On August 16, 1992, my father helped me initiate the next phase of my journey in life.
It was my birthday, and we were traveling from Amritsar to Chandigarh with my cousin, Jasjeet, and his dad. I bid farewell to my mother and got in the car. The monsoon season in north India our journey wet throughout. I remember excited to be going somewhere new, a bit afraid to be away from folks I have lived with thus far. A month earlier, my father had helped me decide to go to PEC, Chandigarh instead of Delhi where Delhi College of Engineering had a “drug problem” as he put it.
As we reached my engineering school that would be my home for the next 4 years, our fathers helped us settle to our assigned room – room #238. I heard a lot of commotion and stepped out in the corridor. All the rooms were being filled in, some boys had parents with them, others on their own. I met a skinny guy next door, with his parents. That was Ajju. Further down there were three boys from Bathinda – Pompy, Numi, and Deepu.
Then, I realized, my father wasn’t around. As we locked the door and walked downstairs, I saw my dad standing half-way in a door, of a small room. As I walked closer, I realized it was the hostel warden. I saw my dad was tipping him (a practice fairly common in India, at least back then). He saw me and introduced me to the warden, who said, “Don’t worry, son. You will be fine”. Then he walked to another room down the hall, which was labeled “Phone room”. A short guy was sitting next to the landline (we didn’t have cell phones back then), our phone attendant. He asked him the hours when he is on duty, noted them on a piece of paper, placed it in his pocket, and tipped him too.
A couple of hours later, both my cousin’s dad and my father were ready to leave to travel back home. My dad gave me a hug and told me that he will call me every day when I return to the hostel after my classes. All I said with teary eyes was “OK”.
28 years later, as I am writing this, I have to say, he has kept his promise. My father (and my mother) have called me every day since, wherever I am in the world. I cannot recall a single day that they haven’t tried to reach me. The cell phones (and my family) have made it easier to find me. They still call me.
Now, I am in the same stage in life when my daughter is getting ready to embark on a similar journey of her life. And I hope I can do the same.
Happy Father’s Day, indeed.
June 21, 2020