My Father Chose the Better
Deciding to come to the United States to pursue my further studies was not at all a difficult task. My father would never say no to anything I asked of him, when it came to my career. I knew he would happily give away all his life savings to let me chase my dreams in the land of opportunity. What was really challenging was to stand by whether I really wanted to take that step. For a person who constantly double checks herself and thinks what she is doing in her life is definitely the second best thing she could be doing, finding out that I would really stick to it was a bigger check I needed to do. I think by now we must all admit that at some point of our lives, we have always crossed that fine line and shamelessly taken our parents’ money for granted. Be it for some trivial things we did as a child as asking for the better tricycle or asking for the iPhone 6 rather than settling with just another smartphone or whatever. But this was nowhere comparable to any such instances where I went that shameless step to push my dad a bit further and asked to chip in some more money. This was huge. I wanted my dad to feel that it was worth spending the money. All I wanted him is to tell me that “It’s worth it!”
From a very young age, I found it really difficult to ask my dad for money. My mother says that I had inherited this nature from her, but I like to believe it as something I acquired on my own. There was a phase in my life where I thought that if I would not ask for a toffee every evening during our grocery shopping, we would eventually be able to buy ourselves a house, at a time when we used to live as tenants at a very low maintenance house by the busy G.N.B Road in Guwahati. I guess I took the saying “single drops of water makes a mighty ocean” too sincerely. I could empathize with my dad; not as a daughter, but as a fellow upper middle class citizen striving to run a family in a difficulty economy and give his family the marginal comforts a rich family has at ease, which is basically every upper middle class Indian man’s dream. It would be wrong to say we were poor, but it will also be wrong to say that we were rich. We realized that money wasn’t everything in life, but we knew that it was something. I still remember the day I was working in a lab in Chennai last spring, during the times when my dad was busy borrowing money from his trusted friends and siblings for me, he called me up and said “We could sell the plots of land which your grandfather left us, around our ancestral house (where my grandmother currently lives)”. Tears came rolling down my cheeksas others only sweated in the Chennai heat. That was a huge thing for a father to say. That was the day I knew he had faith in me, not that I would have let him sell the land on any account.
After a lot of preparations, help from his friends and a bank loan, I decided to come to the US. This might seem like a story about “how we chipped in money for my US studies” by now. It’s not. I am just sharing the varied emotional experiences I had in the last year in India. And more importantly how I admire my father for his stance and far sightedness. My father’s career started off as a fresh graduate and he has stuck to his occupation for over 40 years now, like any other man during his time must have done – getting into a closely knit, stable government job that gives you a small salary, an even smaller pension but a grand farewell on your 60th retirement year. However I now respect my father for his farsightedness. Thinking of a 30year old man who plans for his daughter’s future when she turns 22, as a high school student it seems like a ‘given’ to me….like an untold responsibility of a dad that comes with the whole package of planning for the family’s future economy. But thinking of that 30year old now when I am 22 myself, it seems very difficult for me. When I find myself managing my expenses hard, as the month draws towards its end, I know the significance of cost management and saving. I have savings every month, in negative. I think young people like us who have just entered the job sector or are on the onset of it, should learn a lot about the importance of savings from our former generation. We are the TGIF generation – flow of money is in a steady state like in a fed batch reactor – what comes in goes out. But our parents were not like this. They believed in stability. In incubation. In saving and building on it. My father could have bought a better car instead of the second hand Maruti 800 which he drove for a major fraction of his life. But he had invested his money for later. As a young heart married to his wife I think he could have easily lived a more extravagant life than the mediocre lifestyle he chose. But he chose to save – for his children. He didn’t know what he was saving for then, but he knew he had to save for something that would give him a bigger worth of his money. The first thing I would do when I get my first salary would be to buy him a pug, to while his time away after his retirement. I know he love dogs. That’s the best I can give him. This is because he is a man of his own standing and a very proud father. He wouldn’t take any money if I offer him because he thinks it was his inherent duty as a father to have funded my education. But I don’t think it was. It is a luxury I got by virtue of being his daughter. In a very hazy dream, I can visualize my 40 year old father sitting leisurely in a pub with his college friends, sharing a bottle of beer and discussing life. When his friend asks him about money and savings he would say “My real assets are my children”. I wish I was that friend who could meet that 40 year old dad and congratulate him for being a wonderful father to his children. But all I would do is wish him this Rongali Bihu as a daughter, or send him wishes on Father’s Day. In a country where parents save more money for a daughter’s future wedding than her education, my father chose the better.
Tanmayee Hazarika is a graduate student presently pursuing higher studies at State College in Pennsylvania, USA.