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Human Relationships

An Old Man’s Wisdom

Foreword by Soumi Haldar: This Father’s Day weekend we were very happy as the families were together after a long time. The children were having a blast with the fathers. And we had an abundance of stories for Father’s Day. Amidst all this, I kept thinking of the picture I had taken of Piya and her dad a few years ago and kept wondering why she was not writing anything for the occasion. Here is a post we want and need the world to read about.
It was a phenomenal week of storytelling at Chatoveracuppa last week. We heard from Dads. We heard about Dads. Raw emotions. Real stories. Life Lessons. Real Pictures. Memories. In all the stories there was one common aspect. We imbibe so much from just observing our parent in our growing up years. We may not have valued it then but we treasure it now.
I read, edited and published a few of those stories. Sadly, with a lump in my throat, all the while remembering my old man. It was not a super happy father’s day week or even a weekend for him. I drew a blank and did not know what to write about my own father. And then this morning, while going through some of my old posts on my personal blog, I stumbled upon this piece. This is for the man who taught me endurance in the face of adversity, who ingrained tolerance in me and who taught me to be content.
My Dad was the original author of my personal blog, the original storyteller. Throughout his life he has worked 6 days a week and 12 hours a day to generate zillions of megawatts of electricity to light up homes in India. We forced him to retire two years back. He is in his seventies and has survived three heart attacks (the last one nearly took his life).

He wears a couple of stents in his heart along with his salt and pepper hair, both very sportingly. He tells me often that he looks at least 10 years younger than his age. I kind of agree with him. A man of few words but of brilliant eloquence when he speaks. A man of principles and he is too rigid about them. Like Ma aptly says he cannot even lie to save his own life. Very true.

I inherited his looks, his voice (to an extent only), his handwriting, his mannerisms, his determination, his endurance, his sense of contentment and his nature to worry all the time (Yes my dad and I are enough to worry for an entire nation). My principles are not as strong as his and Ma taught me to lie enough to save my life.

I realized he had pampered me just too much when on my first day in the boarding school I realized I did not know how to tie my shoe laces. I was 12 years old then. I realized his sense of achievement when I got my first job while he was recuperating from one of the heart attacks. I realized he was too possessive about me the day I told him about the husband. I realized he believed in me the day he gave my hand off to the husband. And I realized I had to share his love for me the day my kids were born.

He also taught me the single most important lesson of my life – the difference between my needs and my wants. He sent me to a boarding school where kids generally came from very affluent families. We could just about afford it. He knew I would see some mismatch and told me this one thing that I still remember. “What you need I will provide that for you, but what you want (is not necessarily something that you may need) is something that you will have to create yourself.”
I lived through many such mismatches in the years that followed and that one statement stayed on with me. It enabled me to appreciate what I had. What I did not have didn’t disturb me. It kept me grounded. Looking back, I think he could have provided a little more. But he did not because he knew I will then forget to appreciate what I have. He instilled in me that belief that I could create things for myself. And today when I have much more I know it was all worth it.

The husband comes from an equally modest background and knows well what it means not to have it all. So now that we are attempting to instill that into our kids, we are also realizing it is not easy. As a parent you want to provide your children with everything that you have access to and in turn forget that it could be overwhelming for them. Or that they can take the provision for granted. How do you balance it? How do you provide such that it is just right? How do you draw the line? Isn’t it true that we, the new age parents, are the ones that introduce our children to the plethora of choices and then blame them for getting addicted to it?

I have seen so many homes with more toys than the child could play with, more gadgets than what is appropriate for the child’s age, more accessories than what a girl child can probably wear in her lifetime, more time on TV/ Laptop /IPAD than what is really required and more junk food than what the child should eat. Do children really need to be on social networking sites? Whatever just happened to playgrounds and classrooms? And this one irks the hell out of me – a house turned into a Disney Pixar or Nicklodeon museum with the amount of theme toys and stuff. The children did not make those choices, the parents did.
In attempting to be a good parent and making the right choices as a parent, we always remember our own parents. This post is my way of just doing that. I hope my old man is listening.
This post has been contributed by our one half of chatoveracuppa, Piya Mukherjee and has been specially written for her dad. 

