ethical living.

I thank you for loving me, though you were never verbally open about it. I thank you for that lovely red Kashmiri coat you bought me when I was seven. It had pictures of owls embroidered along the button lines. Whenever I wore it I could feel your love embracing me.

But somehow, along the way, I grew hard and ungrateful. I even convinced myself that you don’t really love me. I blew up your faults to large proportions and undermined your virtues. I’m so sorry, Dad, and I love you.’

I’m so glad I made my peace with my dad before we re-located to far away Bangalore in 2004. We visited him before leaving. This is how he was:

When we visited him next in the summer of 2006, he had become like this:

Then he passed away just after midnight between 6th and 7th of February, 2007.