Appa

The mood was quite festive in the shop. It was the first day of the 10-day Ganpati festival and customers were lining up to collect their pre-booked idols to take home. They would give their names and man at the counter would check against the labels attached to the various idols and hand over the correct one with some flowers and coconut, and a loud “Ganpati Bappa Morya”.

Soon it was our turn to collect the Ganpati idol we had booked.

“Namaskar,” said the man at the counter, “What is your name?”

“Ganapathi”, said Appa (my father).

“Uncle, I asked for your name,” said the man at the counter.

“Ganapathi,” repeated Appa.

“Uncle, I know you have come to collect your Ganpati idol. I want to know the name you have booked it under,” said the man at the counter, a little impatiently now.

“That is what I have been telling you. My name is Ganapathi,” said Appa patiently.

The man at the counter looked a little stunned and then burst out laughing. “Sorry, Uncle. I have never had a Ganapathi come to collect a Ganpati idol.” He handed over our pre-booked idol with the flowers and coconut, and then came out of the counter to touch Appa’s feet and ask for his blessings.

Whenever Appa shares this incident, which happened about 10 years back, with family and friends it always brings forth lots of laughter. And during the Ganpati season, it is a much repeated story. The 2011 Ganpati season is underway now and this year too, the story will be narrated, not by Appa, but by us with a bittersweet tinge. For Appa is no longer here to narrate this incident. He passed away a month ago.

Amma (my mother) tells me that Appa was ecstatic when I was born—a daughter after 2 sons, a daughter he always wanted. Ironically, because of his work we lived in different cities, and till the time I started working at 22, I had lived with Appa for only 8 years. It was only when I moved to Mumbai for work that we started living as a family once again; and we were together till he passed away last month. So, you could say that, in a way, my relationship with him was built as an adult, and not as a child.

There are many memories of Appa that come to my mind as I write this post—more than I can ever write or would want to write here. One of my fondest memories is of a trip that I undertook with him and Amma a few years back. It was a temple tour to South India with the itinerary planned and executed by Appa. We visited Udipi, Sringeri, Managlore, Kollam, Madurai, Thanjavur,  Mayiladadurai, Chidambaram, Vaitheeswaram, Tirunelveli, and Thiruvananthapuram, before returning to Mumbai. I had always enjoyed travelling with Appa as a child, but travelling with him as an adult and visiting the various temples was sheer delight. At each temple, after the obligatory prayers, we would leave Amma with her prayer-book and wander around the temple precincts with Appa playing the role of the guide for me. He was so good that we would often have other tourists joining us.

Those 15 days of temple-hopping are some of the best and fondest memories I have of Appa. He always maintained that he and I were meant to travel and travel together at that. Unfortunately, we were never able to travel together again—first, my year in London happened, and then his health would not permit travel. He was probably more excited about my year in London, than I was. He would eagerly await each set of travel photographs and the essay that accompanied it. A good photographer himself, he would give me good feedback and tips to improve my skills and technique.

When I started this blog, Appa was very supportive and encouraging. He helped me put together the material and choose the photographs for the post I wrote about our family history. He also followed the progress of each blog post of mine, and was so proud when one of my blog posts won a travel writing contest.

Appa was a quiet, unassuming man with a lifelong passion for travel, the railways, Carnatic classical music, and vadais. I inherited his looks and poor eyesight, his passion for travel and trains, as well as poor financial management skills. What I did not inherit, regrettably, was his enormous reserve of patience and his non-judgemental attitude towards people and life. Appa wasn’t perfect—he could be patriarchal and a chauvinist too. And he may not even have been the best father in the world. But he definitely was the best father in my world.

Appa reading a newspaper in his favourite chair in his favourite corner of our house

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71 thoughts on “Appa

  1. God bless you Sudha…..not many know the sacrifices you have made for your parents…..he will always always look after you from wherever he is…..and you will rise to many more echelons of success.