My Daddy’s Day

My mobile phone screen flashed the sixteenth message declaring an unmissable offer for the Father’s day – a discount of ten per cent on a day spa, a free glass of wine, shirts, bags – you name it and I have it in the inbox. I just checked the latest one declaring a complimentary stay at a hotel exclusively for fathers and put the damn thing on silent mode. The screen continued to flash. Father’s day – one day marked on the calendar exclusively for dads. I peep into the boys’ room and I find them making greeting cards, evident from shreds of paper and open bottles of paint strewn all over the floor next to a sleeping dog with a tinge of blue in his fur. I quietly leave as I didn’t want to be flooded with requests for being their art critic of the day.
It is Saturday, and I have missed all last minute enticing offers for Father’s day tomorrow. I am not a cynic. I do not turn and scoff at all the days that have cropped up in our side of the world during the last two decades or so. In fact I think it is a nice idea to stop once in a while and thank the people who matter, make them feel loved and in case of Father’s Day, make them feel like the Marvel Superhero that they are.  As far as the discounted goods are concerned – I shall give it  a miss. Do fathers really need gifts? Of course not! A superhero just needs his cape. Gifts are to make sure a bunch of companies do not shut shop.
‘So what are you going to give nana, mum?’ Vivaan asked without looking up from the final piece of a quilted flower that he was sticking on to his card. ‘What do you think? Will papa like this?’ He didn’t wait for my answer and I ended up where I didn’t want to be – the critic who couldn’t truly be critical. As he ran off, I thought about his question – what was I going to give him? What could I give him? Can any discount coupon or a complimentary spa day really thank the one and only superman there is?
The proverbial ‘our times’ never had a special day designated to celebrate the man who mattered the most. Moms always got the cuddles but fathers mostly hid behind knitted brows and a bushy mustache. But every once in a while the cape showed and they saved the world – like the day I came back with all limbs scratched from a bicycle race that had happened too soon. The boys had sped past and jeered at my wobbly pedaling. Obviously I chased, sped past but couldn’t apply breaks. Papa’s favourite medicine for scrapes and cuts was the Old Spice After-shave. It stung. His remedy– he’d give us his hand to bite on. The more it stung, the harder we bit and he quietly dressed our wounds. As we grew older, he got many bites.
Having grown into an obnoxious teenager, birthdays were more resentful than fun. On one such birthday, mum and dad decided to take me shopping. Halfway through south extension market, mum and I were not talking since I couldn’t make up my mind about what I wanted and worse appeared mostly disinterested. The superman, however, believed (and still does) that birthdays are special days even for the kids who were bent upon being a pain in the backside. So from south ex we went to Karol Bagh and anyone who knows Delhi would understand that parking a car there required a particularly high level of commitment to the cause of shopping. That was equally disastrous and the two women bickered more but he very patiently drove us to Connaught Place. And the disgruntled teenager was suddenly transformed into a wide-eyed six year old. He bought me my first aquarium. That one smile on my face seemed to have erased all that I had put them through. So how do you thank the man for being so patient and resisting whacking me that day. I know now that I would have driven my boys back home from the first shop they acted like brat. But he didn’t – birthdays had to be truly special.
Last evening while driving back, Ishaan asked, ‘Mum who is going to teach me how to drive?’ He likes to have all things cleared way before hand.
‘I will or maybe papa can. Nana taught me, you know.’
His groans of disapproval were drowned by the smile that found its way on my face. Grand Trunk Road, twenty years ago, he sat beside me as I drove at barely thirty km/h . The honking from the cars behind me was making me nervous and he calmed me down. I still remember the confidence in his voice when he said , ‘Bebu, You keep driving, Whoever is in a hurry can always overtake.’ I will never know if he was freaking out on the inside, as at that moment all I could see was his cape.
All it takes to brighten up his face is his children. You need to see his eyes that easily brim over on hearing anyone mention how great his kids have turned out.  He’ll never admit it though. Supermen are tough that way. From baking a chocolate cake in a pan to buying the hottest trend of the times – a balloon skirt – he has done it all. He has never written elaborate cards and rarely reciprocated ‘I love you’s ’ with ‘me too’ – it is mostly a hesitant ‘thanks.’ Yet, I know that for him the only people that matter may be a tad bit more than his two kids are his grand-kids. Yeah, those four buggers are blatantly stealing our thunder now. Nevertheless, I remain his princess and bhaiya(brother) his shining star. The younger lot are more like the adorable pixies.
Then, is a day enough to thank the belief he has in us? We could fall, stumble, scrape our knees all over again but we will never be afraid for we know that there is a man standing behind us (with his cape flowing behind him) who believes we can reach the farthest star. No, a single day is not enough but it sure is a nice way of letting him know all over again that he is the best in the business.
So while the pixies are painting an elaborate card and planning an exquisite breakfast for their father, I am doing nothing. Like every year I will call him and wish him and he will say ,’ What Father’s day? It’s all a gimmick!’ followed by a whisper of a thanks when I tell him , ‘I love you papa.’

