My dad died at an early age of 56 due to a massive heart attack, an incident too sudden and shocking to all our family members. I’m then 26 married and had two younger brothers by my side. The news was harsher for my mother who was immovable due to a major operation just a day before his demise. She has to console herself; witness and supervise the final rites of her life partner.
My dad was a self-made academician both in his deeds and traits. A doctorate in Physics from the famous Banaras Hindu University way back in 1955, and he had a brief stint teaching in Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, and a four-year long sojourn in the USA at University of North Carolina. His post-doctoral pursuit in the US was cut short abruptly due to the untimely death of his elder brother. He returned to his native place Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh in 1964.
He was medium height, a triangular face crowned with thick black and gray hair. His eyes were bright and gentle with years of devoted study and prepared to absorb anything from his vast personal library where he was found early in the morning and late nights.
A firmly set mouth always appeared ready and got into impromptu teaching on any topic encompassed in Mathematics, Physical sciences to a young boy or a grown up struggling in his post-graduation.
Vijayawada the town, in early 70’s, where my father had his primary and higher secondary education was yet to come out of its embryonic shell of cultural, social, educational standards. But his dressing etiquette was way ahead – neatly ironed white shirt, perfectly tucked into black trousers, buckled by a leather belt, well-knotted tie set with a brooch hooked to the shirt. The picture was complete when the amused neighbors and passers-by spotting my dad un-self-consciously riding on his ‘Atlas’ bicycle, with his chin up, to his workplace.
I was awed by the elegant visual feature of his attitude; the way he walked with black shoes shining and his white shirt glittering; as he marched with a proud swagger. It’s my turn when I’m still ten years old attempting how to hold the half trousers loosely fitted tight around my waist, to wonder and admire the dominance and vigor that followed my dad all along.
Ours was an extended family. We are all bunched together in our ancestral home. It had five main rooms, roughly measuring to accommodate, at present scale, a double size bed with a little over two feet maneuvering space. We are four to squeeze in, but embarrassingly, my two uncles occupying the other two rooms have to attack the area and adjust with five and eight kids each. And one room was enjoyed by our grandparents. And the household was complete with a shared kitchen each aunt occupying one corner with independent kerosene stoves, cooking and dining all conducted in squatting postures.
These were a few faint memories I can illuminate into me when I get to recapturing my yesteryears splendor. But, one feature of my father’s fashion in his distinctive style has left an iconic image in my memory. It’s the dignity with which he strode wearing his ‘foreign-returned’ qualification, endorsed by his spick-and span dressing order. Faithfully, even 27 years after his departure at a young age of 56, I sacredly imitate his style of getting dressed up.
Now, I’m 56, precisely at the same milestone wherein my father succumbed to a heart ailment. As a teacher and administrator with an eye for elegant dress sense, I’m respected, admired, complimented. It further, accords me a high level of self-esteem and cheerful disposition.
I’m blessed to have such a silent role model as my father, but his early demise still finds me in a dark tunnel of voidness. Every day, I remember him as my mentor as I run my misty eyes over his life-size painting where he with ‘handsomely dressed ardor’ is eternally and elegantly framed.
Fondly, recalling his role-model personality, strolling down the long corridors of the school that he had established and which I manage now. Every day, every step, every word I bring about will stand to show how devotedly I revere such an academic and handsome dad.
Early on I nicely learned to groom myself well and made positive dress statements an important and healthy habit; learning the fact that when we dress up and step out graciously; meaning we respect ourselves greatly. Emotionally, right attire helps us to live healthily and optimistically. And truly, “Dressing well is a form of good manners.”