A lot of people influence our lives. Our parents are some of our biggest influencers. So, on Father’s day today, I want to talk about two people who have greatly molded and influenced my life. I have seen that we usually remember all the good things about people after they are gone. I want to tell them now on how much I appreciate and love them. These two people are – my Papa and my Dad-In-Love (or Dad-in-Law, a term which I like to use very rarely).
Before I go ahead, let me first say that like all of us, they are not perfect. They both come from a generation of dads who showed their love mainly by working very hard to provide for their families. They often got the stress of work at home and their anger used to flare up easily (not anymore). Like everyone, they have done the best they knew at that time. We have been blessed to have them in our lives. They have taught us so many lessons by example and words. And I want to share some key ones here.
My Papa’s name is Kashi Ram Nagal, we (the four of us, 3 girls – Shalini, Preeti, Nidhi and a boy – Vikas) have called him fondly by various names – Papa, Bapu, Pitashri. He comes from a very small village called Hodal, in Haryana, India. He is the youngest of 8 children born to my grandfather and his second wife, my grandmother. Though the family was well off, they lost everything during the India-Pakistan partition. They went under huge debt. My Dad lost his father at a very young age. There was a lot of family pressure on him to stop his studies. But he liked to study and he was a good student. He got scholarships and he continued his studies. Some of his teachers and friends helped and encouraged him. One day he left his village to pursue higher studies on scholarship with 1 rupee in his pocket.
He finally became an electrical engineer. He married my mom, Pushpa Lata Nagal (who was very devoted to her husband and her home, hard working and so loving). And then four of us came to life 🙂 He worked in government service and during his tenure, we traveled Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, and Uttaranchal. He is now retired and settled in Bangalore.
One of the biggest things he has given me in life is education. Coming from a family and background where girls were just supposed to get married and take care of household chores, he was the first one in his family and village to make his daughters become doctor and engineers. He remembers an incident when one of the relatives taunted at him for having three girls. He took an oath that day that he will make and show what his daughters can become.
When we were in Bareilly, after every test the rickshaw-puller would first take all of us to his office. He would ask us answers for all the questions, give us marks and we would also get a beating with scale if we made a silly mistake. I say this to show how determined he was to make sure we study. It was also a time when parents believed that “spare the rod and spoil the child”.
I remember that once he taught me algebra and I think I started liking it after I understood how simple it was. He wanted to make sure I study engineering. He took me to Bangalore to give the CET entrance test. During that time, we weren’t sure when the admission process will start, so he took off from work stayed in Bangalore for a month to wait for admission to open up and settle me in Bangalore. So I owe everything I am today to him. Had it not for his efforts, I might not be where I am. He continues to guide children of relatives, friends, colleagues from work and the village and people come to him for advice on education.
When I was in my final year of engineering, he spoke to me about companies and jobs. I remember my Mom was taken aback when she realized that he wanted us to work and not just study. She comes from a family where her Dad, my grandfather would not even touch drink water at her daughter’s home. Once I joined the job and started earning, he showed me (and made me) how to save and invest money.
Some of the other influences I have had with him are his philosophical and spiritual nature. When we were young, he, his boss and his colleagues used to meet up monthly to discuss various spiritual topics. This influenced me and I used to listen as well as sometimes participate in the discussions. My Papa and I also engage in many such discussions.
My Papa introduced music in our lives, he called music teachers at home to teach us harmonium and tabla. He was the first one with whom I had my first (and only) cigarette, my first drink (not only) and my first Bhang (very rare)!
He never looked for life partners for us, he believed in all four of us that we will find our partners. In fact, when I told him about my husband for the first time, he did not have questions, he simply said: “You have chosen him, so he must be good”. That’s the conviction of the parent to have that belief that their children are themselves responsible. Oh and I forgot, he also chose my name, Preeti, which means ‘love’ and I love my name.
Thank you, Papa, for being you, for your love and teachings and for guiding us along the way.
Now my second Dad, my Dad-in-Love, whom I found after I met my husband. His name is Manoharan Gangaraj and I call him Dad fondly. It also helps my husband and me to differentiate whom we are talking about. He also comes from a middle-class family, he is the second of the seven children. His dad passed away when he was fairly young and not yet married. He attributes a lot in his life to his mother. He got married to my mom-in-love, Ambika Manoharan (very dedicated, hardworking, and very loving) and they have two kids (a boy – Santosh and a girl – Radhika). Being one of the eldest among both families, they have struggled and helped everyone in the family to come up while trying to do the best for their kids at the same time.
San, my husband took him on a trip to tell him about me. As soon as he heard everything, he asked for the phone and called me and said: “Welcome to the family, now we are 5 of us”. He and Mom welcomed me with open arms and have always loved me and taken care of me like one of their own. I am. He is always there when any of us need him. We are so blessed.
One of the biggest thing I learned from him is being positive. He is the most positive person I have met. Before meeting him, I was generally a more negative person. He inspired me to become positive by his example as well as words. He always says, “What’s there, we’ll do it.” or “The world is ours”.
He is also very street smart, and he has taught us how to get your work done. While we live in the U.S., he takes care of everything in India. He is so active both physically and mentally (he goes for a 5km walk on a regular basis, does yoga) that we feel we need to become like him. He has a great sense of humor and we love his PJs.
He also introduced me to “Secret”. forcing us to watch it. Although hesitant to watch it at the beginning, I have found my life changing with that learning and all the learnings which have come after that.
He appreciates all that I do. Every time I give a talk or write something, he tells me how it is, proudly shows it to his friends and guides me on what to do next. We have discussions on various topics and he lovingly passes his years of wisdom to me.
Thank you, Dad, for being you, and for all your love and guidance.
Both my Dads lives have been so interesting, full of rich experiences and I wish we could write big memoirs on it. This is no way a complete list. This is my first attempt to share a bit about them.
A big hug to both of them, I love both of you lots, thank you!