Story Credit And Photo Credit : Dr.Tanushree Singh. Tanushree is a frequent storyteller at Chatoveracuppa. She is a parent to two boys, a lecturer in Psychology and has a very interesting perspective on bringing up children and is a blogger herself. She blogs at

Daddy’s Little Girl

Come “Poojor Chuti” – Puja Holidays(an annual festival celebrated in eastern states of India. The festivities are similar to those of Christmas in many parts of the world) and we were away from Calcutta every year to some new destination. This was almost the only time of year when my father – Baba as I called him, would give himself a long leave to be exclusively with us. Every morning we would wake up, get ready in a new dress and off we would go sightseeing – a passion among most Bengalis’!
This time it was Shimla, magnificent mountains, picturesque Gothic churches etc and my father clicking away pictures of us – it was fun. It was also the only time of the year when we could go shopping with him and knew that all our wishes would be granted!
I chose a lovely pair of white shoes but even before I could wear them, a huge monkey got in through the big window of the hotel room and right in front of our eyes disappeared with the box of shoes. I was about ten years old then, and the tears would not stop! My Ma, Dida, Dadu (my grandparents) all tried to console me but to no effect. Then a while later I saw my Baba entering with a similar pair of shoes – he had quietly gone out to the market, nobody knew when – that was my father. 
My growing up years had several such instances. So on Father’s Day – these sweet memories crop up and the girl in me lives once more.
Story Credit : Nandita Hazra 
If you were to meet Nandita in person, you will get to hear a new story every other minute as part of your conversation. She is just a natural storyteller and her style of storytelling is very engaging.So when we asked her to write down a story for us, it took her just a few minutes to write this story. She wrote this remembering her Dad on Father’s Day. 
The Chatoveracuppa team wishes all the Dads a very Happy Father’s Day.

Papa I Love You, My Son I Love You

During our growing up years, we tend to scrutinize our parents, we expect them to be the best at everything and have the answers for all our problems. When we become parents ourselves, this thought process makes a quick shift towards pragmatism. There is never a “perfect” parent. There is nothing called as “perfect” parenting. We simply learn from the small day to day things that we observe about our parents.

In today’s story, a son reflects back on his relationship with his Dad and his expectation from him. In doing so, he conveys an immensely important message to his son this Father’s Day. 

When I was asked to write a post on Father’s Day for the Chatoveracuppa blog, I got thinking what I should write. Shall I write about my dad or about my son, and then I penned down this based on first thoughts that came across my mind.
The first thought that came to my mind was the way I used to feel about my Dad during my growing up years and my thoughts amazed me. I usually focused on my Dad’s shortcomings and wished many a times if he can be like fathers of few of my friends.  But now when I am a father myself, I laugh at those thoughts of mine.
My dad was a man of few words; he never played many games with us (me & my brother) and never told us how we should lead our life. But everything he did was to make our lives better!
Vivek’s DAD
The other thing I realize now is children learn best from NOT what is told but what they see & experience. The BIGGEST lesson that I learnt from my Dad is how we should treat the people less fortunate compared to us, from rickshawallah to the cobbler. He used to treat them with great humility and that gave him a lot of joy. And very recently I discovered I had got this gift from him. I am a Dad myself now and my father’s shortcomings are not part of my memory. His lessons and examples of his life are. For that, this Father’s Day I just want to say “Papa, I love you.”
To my son, this is what I want to say. I know I am not the BEST Dad in the world and I have many shortcomings. But I only want & wish the BEST for you. I am very proud of you and I know that you would grow to be a lovely human being.  And “I love you so much”
Vivek And His Son
Story And Photo Credit : Vivek Kalra 

The Memory That Did Not Fade

The author of the story requested for a blank photo-frame to go with the picture. 

