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Remembering my father

He died of cardiac arrest at the age of 76 without any physical suffering.

Rup Narayan Das | New Delhi |

I lost my father, whom we called Bapa, in 1993 and not a day has passed since when I do not remember him. As I try to recapture the earliest memory of Bapa, I remember him taking me seated on the child seat fitted on his bicycle to the Police Line field in our town, Balasore, for the Republic Day Parade. This is my faintest memory of Bapa.

He was a revenue supervisor when he retired from the service of the state government and was last posted in Balasore. In those days, salaries were not remitted to the bank account; in fact Bapa didn’t even have a bank account. He used to draw his monthly salary in cash from the local treasury.

On salary day, while returning from office on his cycle, he would stop at the Bombay Canteen at Motiganj Bazar to buy ‘puri’, ‘alu dum’ and ‘rasagolla’ for dinner at home and we would relish the sumptuous meal together. On other days, he would bring fruits – mostly mangoes during summer – and sometimes vegetables.

Ahead of Durga Puja, he would take us to a Gujarati cloth shop, seat us on the vinyl floor and ask for shirt and pant pieces. Either Bapa would pay cash or the owner, Mr Jatania, would willingly extend credit. Bapa would then take us to the tailor and ask him to stitch the clothes before the Puja.

On Dussehra day, he would try to requisition the office jeep, a vintage Land Rover, to enable us to see Puja pandals in town. Bapa lost his parents when he was a toddler. He was an indulgent father and showered us with bounties of love.

When he would go on tour, and if the Tahsildar allowed him use of the office jeep, sometimes he would take me with him. I would enjoy the ride and the revenue inspectors, his subordinates in the revenue circle, would treat us to frugal meals. These were courtesies extended to him, as Bapa was regarded as a highly honest officer who would spurn any attempt to bribe him. Being the revenue officer in charge of land records, his position was fraught with such pitfalls, but he never succumbed. So much so that when he retired, we did not even have a house to live in.

He was also a highly spiritually inclined person and always kept the Gita by his bedside. I do not know whether he read it or not; nevertheless he was guided by its lofty ideals and internalised its values in his daily life.

He died of cardiac arrest at the age of 76 without any physical suffering. But I always feel he should have lived longer. I regret I couldn’t pamper him as a son although he was never wanting in his filial indulgence.