Sometimes life pauses a while to smile at you before rushing headlong into a flurry of festivals, lunches, dinners, conference calls, more festivals, more food, colors, weddings and crowded market streets.
I have never talked much about my father much out here… but today I will.
You see, my father does not like exercising… Actually detests is more like it. And his best rebuttal against a healthy life is to cook a decadent chicken curry preceded by mugs of calorie laden beer. And for the record I protest as best as I can, but the beer does make my arguments go a bit slow, and the chicken usually makes me sleep a bit longer the next day and miss my all-planned-for morning jog. But at least, I talk about exercise, and dream about it and plan for it… which is more than what my father has done for the last decade.
I wanted him to undergo a basic six day meditation course.. something that I had done a long time back in college out of compulsion. The kind where they tell you that you don’t know how to do stuff and need to start living your life all over again… My father good naturedly refused and told my wife that her husband is an idiot and she good naturedly agreed. I upped the rhetoric a bit and he was unmoved, and then I really closed the argument that even I will go with him to give him company if he wanted. And he said ‘ok’….
So there I was, shaved and bathed at 6 AM in the morning, suitably attired in track pants and white T shirt ,with a rather grumpy dad at my side standing at the meditation venue. It did not help that the venue was the banquet hall of a restaurant that we otherwise associated with some rather nice food and drinks and good times.I promptly chose a position in the hall that was right behind my dad, in no mood to endure the disapproving, grudging sidelong glances I anticipated being subjected to for the entire six days of the course.
We had an interesting group of people at hand who were there for the course. Middle aged and not so aged, retired and not so retired…. Men and women.Day one started off with some light exercises – on the spot jogging & flapping your hands like a bird.I couldn’t see him, but could feel my father seething at the stupidity of it all..Then came more exercises … and yeah a few rules. No caffeine, no meat, no alcohol for the next one week!
I was sure my dad would be the one who would grumble, which he did. Be the one who would complain of a sore body and a head ache, which he did. And would be the one behind my back for opting out of the course….which he did not.
The second day of the course found me, yet again, shaved and bathed at 6 AM at the venue with my father at my side. I wanted to run away…. and to my supreme frustration found my dad smiling. Shaking hands with the rest of the chummy old men in the session, he seemed completely at home. Standing behind him in the session the day I observed him trying his best to ensure that he was the not the slow coach in the gang when we jogged. I saw him wriggle his sixty year old body and make sure that his spine was erect when he assumed the positions for the various activities… and at the end of the session, he walked up to the instructor and asked him questions
The rest of the day found me thinking hard about the last time that my father & I did something together. Just the two of us, no one else. No wives, or siblings or dogs in the picture (with no offence to the dogs). My memories took me back to summer vacations where the both of us had played through summer afternoons on home made Ludo boards, or snakes and ladders or chess… with the rest of the family blissfully asleep. Or when we cooked together during those hard hard years after my mother passed away….
But all this happened more than a decade back…. For all the last ten years, we had managed to live through our days without doing a single new thing together. It was a realization that struck me dumb for a while…
I went for the remaining four days of the course with my father… with the feeling of being part of something very special. The final day was a pot luck brunch – We brought a father-son combo dish for the group and shared a collective pride when we saw our dishes being polished up by the rest of the group…
The meditation course is great, I have done it before and I enjoyed it again. But what made it special for me this time was that I shared it with my father. My heart went out to him as I saw him trying to do the stretches and the pulls… and I nearly teared up when I saw him dressed and ready each morning waiting for me to get the car.
In all the years of doing things for my father, I had forgotten the joy doing things with him. In all the years of telling him that he did not understand the need to start exercising, I had forgotten that playing games is no fun when you do it alone.
The way I see it, life might go back to the way it was…. But I am glad that my father & I spent those six days in a room full of people and dusty carpets, grumbling together about the strain of all the breathing exercises…. We might have been cribbing, but at least we were doing it together.