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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Honoring Fathers - Happy fathers day

My father Abdul Rahman, my dadly-friends Everett Blauvelt and DD Maini

My father is my hero. He opened the windows of wisdom to me and led his life as an example. He was one of the most open minded persons I have known; he had prejudice towards none, indeed, if I pass that test and I am close,  I would like to have my head stone read "zero prejudice".  Thank you Dad! 

Much of my sense of equality and feeling on par with everyone comes from his life model. 

I have to use the disgusting word “Untouchable” to describe the situation in the early 60's of India. Yes, a group of people were called untouchables, indeed they make up 3rd of India's population. I will share a few examples that may make you shudder. Indeed, the grand parents of African American youth, and the older generation of Native Americans may relate with this.  Thank God, both America and India have made tremendous progress in civility, but it is shameful, this is still a practice in many nations.

Unfortunately, that was a fact of life when I was growing up in India. “They” worked outside, and were not allowed in  Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh and other homes. My Dad broke all the rules, not only they would come in our home, but would eat in the same plates we would eat, and my mother would cheerfully make tea for them in the same cups we would drink. Never were they looked down or talked down… (This was common) to Mara, Naga…and others who worked for us from time to time.  My Dad’s actions had a big impact on me, and my mother had continuously reinforced those values. He said it was the right thing to do.

In the early sixties, water was drawn from the open wells in my town, and I watched the first water lines laid in the town. The public water faucets were set in the corner of every other street. We all went to collect water, and I watched some of the most humiliating acts there.  After one of “them” collected the water, a few from my line would go to the faucet and bloody wash the faucet  several times before they collected the water,  and I could see the pain on the faces of others waiting in the line. The only good thing was the lines and “they” had equal opportunity with every one, even thought there were two lines.
We simply cannot appreciate Mahatma Gandhi enough, the father of my nation of birth, he called them “Harijan” God’s people and gradually the word became a descriptor of the people. They are called Dalits as well. The founding fathers were ahead of their times, like the founding fathers of America. The wrote great constitutions which are gradually being emancipated, we still have a long ways to go.

My Dad was screamed at by his friends and local leaders (he was a council man and a Mayor of the town) for allowing “these” people in our homes. My Dad had the balls to defy the world and always did what was the right thing, and thanks to my Dad for passing on those balls to me.

He treated all of us kids with dignity and I am pleased I got to be disciplined at least once, the memory of which consistently reminds me to get my act together. I guess I replicated that with my children to the point my kids would actually say, Dad, you should have disciplined us. I did not see the need for it. I am fine and they are fine too. I did give them the cold shoulder that my father had given me to straighten me out, and it worked both ways, although my daughter was a tough cookie, she would not budge, she almost behaves like my mother with me and I loved it.

He taught that life isn't worth as much if we cannot stand up and help a fellow being.  I was about ten years old and watched a man fall off his bicycle with his big bag of raw rice (paddy) and was struggling to get back on it, and I wasn't going to help the man. I saw my father about 100 feet away, and the way he sped towards me got me frightened for the first time in my life... Instincts work as my guilt warned it.  I dashed inside the home and a few minutes later after helping the guy he was in… I climbed on top of the paddy bags in a corner of the house, I thought he could not get me there, so he goes outside and plucks a long branch off the mulberry tree and gives me a few good ones. "My son will never do that" after that conditioning, I have developed the habit of stopping for everyone who needs help. I dare not watch and not do something about it.

He was affectionate, caring and kind towards everyone I know. Every one in the town called him "Mamu"- uncle. They all came to him with issues, they trusted his integrity to do the just thing. 

He was rarely angry, and I can count on the number of times I have been angry on my finger tips; thanks to him, he passed it on.  If you are a father, remember, your kids are likely to emulate you, think for them what you want them to be as grownups. What would you want them to be? 

When I was about 5 years old, one of our tenants was angry at his brother, he was nearly white but had turned red in anger, he picked up a big slab of rock and was about to slam it on his brother.. my Dad rushed and grabbed the rock… the seething look on that man’s face is permanently etched in my mind… the moment, I find myself angered, I think of him and said to myself, Ayyo (Bangalore expression for amazement) I don’t want to look that ugly and my anger  vanishes. In the last 15 years I must have been angry no more than three times. Ruben, my serviceman went to cash the check from the bank, and the bank asked too many ID’s because he was Mexican. I flew off the handle on the phone and cursed the hell out of the manger, until he gave him the cash.

Pluralism indeed runs in my family. He taught one of the biggest lessons of my life in social cohesiveness and dealing with extremism that I continue to reflect in my talks, acts and write ups. 

Remember your child will work, live and perhaps marry someone from a different race, ethnicity, faith, culture or a nation… as a father (its father’s day - it would have been mother on mother's day) have you thought of preparing your son or daughter for that day and save them misery of prejudice? I believe deep down every father wants “happiness” for their kids, but sometimes, messes up with them by the display of his own un-checked prejudices. I am glad I "dragged" my children to every place of worship for them to be familiar with how other people worship the creator. Happiness is feeling safe and secure with every human out there and it comes when we are exposed to it.

I think of my Dad almost every other day, but today, I am going to sit down, meditate and think about all the good things he has done to me, including my education, and pray for his soul. I do the Muslim way, as that is the way I am familiar with, but you do your own way, whatever makes you comfortable. You Dad will be happy whether he is alive with you or in the heavens.  

I am also going to pray for the health of my fatherly-friends Mr. Everett Blauvelt and Shri D. D. Maini, 97 and 86 respectively and hope to visit both of them today; one is in senior care and the other in hospital. Both are very dear to me.   

Happy father’s day to you as well. If you need a ear to hear you, you are welcome to call me today at (214) 325-1916 - and I would have the affection like a father for you. If you are older than me call me as your son.

This write up is also available at:  http://theghousediary.blogspot.com/2012/06/honoring-fathers-happy-fathers-day.html 

Mike Ghouse

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