Foreword By Soumi Haldar : Throughout the week we have heard stories that poured an overwhelming amount of emotions from Dads. Quite unexpectedly, my own father shared a personal memoir with us that took me unawares. Father’s Day held a different meaning for him than what I had always thought it did.
I never knew or heard of the phrase “Father’s Day” till I reached the age of 55. By that time my daughter was out of the university and had embarked on her professional career.  Since that time, she, and later my son-in-law wish me “Happy Father’s Day” on a particular day of the year. I often wondered what the theme behind this “aspiration” is. Because in my perception, my memory, my nearness and attachment with my “father and the word” is a blank slate.
In my life span only one day and one particular incidence about my father faintly peeps in my mind.
I spent my childhood with my grandmother in a remote village, few kilometers away from the new residing place of my parents, brothers and sisters. My father was a doctor. He had got his medical degree from Calcutta Medical Collage in those days. He was a successfully practicing doctor and I heard later that he was not in the best of health. I was told that the day I was born he treated a patient and received Rs 900 in a single day. Unbelievable in those days but it is true and it happened.
I was studying in the local “patshala” (village school) with all children of the village under a single thatched roof. I was seven or eight years old. I used to love swimming in the ponds and small rivers, playing with the children, plucking fruits from the orchards, acting out small plays in the evening. Grandma used to tell stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata at bedtime and I used to slip into deep sleep with lot of dreams.
One early morning grandma woke me up and told me not to attend school. She had got a message that we had to visit my parents. We walked a long way on narrow paths between the paddy fields. We reached by noon. I saw that a body was lying on the floor covered with a white cloth. All the family members and relatives were sitting around the body and crying. I also sat without any realization of the situation. The only photographer of the area came and took a picture. The faded picture is still hanging in the house and none of the people in it are recognizable. That is the only photograph of me with my father. Soon the elderly people left for cremation leaving us the youngsters. That is the only memory of me with my father.
Time passes in its own way. The Father’s Day comes every year. I remember him and wish that “his great eternal, all-pervading, stable, immovable and primeval soul may rests in peace in the eternity of God”. I believe that I am fortunate to have lived in his presence even if for little time. “Happy Father’s Day”.
Story Credit : Swapan Haldar 

A Man Of His Words

Kranthi and his son

Foreword by Piya Mukherjee : Continuing with the stories sent by Dad and about Dads. Today’s story is written by Kranthi Bydida. Up until this story I had known him through his work behind the lens, his photographs. He is a visual storyteller. But in this story it reflects he is a storyteller at heart, regardless of the medium.

Today’s story is about life lessons and lasting impressions. In the story, a Dad reminisces the most valuable lesson learnt in his life. This Dad has in turn learnt it from his own Dad, his role model. And he intends to pass it on to his own son now.

We decided to sell our apartment and build a bigger home where we could live as a joint family with my grandparents and uncles. I didn’t like the idea of moving and it was a big deal to me but my dad convinced me it was for everyone’s good. Soon, a neighbor offered to buy our home and entered into a verbal agreement with my dad (I was told).  With a heavy heart I resigned to the fact that nothing can alter the sale and we have to move on. 

After a few days, my uncle told me that there was another buyer interested in buying our home and was offering a substantially higher price than the previous offer. But my dad declined. I casually brought this up one night after dinner while watching TV, “Daddy, why didn’t you accept the better offer? After all you have not accepted any advance (payment) or signed any paperwork yet, right? ”. I will never forget my dad’s reply. “…but I gave him my word and I cannot take it back. I wouldn’t be a man of my word if I change my mind and take up the better offer now, would I?” 

