Kanchipuram – one of the most beautiful temple towns of Tamil Nadu – is my father’s favourite getaway. While we detest the heat of the conservative town, we love the temples there. Temples that are enormous and magnificent. Temples that are about 3,000 years old. Sadly, most temples are over-populated and noisy these days, and they don’t look that beautifully ancient anymore. They were failed to be aesthetically restored. Perhaps, blame it on men who might have reckoned that the job was as simple as renovating a house.
But, there are a few temples, that stand as testimonies of bygone times. Those are the temples that are not washed in blinding colours. Those are the temples that are forgotten. Those are the temples that seem to transport passionate visitors to another era. Those are the temples that archaeologists battle to save. Only because of those temples, there is always a silent debate that is brewing between archaeologists and the theologians. But, for my father, who is a staunch believer, and for me, who is agnostic, the archaeologists’s struggle or the theologies conundrum don’t really matter. We simply love those temples. And, we wish they continued to be ancient.
We went to one such extraordinary temples this morning: Pandava Thoothar Perumal, which was built in the 8th century AD. My father wanted to visit a couple of his favourite temples. Because he is retiring today, after working in Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda College for 40 years. 40 brilliant, eventful years. His feat looks even more incredible to me, for I am writing this blog three days before starting my fourth job in 10 years. 🙂
As we drove to Kanchipuram and dropped by those lovely temples, my father relived some of those old, warm memories.
40 years and six months ago, my father was recruited as an assistant librarian. He was just about 18. His first salary was Rs. 126. In a few months, he was promoted, and he was continued to be promoted till he reached the highest position 10 years ago.
Father loves routines, and he is remarkably self-disciplined. In a tone that had no trace of boastfulness, he told me this morning, “It’s been 40 years, but I have availed just about 70 days of leaves.” I was short of words. He continued, “Remember I was hospitalised for a while when I had broken my leg? I was off for about 30 days then. That was the longest ever.” I vividly remember those days, when he was aching to get back to office. He paid no heed to his broken leg. He channeled all his energy towards recuperating faster to resume work and bask in his hobbies soon. He was inhumanely strong, positive, and cheerful.
Dad has never whined about work. Never. I still can’t fathom how he can take himself to the same place everyday with great amount of enthusiasm, optimism, and willingness. The understanding fails to dawn on me. But, I wish I could be as resilient as my father. At least, a wee bit.
Many, many of his colleagues love him. I know it. But, there were times when hatred was spewed on him. “I thought it was not a place for me anymore then. But, you know, they couldn’t let me go,” he told me again as though he was discussing the weather. His strength was tested. However, father has never been a quitter. He often tells me, “In a way, poor memory is a blessing. It lets you forget bad times, harsh words, and ruthless people. It’s good to forget sometimes.” Perhaps, that mantra has always been helping him. If not, how could one work for the same employer for 40 years! I am abusing italics today because I am absolutely in awe of my father.
We visited more temples, and father cracked his regular jokes, shared his regular anecdotes this morning. We teased him saying we had heard it a thousand times. But we still laughed when he launched into the same old tales. That’s my dad for you. He is a cute storyteller. And, you can never say no to his stories 🙂
Although I don’t need a reason to love him, I adore him for some of his remarkable traits. He enjoys listening to Pandit Jasraj. But, he wouldn’t say no if you play Backstreet Boys. He is a believer. But he doesn’t loathe atheists. He reads Osho. And, he reads those gossip columns. He loves Krishna from Mahabarata. He finds Duryodhana equally fascinating. He carries no baggage. He, of course, has no regrets. He loves life. But death doesn’t scare him.
Despite being relieved from his responsibilities today, dad assumes another role in the same organisation. As his round two begins, I am sure he would appreciate the opportunity as he did… 40 years and six months ago. 🙂