Yesterday was my father’s 14th death anniversary and I sat remembering him far away from my home and away from mother and brother who were conducting the annual rituals associated with the event. I began wondering what my appa would have thought of my current situation and felt that broadly he would have been happy about it.
Born in a typical middle class Tamil Brahmin family, we were used to having simple lives and managing with frugal resources. My father was a career government servant who wasn’t very ambitious about his work – it was merely a vocation that provided him the means to take care of his family and gave him a respectable position in the society. Money meant little to him but he was extremely prudent and would never dream to living beyond his means or taking on debt to fuel his lifestyle. There was a great emphasis on following the rules and doing well in studies. Education was indeed our passport to a better future.
My dad was a very sentimental and emotional person – in sharp contrast my mother was detached and rather wary of the games that people would inevitably play. She did not have much means to handle tricky situations but was always stoical and never wanted to be beholden to anyone. I was closer to my mother than anyone else and was instinctively drawn to her values. I supremely valued the expression of ‘freedom of thought and freedom of action’ in my life. I held my privacy high and indeed respected it as a right for everyone. Not poking my nose in any business that was not mine was an unwritten credo for me.
My dad saw the world in an altogether different mould – he was always interested in other people’s lives and was mindless about his interest being mistaken to be an invasion of their privacy. Indeed many people took advantage of his naiveté and this was a legitimate grievance that my mother held against him. True to his character he understood this but was again was not bothered about it. Indeed all in the family and friend circle miss him for precisely this reason. I have learnt to appreciate this as I grow older but my instinctive actions remain – I value individualism and will never want to suffer fools gladly. I chose to be an auditor since I had an eye for detail and had good insight in gauging people and their behaviour.
I am sure that I am better off at judging people and situations than my parents; so my coping strategies work more often than not. But that makes my dad’s approach even more special to me – am sure often he knew what was happening but he was large-hearted enough to let others take advantage of his good nature.
My dad was also a great believer of job stability – indeed he took pride in being a ‘Government Servant’ as it was quaintly called in the bygone era. My elder brother had to struggle a lot to convince him that working in the private sector and in sales could be regarded as being respectable and professional.
In 2000 I had just completed my MBA and got a campus placement with a leading business house. I was just about to start on my job when my father, who had been ailing for a while, passed away. He was much comforted by his knowledge that I had a secure job and well imagined that I would spend a lifetime climbing the rungs of the well established corporate hierarchy in the group. The group was indeed large and diversified – there was an implicit contract of a lifetime employment in return of demonstrated loyalty and following the rules. Voila! It was as a good as having a Government job.
However I left my first job within a year of joining to aggressively pursue a career in selling retail consumer finance products with an MNC. Post this I have been steadily moving roles and places in my career till date. Thankfully I have found my calling in Banking and have held on to a stable job though I have always welcomed change and the next available opportunity to grow.
So would my dad have approved of my lifestyle – 14 years, 8 cities, numerous roles and bosses, and yes usually less than 2 years before the next change came along? While it would have never been his lifestyle and he may regard me to be a global nomad, my dad would have found it in his heart to appreciate the loyalty I have shown to my own ideas and the dogged ability I have shown to follow my own rules. Times change, so definitions should be allowed to change as well. And yes, Banking was the high priest of occupations in his mind.
Rationalization or otherwise, I spent an hour reminiscing about my dad and our lives. It felt nice to walk down the memory lane again. I do hope he would have approved of my choices and priorities though my journey is altogether in contrast with his own.