At many points in a child’s life, a father seems like Darth Vader—tall, with a big presence and the deep seated power to take away your TV privileges for life. While he may feel like a Sith, he is also a Jedi—the Obi Wan Kenobi of patience, calm and mentorship. Each dad comes with his own unique combination of ‘huggability’ and admonition—mine is no different.
A recently retired General from the Indian Army, my father has served the country for almost 40 years. He hung up his uniform in the most turbulent of times, a war we call Covid-19. While most militaries have glorious retirement ceremonies for its officers, my father made do with socially distant cheers, innumerable phone calls (the army doesn’t Zoom) and a special meal made by my mother and me.
I could wax eloquently about his contribution to the nation, to the forces and to my life. You’d probably expect that from a Father’s Day article. But I am here to talk about the person I call dad, a ubiquitous pillar of strength and tough love, brilliant but slightly flawed with a spotless conscience and an ability to fall asleep at 10pm on the dot. He is both erring human and superhero.
Living long periods of life without one’s father is deeply ingrained in the DNA of a fauji kid. For years, my dad was a voice on the phone—participating in PTAs before long before social distancing was the norm. At times the voice on the phone would advise me to be kind to my mother who was balancing a full time job and two pre-teen kids. After I got my first apartment, he would remind me to take my vitamins and invest in mutual funds. Today this voice fervidly dissects public policy and is our one stop shop for all fact-checked Covid information (he really does endorse sleeping at 10 pm).
Not once though, did he let me feel that he wasn’t around. A lot of kids claim to have their mother’s voice in their heads, you can see why I have my dad’s guiding me—when I encourage a grieving friend, stick up for a colleague and choose to do what is right instead of what is easy.
What fascinates me about Star Wars is its deep ties between fathers, children and the indispensability of paternal love. Both Luke and Anakin Skywalker grow up without their fathers, yet are redeemed through acts of love that transcend personal struggles. I am grateful to know mine and deep down I know I bring out the best in him. Like every father-daughter relationship, we’ve overcome our distances over time, knowing unquestionably that the force is with us.