The following are attempts at recollecting written thoughts, jot-downs and observations of our fathers through handwriting, ink, impressions and paper to indulge in meaning-making together with them, all in retrospect.
“Tring-tring tring-tring announces my arrival
Kids get me as their first gift Tricycle”
(... it went on to talk about Uncle Motorcycle and the like)
-‘Autobiography of a Bicycle’ by Venkateswaran Gopalan sometime in the early 2000s.
Little Janani only knew of her Appa’s writing when an elocution competition was imminent, and she had to place first lest The Ikusdeep Singh with his enviable oratory skills stood in front of her during the Prize Distribution Ceremony. And so she would charge up to her father with her best impression of puppy dog eyes and well, it usually worked out for the best.
Fast-forward to a much older Janani now aspiring to be a journalist; I frantically hunt for the (aforementioned) bicycle piece for a father’s day article, and stumble upon what looks like a diary. Sifting through the pages, I find records of carnatic music concerts dating back to 1989, with musings and details that might usually miss the other person’s eye. Shuttling between the arts, his corporate career and the rest of the world, Appa can tell you why Kamal Haasan is the best actor there ever was and the worst politician there ever will be.
(Janani Venkateswaran on her appa)
Carrying pocket sized notebooks to keep account of business, every day expenditure and income, my father uses the spare, sparse pages left in them to sometimes jot down his thoughts on various ideas and themes.
Used to keep a rough account of transactions (just as used by his father), his writing in these would be refined and poetic. He'd write these thoughts and then out of shyness lest it be discovered, he'd toss those pages in the bin. He'd even write on the backside of torn envelopes and expired invitations. Many of these thoughts have landed in the bin and never again seen daylight. Hence, these couldn't be called his journals.
After raking up a pile of old memos, my mother tried to salvage some of the pieces. A few hours later after discovering the piece, over a meal, I ask him if he wrote it when he missed my grandmother. He nods with a melancholic smile, I've rarely seen on his face. A few moments later, he boasts of his flamboyant writing and lofty thoughts, and burst into laughter.
(Chavi Mehta on her papa)
2005, having been stationed at Wellington, a small town near Ooty, my father was given the rare opportunity to dabble in his secret talent of writing. During the course, his colleagues would find him with a pen and a paper, waiting for inspiration to hit. This particular piece later got published in the monthly magazine, where he spoke at length about his experience at Wellington as a junior officer. And true to his nature, you’ll see them to be filled with dad jokes, the one’s he is truly proud of. Years later, in 2019, his talent for writing and cracking dad jokes met at the “vote of thanks” part of my Arangetram.
(MS Ananya on her appa)
Jotted down notes while watching a yoga video on YouTube, an old school scholar's habits have stayed by his side.
His words on a quaint notepad will ensure a healthy yoga schedule for the entire family. The early riser has had constant dedication for his disciplinarian ways, right from the days when he was preparing for his MBBS exams till today, when his daughter is trying to step into his warrior shoes.
Apart from sketching out workout schedule and scrawnily writing prescriptions, my favourite negotiator had a penchant for written agreements when I was little. We both would conspicuously sign on papers, the content of which assured that I will drink a glass of milk twice a day.
Once, I recall, he wrote his favourite lines of a poem, which he remembers verbatim, to dilute the stress that accompanied my board examinations. Amidst misplaced sheets of paper and hazy memories, my father's comfort with pens and cute annoyance with smartphone typing has stayed consistent.
//बाधाएं आती हैं आएं
घिरें प्रलय की घोर घटाएं,
पांवों के नीचे अंगारे,
सिर पर बरसें यदि ज्वालाएं,
निज हाथों से हंसते-हंसते,
आग लगाकर जलना होगा।//
(Vaishnavi Singh on her papa)