LESSONS I HAVE LEARNED FROM MY DAD
These last 10 days have been harrowing ones. I was in Hong kong for a show, when my dad fell ill. Racing to Bombay to be with him whilst he was in the hospital and trying to be as much of a backup for my mum, as was possible, has been hard. In the helter-skelter run to India via Singapore from Hong Kong, I completely forgot about Father’s Day. Which is tomorrow!
Over the last week whilst sitting at his bedside, I have spent a lot of time thinking about my dad, his life, and his work ethic. With phone calls flooding in, from family, friends, neighbours and people he used to work with before he retired, 4 years ago, I see my dad not just as my dad, but also as a man, as someone other people know.
Somehow no matter how old you are, when you are with your parents and your immediate family, you tend to fall into familiar routines and patterns. Mine has always been that of the peacemaker; the daughter my dad listens to, the family negotiator. In these patterns, what one doesn't realise that there is another whole play of patterns and behaviours that you might be oblivious to, which affect the outcome of every conversation and interaction.
Completely eschewing the time honoured card, and wishes, this year I decided to write down a list of lessons I have learned from my dad. I use these in my life every single day, and since I founded Lustre, even more so.
My dad came from a modest background. He lost his father when he was 14, and started working the day after his 10th grade. There were no fancy schools, no college educations, no counsellors suggesting a course of action. There was instead the urgency to contribute and help out as much as he could, his own mother. He worked hard, he is thrifty, and even today finds it hard to be extravagant or wasteful with money or resources. He recycled long before it became fashionable; he has learned to fix just about anything including car engines, leaky faucets, and has built furniture from scratch. All because he had to. Not because it was cool, or because it was a hobby.He retired at the age of 72, after working with the same company for over 50 years. Think about it - there are buildings and monuments that have a shorter life than that. In this day and age, when people jump from one job to another ( especially once that guaranteed payout period is over ) this is an achievement that none of my friends can even begin to fathom.
“Didn't you get bored?” I remember a friend asking him - Whilst he never answered that, and though it took me a decade to come to the right answer, he didn't have time to get bored. He was too busy working hard.
This is a short list of things I have learned from my dad.
Today in the “me first” generation, where every organisation is just a stepping stone up a ladder, loyalty seems like an old fashioned thing. Something to be discarded.
What most of us don't understand is that Loyalty doesn't “just happen.” It’s something that occurs when you practice a lifelong habit of gratitude for the chances you have been given, by someone, or something; by an opportunity. Its always easy to be swayed, and I am sure that there were chances that he gave up, always mindful of the fact that when he needed help, he was helped out by the firm in which he eventually became the director of.
For years, my dad had in his office cabin, a print out of a saying by Sam Ewing - "Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don't turn up at all.”
My dad always turned up with his sleeves rolled up, ready to commit and work hard. He went on business trips, he missed out on a lot of our childhood, and always worked hard. He started an auto workshop on weekends as a further challenge. He operated on a routine that you could set a clock by, and was always on time.
BUILD GOOD RELATIONSHIPS | NICENESS GOES A LONG WAY
At the firm that my dad worked for, his relationships with his clients went back years. We grew up learning those names, and over the years, meeting those people. They sent my dad gifts at Diwali, and mangoes in the summers, to thank him for the business he created for them.The word “nice” is considered in our times to be a banal word, a beige word, a word that you reach from when you are either lazy or have a limited vocabulary. But it isn’t. “Nice” in my father's work and life ethic meant that you were polite, humorous, punctual, and responsible. He has always believed that being nice, especially in times of conflict and heated arguments gets you heard far louder than any amount of shouting. He rarely shouts and prefers a slow simmer than an all-out screaming match, even when he is really mad. Being a quick boiler in my youth, now I find even more wisdom in this attitude of his, and am learning to take a step back and be nice, especially when dealing with delayed shipments, or manufacturing processes gone wrong.
Nice definitely goes a long way.
HELP THOSE IN NEED
Seriously - this never needs explaining. Over the years, I have met so many people who have been helped by my dad. Whether it was hungry juniors whose potential he saw or people who worked for him that needed money or assistance, or sick relatives that he helped out visited with food, and took care of medically, my dad has done it all. I try to remember this when someone calls me and says that they are just starting a venture and would I meet with them to chat about “stuff”. Or a friend who needs help. Sometimes I am on top of it, and sometimes I fail. But the awareness is always there, followed by the guilt when I do fail.
All parents are for life.
And while a relationship between a mother and her child is an instinctive, ferocious and protective one, the bond between a father and his daughter is for life; A sacred and a wonderful thing.
Happy Father’s day to all the dads in your life.