  2. You evoke your father beautifully … If it is any help, know that our parents never really leave us – besides looks and vision and the passion for travel and trains, there’ll be many more elements that you’ll go on to discover within you that belong also to him. Stay strong, friend and as Bahadur Shah Zafar said, bahut lambi hain raahen pyaar ki aur zindagi kam hai …

  3. Nice anecdote about your father. I liked it.

    I checked the link given by you. I recently came back from Milan and some of the pictures displayed there are like the pictures I have displayed in blog. But I have to admit, your pictures are way better than mine. :)

  4. Trains were a passion for Appa. He was also a walking timetable. He remembered-almost to his last days- the names of many stations express trains do not stop at. But I suspect his fondness for trains waned somewhat with the passing of the steam locomotive. Steam took the passion to another level- subject for another post on Appa

  5. Dear Sudhagee,

    I was shocked to read about the loss of your beloved father, a loss not to you alone but also for your family especially your mother. On behalf of our family and my brothers we pray the Almighty for lasting peace to the departed soul of your father. Nevertheless I found the blog about your father very moving and a touching tribute. Please convey our heartfelt condolences to your mother and brothers.
    S Krishnamoorthy

  6. my eyes just welledup reading about APPA……..nothing in this world can prepare u for the loss of a parent!!!may he rest in peace!

  7. This is a very sweet tribute to such an encouraging, supportive father and principled man. :)
    He is always there in your thoughts and your dreams…he will never leave you.
    I hope his soul may rest in peace.
    Please read my latest blog post, too. It’s a tech blog…please promote it on Indivine, if you like it. :)
    You can access it here: The Tablet Revolutionary

  8. Cant believe a blogpost can make me emotional enough to moisten my eyes. Just a month left at home before marriage, now I feel I can go back to my childhood days and live with my family all over again.

    Beautiful post! Appreciate your strenght.

  9. Daughters are close to fathers in a special bond & fathers love thier daughters. Memories are all that we carry of our parents sweet sweet memories. MAY HE GIVE YOU & YOUR FAMILY STRENGTH &COURAGE TO BEAR THIS LOSS.

  10. he may not even have been the best father in the world. But he definitely was the best father in my world.

    Loved these lines, tingled my internal emotions :) nice and best one i ever seen !

  11. Hi Sudha, Vry Vry sorry to hear abt ur dad.May his soul rest in peace.Did nt know abt this as ws in Europe & UK.My heart goes out fr ur mother too so look after her.U too take care.
    I know wht it is to loose a father.U take care.

  12. Read this with a lump in my throat, you are so right, no amount of time spent with our loved ones is ever enough. Especially poignant for those of us who live far from our loved ones ….I am glad you have such wonderful memories of your father.

  13. Sudha, hugs for you. I don’t even know what to say and will probably sound stupid if I try. I can only tell you a basic truth. Your father will always be there with you. In your world, like you rightly pointed out. His blessings and love will always be by your side. Take care.

  14. I loved this post Sudha, right from the simple title “Appa”, to how beautifully you’ve penned your memories of him, and the photograph of him. The father-daughter bond is always such a special one! Lovely post.

  15. That is a touching tribute to Appa. We all know what happens to Appas and Ammas one day. But it is not till they are finally gone that we know how colossal a void they leave behind. May his soul rest in peace.

  16. Aah this is a gentle post–soothing and magical as discovering a mountain stream…yes, Dads are special. I feel it. My dad is 78. I am with him these days. He was never my pillar of support but in so many he has been my mother and several times my son. He is what love means to me in this world…your post makes me cry…

    • Yes, dads are special, Bhavana. I realise this more and more with every passing day as the pain of loss ebbs and flows. Enjoy every single day that you have with him. Nothing can replace this special relationship.

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  19. This is such a beautiful and heartfelt post, Sudha! Touched me immensely.

    I am sorry to hear about your father’s passing away last year. Glad to know that you have fond memories of him, and got to spend time with him at least as an adult.

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