Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Ode to my father

This isn't a fairy tale ( though you may think it is) Its a true story. The story of a legend who lived here- a legend who I call my FATHER.

Malpe is a sleepy , quaint fishing hamlet near Udupi, on the coast of the Arabian sea inhabited by simple, kind , hardworking fisher folk with a  smattering of privileged families. One among them were my father, Malpe Madhwaraj's family- educated, wealthy, sophesticated, close knit and progressive. He lost his father at the age of 24. As the eldest son, he kept his flock of 11 siblings together and bonded. This was easy for him considering he was sensitive, caring,  selfless and just .His mother Sundari was his weakness right till the day she passed away.

I had the privilege and good fortune to have him around for 16 years of my life and I thank God everyday for that.

His mission in life was people and more people. When I was little I thought  Malpe was his kingdom and he was the king. In every sense he was- be it settling matters, meting out justice, taking care of his people- he no doubt was the uncrowned king- trusted and loved by all. So to say, we didn't even have a police station in our village. With my dad around we didn't need one.

A business whiz, he took the fishing industry to another level altogether, putting Malpe on the world map; at the same time giving gainful employment to hundreds. Apart from that, he worked really hard for the upliftment and betterment of everyone here; and he could do it pretty easily, considering his connections in the length and breadth of India. No one would refuse him. They couldn't. Because whatever he  asked was for others.

He married a girl from a smaller village, who was straight out of school, with no exposure whatsoever, plain and naive. He gave her a home, 7 children and all luxuries anyone would ever want. But what he gifted her was her own path, individuality, identity and recognition all over India. With his unstinting support and guidance she became a MLA and later on a minster, which meant she had to move to Bangalore, leaving her brood behind with her husband. He didn’t mind a bit, neither did we, coz life with him was totally chilled out. She led such a hectic life, attending  cabinet meetings, addressing public rallies, inaugurations and what not. But did my dad mind? Not once. I remember seeing a picture of him handing over  a bouquet to her in a function where she was the chief guest and he was just an invitee. Did he feel inferior or insecure? Never. ( he had a larger than life, simply sparkling and powerful personality of his own which was way above anyone else’s) He took immense pride in her achievements, from a insignificant village girl to a stylish, well travelled,  worldly wise and accomplished woman. When my mother felt guilty and told my dad that she wants to quit politics to take care of her family, his words were " In a state of 5 crores people,  only 2 women are in the cabinet and you are one of them. Stay there'.” Do you know  any man like him? So selfless and giving?

Though he left her a widow at the age of 42, he made sure , apart from wealth, she was  well positioned,  independent and  empowered -personally and politically. Something, no money or power in this world can buy .

Though we were born with the proverbial golden spoon in our mouth, at no point of time, we were allowed to feel superior to or better than others. ( today when I see the nouvaue riche showing off I am so amused). Though we had some privileges, like traveling to school in a car, we had to remain down to earth and simple; more than that respectful and polite to all, including domestic help. 

Our house, aptly named Swagatham, had streams of people flowing in all day long- some for help, some to chit chat, settling issues and a hundred other reasons. Not one was turned away or left unattended. Beverages were served to every visitor, whether he was the chief minister , royalty or an ordinary labourer. No discrimination, no  special privileges- everyone in my fathers kingdom, were  equal and second to none.

Though his busy schedule left little time for parenting, he led by example, he showed through his actions; he taught us by his deeds. Every single day was a reinforcement of kindness and lending a helping hand.

A simple  man , who wore just white; sandals most of the time, went around in an Ambassador car sitting in the front with his driver ( again a sign of equality), did not eat without feeding , did not take without offering , did not enjoy without sharing .

He did not compromise on his ethics, principals, integrity, values, beliefs, duties and responsibilities.

I realised the truth and  magnitude of my father’s  nature, generosity and selflessness  when I was campaigning for my mother’s election two years after his death. There was not a SINGLE house where ( as I was informed) that he did not help- be it for education, medical, marriage, building of the house, justice given, visited socially, comforted, supported, protected, shared. I had NO idea about this colossal level of altruism  until then . He gave even when he had so little. What his right hand gave, his left  didn't know. He did not talk about it or let anyone else proclaim it to the world. He kept no account, had zero expectations, wanted absolutely nothing in return. He gave- because he wanted to, he loved to. Because that was what made him what he was.  The more I heard about him, the more I was in awe of this man who sired me.

He left us at the young age of 52 even though his mission in life wasn't complete. Even in his death, he gave. He ensured we lacked nothing. The standards he set -be it personally, professionally or socially are impossible for me to reach. The legacy he left  is way beyond me to carry it forward. Maybe I can do justice to it in another life.

But the richest, most meaningful  and the best compliment I receive often from the people of my village is when they  tell me- “ You are so much like your father” , though I am not even half the person he was. He was just one in a millennium.