A few days after my father underwent his surgery, his sutures were removed, and we had a review meeting with the neuro surgeon.
My Babayya accompanied me in this meeting. The nuero surgeon after enquiring with my father who we were, asked him, ‘Tell me, who is better among these two, your son or your brother? Give me a diplomatic answer’.
My father without hesitation said, ‘Both are better than me’.
The nuero surgeon had a hearty laugh.
* * *
That was my father for you, who always had a repartee or a question ready, even when he was not in the best of his health. But that day, I did not imagine in my wildest dreams that it would be a last spark of his original self that endeared him to a host of people within and outside the family.
In the months to come, the ailment he had, slowly shut-off all the facets of his magical mind, much like the switching of a huge video wall in the last scene of the movie “The Dark Knight”, and breathed his last before our very own eyes. All of this happened in less than 100 days.
While my father’s friends and our elders consoled us, that he passed away without much suffering and that we did the best possible within our reach and that we took very good care of him, the uneasiness in the form of a hundred questions unanswered, still lingers. It was as if the worst possible prognosis came true in my father’s case, both in terms of the disease and the time it had left us with. He simply disappeared, or rather walked briskly away from our midst (like he usually does), changing us forever, and splitting our life into ‘before’ and ‘after’ him.
It will be tough to recollect and tie together all the memories we shared with him into a coherent tale, as each memory in itself is worth a long recount.
So, here is an attempt to reflect on a few, and what they mean to me.
- My father, during his three decades of association in the entertainment industry, came in touch with hundreds of people, and in the process created and influenced many careers. But, he neither took credit for their success nor was he jealous about their rise. He was as self-assured as anyone can get and this was his defining characteristic.
- Very often, my father would talk about treating sub-ordinates and strangers with care and affection. I make it a point to remember and act on it, even though my abrasive behavior takes over, every now and then.
- I cannot recollect a single moment in my father’s life where he felt dejected or rejected. He somehow had that knack to brush aside the gloom and always look at the ray of hope hidden. He was a quintessential ‘in-this-moment’ kind of guy, who responded instinctively to life, and yet keeping an eye for a brighter future.
- He had the knack of spotting new opportunities much before others and to go all out to convert them. Let it be the first sponsored serial in Hyderabad Doordarshan or the first Telugu programme on Zee TV, he spared no effort to make things happen. He would have made a great sales ‘hunter’ in the corporate world. I will always remember his perseverance during his dozens of visits to Mumbai (sometimes even by a bus) to close the deal with Zee TV.
- Having seen my father at ease with both success and failure, and with comforts or the lack of it, it is always a constant reminder for me, to keep my balance during the crests and troughs of life.
- During very early on in my life, he treated me and my brother as his equal and exposed us to his life and experiences in whatever shape and form possible. He influenced my career to a large extent by initiating me both into the world of Computers and Entertainment. (He suggested that I learn computers when I flunked engineering entrance for the first time and later, he did not make it an issue when I left my first job after engineering to pursue a course in Animation. Both, I consider very big give aways in a middle class family, where career and settling in life always meant choosing a well trodden path and taking no risks).
- My father and I used to have many arguments about quite a few things. He was often exasperated (and sometimes amazed) that I questioned and argued about the merit of several of his views, which his friends from the media and entertainment industry considered as the ultimate in authority and immediate pen worthy. My rejoinder was that it was the luxury of being his son which only my brother and I could afford. (I will have to confess that my father is a tad better than me when accepting criticism from known and unknown quarters, and it will be in the back of my mind to be more receptive and less one sided as I keep getting older).
* * *
I could have probably just avoided saying all of the above and simply put that “My father was a great influence on me and I will miss him a lot.”
But true to a sobriquet he bestowed on me (SONA-SOdi NArayana), I guess, I had to indulge in a few words.