Sunday, March 6, 2016

Lessons from my father: Lesson 1

Series: Lessons from my father (A tribute to my late father)

My father during the trip to Taj Mahal

March is a difficult month. It just drags on and bombards me with memories of loss. Five years ago, a cruel March took away my father from me. Even after all these years, the wound is still raw.
This year I am honoring his life by sharing life lessons that I have learned from him.
Lesson 1: Ignore haters, but learn the lesson they teach:
This particular incident happened when I was in the third standard. I hated studies. It was always games and story books versus mugging up my textbooks. No prizes for guessing which side won. But still, I managed to pass with decent marks in every exam until that one time. I failed in the midterm exams. That day, the girl whom I considered as my friend refused to give me company.
“You are a loser. I don’t want to be seen in your company. Go away,” she screamed at me. Other kids, who were watching, giggled and began to follow her lead. When my father came to pick me, I ran to him with tear-filled eyes and declared that I would never study in the same school again. He asked what happened and I told him everything. I told him he should go and beat that girl.
“Yes, I will. But first let us eat something,” he said. I happily went with him. At the restaurant, while I ate, he told me a story from his life. The story of a mysterious letter.
One day, he received a letter written in the Kannada language with no return address. He was baffled because he didn’t know anyone who was from Karnataka where the language is spoken. Letters and postcards were rare and important pieces of communication in those days. Why would someone send him a letter in a strange language? What did it say? He was curious but he had his doubts.
So he went straight to a bookstore and purchased two books; ‘learn Kannada in 30 days’ and a Kannada -Malayalam dictionary. He devoted himself to learning the language. When he mastered reading the language, he took out his letter and read. The letter began with the salutation, 'To the donkey of Kunhimangalam' (our village). Rest of it contained details as to why he qualified for the coveted post. After reading, he quietly burned it.
He then went to the person who he suspected as the sender of the letter. He was someone who worked in his hospital and whom he had caught red-handed stealing medicines from the hospital store. This person hailed from a village which was on the Kerala-Karnataka border and hence well versed in Kannada. His intention when he sent the letter to my father was to publicly humiliate him.
Obviously, he would go to someone who knew Kannada and would get embarrassed when another person read it out to him and explained the meaning.
He told the person about the mysterious letter. He said he was very thankful to the person who wrote it because it made him learn Kannada, a language he always wanted to learn. While the other person turned red with shame, he walked away with his head held high.
“So my dear, it is always important that we learn our lesson even when it comes disguised as an insult. The best revenge always is to prove your haters wrong, to get benefited from their hatred. I learned a new language because of that man’s hatred. You will prove to her that you are better than her in studies. You are capable of doing that, aren’t you?”
I nodded vigorously and smiled up at him.
That year, I studied doubly hard and emerged as the topper of my class. My proud father gifted me several comics and sweets.

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