Rajkumari Sharma Tankha
This Father’s Day is the sixth one I am observing without my papa. I lost him in 2011, to a very debilitating Parkinson’s disease. But that is not what I want to remember him as. I want to remember him as a dashing Colonel of Indian Army, Ram Rattan Sharma, who was a part of two wars, one in 1965 and another in 1971.
Papa always walked with a sprint in his steps. He took such good care of his health that I never saw him falling sick; the most he suffered from was a little cold when the weather changed. Otherwise, he was fighting fit; till 2003 when, at the age of just 65, Parkinson’s hit him and our entire family, out of blue. I wish scientists/researchers soon find out a cure for this disease.
There are many things Papa said to me that keep ringing in my ears, now that he is no more. When he said those things to me in person, I merely heard, not listened. Just an example: Papa always told me not to trust anyone till the person had proven himself worthy of my trust. Young and naive, I trusted people blindly, but as I walked along my life’s path I came to realise the veracity of his words. Now, I always keep an iota of suspicion about any and everyone who sweet-talks me. Wish Papa had the satisfaction of seeing the changed me of today.
Being an Army officer, papa was a stickler for discipline. When we were growing up, it was a rule to switch off the lights at 11PM and he was most particular of waking us up at 5 in the morning. I used to rue this fact. Not anymore. Now that the night shifts in newspaper offices have totally spoiled my sleeping and waking up hours, I wish he was here to tingle my feet to wake me up in the morning (that’s how used to wake us up) and call out my name at 11 in the night to switch off the light.
Of all my siblings, papa loved me the most (at least I like to think so). I was his princess, the reason he gave me the name Rajkumari (I initially didn’t like the name, I found it no name, but slowly I started liking it, today I love my name). I don’t know if any of my sisters or brother felt jealous about it, but I was proud. He had many expectations from me. I know I didn’t fulfil many of his wishes, but he never complained. He always took pride in my small little achievements.
It was from Papa that I learnt to help any and everyone who seeks my help. A person only had to tell his his/her sob story and he would go out of his way to help him/her. At times, even mom was not informed of his philanthropy, but mom being the woman she is, quietly accepted what papa did, neither questioning, nor distrusting him. Wish I had taken some of this blind faith in her husband from mom.
After he retired, in 1992, papa turned into a social worker. No, he didn’t set up any NGO. I don’t know how people started coming to him for counselling in their personal matters. He would patiently hear out and give advice. He united many a warring couples, he patched up the differences between old parents and their children.
Papa had this aura, this magic that people not only came to him but also just followed what he said. It is not for nothing that people in Shalimar Bagh, the north Delhi colony where Papa settled after retirement, still remember him with great respect.
I have many regrets in my life, but the biggest one is not listening to Papa the day he told me to stay back for night. I had gone to visit him, he told me to stay back for night, I don’t know why but I didn’t. It was a Monday and I had office the next day. I told him I shall come in the weekend. He quietly agreed, as always. The next day while I was in office doing some shitty news item, he slipped into a deep sleep, was taken to R&R Hospital in Delhi Cantt, and he never came back to his senses. Some days later, papa passed away in sleep, at hospital. He served the Indian Army all his life, and Army served him during this last days.
So, all of you friends, who have their fathers with them, please do not make the mistakes I made. Listen to what your father says, pay attention to his words, and do as he says…. Don’t live to regret your actions, like I do.