This moment will always be etched in my memory. There was neither hesitation nor regret on his face. I’ve learnt a lot from my dad over the years and he is my role model. I hope to be the same to my son and pass along so many invaluable lessons I learnt from my dad. 

This Father’s day, let’s celebrate the first man in our lives who made us what we are today. Happy Father’s Day ! 

Story and Photo Credit : Kranthi Bydida 

The Bond Of Fatherhood

Vivek and his daughter

Foreword by Piya Mukherjee: It had been a phenomenal week of storytelling at Chatoveracuppa so far. We set out to celebrate Dads. Sukanya opened the week with a thought provoking post – “ChoicesWe Make”. Phalgun shared a wonderful story remembering his dad – “To Be Or Not toBe” and Barbara enriched us by talking about Russ yesterday. We have been reaching out to all the Dads we personally know. Our Inbox has been full with such stories since. Stories written by Dads and about Dads. It is raining Daddy stories so to say and we are getting goosebumps as we read each one of them. Simple and raw emotions. Moms, take a note. 
For this story, it took very little persuasion from me to make Vivek, our today’s storyteller and a Dad, to write about his take on fatherhood. He is an extremely fun, happy, super energetic and a perfect buddy kind of Dad. He is that way as a person too. You can tell he is his daughter’s best friend.This is what he has to say…
It was June 12, 2008 when my father’s words – “You will know when you become a father…” dawned on me. Fatherhood has been a roller coaster ride since then :). Being father of an adventure loving and extrovert girl has kept that adrenaline rush going. It feels as if I am traveling in a warp drive when in reality I want to play freeze tag.
It was just yesterday when I held her in my arms for the first time with her eyes wide open trying to explore this new world and today she is talking to me, in fact trying hard to educate me, about everything she has explored so far. 

Every day brings something new – a new story, a new perspective, etc. but there is one thing which is very vivid and has not changed for as long as it goes back –
As it gets close to sleeping time she cuddles up in her bed and utters two words, “Pappi…. story”.
Then she gives directions for the story. that it should have a monster, a little girl, some friends, etc. etc. Anyways, I tell her a story before she sleeps but the funny part is I have been telling the exact same story, word by word, for the last 3.5 yrs and she still loves it.
What it tells me is that it was never the story which was important, its the bond and the desire which keeps it rolling…..
Story and Photo Credit: Vivek Singh

Role Reversal

A few years back I finally took retirement after 45 years in the workforce. After my retirement, people suggested various things that I should do. But there is only one thing that I most look forward to. My yearly trips to my daughter’s house to be with my grandchildren. My granddaughter is a very good friend of mine and I get to spend a lot of time with my friend. She calls me Dadu. With her I become a child again and we do a lot of fun and mischievous things together. We have to do all of this without letting my granddaughter’s mom know about it. My granddaughter’s mom is my own daughter who happens to be quite a strict mother. We have to do a lot of things secretly and this makes it more fun. Trying to keep secrets from my own daughter and being afraid that she would reprimand sounds amusing. But once you have grandchildren they become more important.
On one such trip to meet my granddaughter, we went for a day trip to Carmel Beach in California. It was a sudden plan and such plans have a different charm. Carmel is a beautiful city by the beach with a lot of art galleries near the beach. After seeing some of the galleries we went to the beach. The way towards the beach had a downward slope. My granddaughter was running and pulling me along. I ran like a child behind her. My daughter kept scolding both of us. She was worried that we would fall. My granddaughter on the other hand kept saying “Run Dadu. Run. Don’t listen to Mom.”. I listened to my granddaughter.
When we reached the beach, everyone became busy with their own things. My son in law with his photography, my daughter with her infant son and we were enjoying the beach. Suddenly we noticed that my granddaughter was missing. I started looking for her and calling her name. We found her perched on the branch of a tree. We were astonished. I asked her, “How did you climb there?” She smiled at me. Her dad came and took a picture of this act.  When it was time to get down, she said “Dadu, help me get down.” I told her I am too old for that. I needed to call someone.
My son in law had again got busy with photography so I had to call my daughter. My daughter came and helped to get my granddaughter down from the tree. But it was followed with lot of questions and interrogations. “Why did you climb on the tree? Who allowed you? What if you fell down”. My granddaughter and I did not say a word. She rolled her eyes and looked at me. As soon her mother left, she said “Dadu, I am angry with you. Why did you call mom ? Have you forgotten our secret agreement?”
Whatever happens outside the house, never tell mom. This is our special agreement.
Because I broke the promise, she piggybacked on me from the beach to the car. The slope was steep and upwards now. I had to do this without my daughter noticing it. We kept ourselves at a distance from her, chatted and joked all the way. Whenever my daughter would look back, we hid behind a tree. It became a hide and seek game between us.
Roles have reversed. My daughter is the parent now. I have retired from the role. I am enjoying being a kid along with my grandchildren.
Story and Photo Credit : Ashoke Mukherjee 

