As a young boy, whenever I’d visit my friends’ homes, see them interacting, playing, joking with their fathers, I would feel strange. The only way of explaining that mix of emotions is intrigue, surprise, and jealousy! Imagine that!
It wasn’t until I saw this repeatedly, through various stages of my childhood, that I realized something was seriously monumentally wrong with my relationship with my own father. See him and I, aside from rare and sporadic banter, shared a rather ambiguous, strained, formal dynamic. One that was status-quo to me. One that was headlined by fear, negativity, criticism, and assumption and had come to define any and all father-son relationships; until of course I realized otherwise.
While my friends, first at day school, then at boarding school, bonded, laughed, cried with their fathers, got a heap of unconditional emotional support from them; my father was busy being a deeply disturbed person. A father who perhaps viewed his 6 year old boy, as competition. As someone who was a natural heir to the philosophy his father ‘assumed’ (much like everything else in his head) the boy’s mother and her family represented – money, power, materialism. And so, I was, despite not having a clue to these concepts, antagonized, reprimanded, and hauled up for being ‘money-minded’, not interested in academics, a “carbon copy” of the Khemkas. All this was being screamed at me, accusations hailed, on an alarmingly regular basis. And I hadn’t a clue what my clearly ‘ill’ dad was on about! What I had done that was so bloody wrong? What kind of an evil creature I must be? And that I was clearly good-for-nothing; a fleeting feeling at first that eventually became my reality! That I was nothing, and would amount to an absolute nobody even later on in life! That fathers encourage, nurture, listen, get-to-know their kids, and provide positive re-enforcement no matter what – was entirely alien to me!
As time rolled on and I was away more than I was home, especially through boarding school, and college thereafter, these problems were compounded by persistent tirades that my father would launch into about how USELESS and HOPELESS my mum and her entire family was – to me! Each time my parents fought, I was square in the middle of it, physically, or from a distance. Over time, this had such a deep and unnerving impact on me, that I turned into a nervous-wreck. I was unable to focus on ANYTHING, because my mind was always clogged with thoughts of my own utter uselessness (as stated constantly and vehemently by my own father) and with what my mother was being subjected to at the hands of our omnipresent tormentor. At school, I could not focus on studies. At college, I could not concentrate. So much so that this burden, my ‘dark-passenger’, had consumed me. I could not work, play, or love! I had several break-ups because my own fears and presumed inadequacies, and complete lack of self-concept (terribly skewed self-image) was making me frustrated, and I was inadvertently, unconsciously, metamorphosing into the monster I had so come to shun.
The irony is that in his head, we enjoyed a most ideal rapport! He would proclaim our solid father-son ‘bond’ to the entire world. He would buy me things (cars, homes even) purely of his own accord and then tell the world and I, that I was the ungrateful, incapable, spoiled, waster son! Even when I returned from film school and began working in Bombay, as hard to believe as this may sound, he’d demand that I be on the phone receiving his wisdom rather than focus on my “two-bit” job that would get me nowhere. The problem became so intense that not just I, but both, my wife and I, were thrown out of our respective jobs because justifiably, no employer would be OK with the employee being on the phone half the day, which is what both Anuja and I were mandated to do by my father.
One could make the argument that I was a fool to NOT rebel, to take all this lying down. To that, the simple truthful answer is, for my mum’s sake, I took it. And she, for mine. This vicious circle, and this farce, carried on for much too long – nearly 40 years! And then, my daughter was born. She, the monster did not even as much as acknowledge! Choosing instead to tell the entire world how HE had paid for her delivery! His own granddaughter, born to his USELESS son who is incapable of earning! I WONDER WHY!
Krisha’s birth, like I have said before, has put an end to a lot of nonsense in my life, and given me fresh perspective and courage to start afresh. At almost 40, in the same city, my city, a new life. Thank God. And thank heavens, that my ‘ideal’ father-son relationship, is FINALLY over. The veil has been lifted. The FARCE has ended…