A Reason To Live

A night before my scheduled routine annual checkup, I ask my daughter to pack up early for the night so that we are up early in the morning. She asks me why do I need to see a doctor and I tell her it is a routine thing. What comes next is unexpected. “Mom, are you going to die?“. I tell her that just because I am going to the doctor does not imply I am sick or I am going to die. There is a pause for few minutes and then goes off to sleep. I feel she goes to bed convinced.
I am proven wrong the next morning. Just before leaving for school, I get a tight hug from her and she says “Mom, I love you. I don’t want you to die.” Good lord! I try to convince her one more time and in doing so mention that I will see her in the evening. In the evening after school, I intentionally harp on the topic again. I tell her I am not going to die because if that were to happen who would take care of her. Spontaneously, she says that her father will. So I ask her who will make her pigtails every morning before school. She tells me her father can make ponytails and that will do. Next, I ask her about all the help with dressing, bathing, feeding etc. Pat comes the answer “Dad can do all that. He does when you are on business trips”.“What about the fun art projects?”, I ask. “Dad did a finger doodle project with me recently” is the response. I can hear the husband chuckle in the backdrop.
I give up. There is no point playing any more cards. So I tell them “Guys have fun. I can now die in peace. “
But then one morning while dropping my daughter to school an unusual conversation takes place in the car. She initiates it and here is what she had to say “Mom, actually I don’t want you to die. If you die, I will not know how to be on the good tile and not go over to the bad tile.” Now that is a profound statement to understand which you may need some background.
Like every mother on this planet earth, I am invariably always classifying the child’s act into two broad categories – Bad Job and Good Job. In doing so, I recently mentioned to her multiple times about her progression towards doing the bad jobs more often. A simple example was that if I called out for her, I needed to do that at least 5 times these days before she responded. That was earlier never the case. Progression, transition is a concept that did not gel with her. She said in a rather forthright manner, it is either a good job or bad job. Period.
The argument ended but the transition did not. This continued till a day when we were out for a walk. I don’t remember what dawned on me but while she was skipping from one concrete tile to another on a sidewalk I made this comment – “Do you see how there is a thin line between the two tiles. So let’s say one of the tile is a good tile, that is the side where all the good jobs are. The other tile is a bad tile where all the bad jobs are. As you move over the line you are moving from the bad side to the good side or vice versa. Where you want to move is entirely your wish. But you need to think of that before you jump.
Ugh! I was not exactly thrilled with this explanation later on. Perhaps that is why they say you must watch out before you speak in front of a child. The thought however resonated with her. That night before going to bed she informed in a rather pensive tone “Mom, I don’t want to be on the bad tile. I am a good girl. Can you help me to be on the good side always.” I stood dumbstruck for a moment and promised her I will. (all the time in my mind kicking myself for a bizarre analogy).
But that my friend is supposedly the reason why my daughter does not want her mother, that being me to die. The whole dying thing is in the first place is probably a bad influence of a melodramatic movie.  But who wants to die anyways. I only wish that I am always around to help her to be on the good tile or move back to the good tile knowing well she will plunge into the bad tile every now and then. We all have at some point in life and there is nothing wrong with that.  What is important is to jump back into the right tile at the right time.
Story Credit : Piya Mukherjee, mom, blogger, storyteller and the other half of chatoveracuppa. This story is based on real life incidents and conversations between the author and her daughter.

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