“What is his name?”
“He is so cute. He has a fair complexion!”
“See he is grabbing the toy, he knows it is for him, looks very intelligent”.
These were comments from guests gathered to greet my son. I was holding my one-year-old son ‘Punith’, whom we had nicknamed ‘Puni’. We were celebrating his first birthday. All the guests took turns to take the baby boy and play with him. Me, with my wife were busy collecting presents from guests, given to the boy.
My mother and father were also present in the party, standing away from the crowd. One of the guests was my aunt, a cousin of my father. She was talking to my parents. She wanted to carry my son. I took Punith to her.
She held the boy, observed him closely, and said to my father:
“Does he not look exactly like you? See his forehead, and then his eyes, they resemble you. He will grow up exactly look like you.”
Punith was given a toy to play which was making bird-like sounds. He tried to put it in his mouth. My aunt took it away. This made Punith angry, he threw away the toy, and started crying loudly. His tantrums disturbed the whole party. I took him from her, returned the toy to him, and left him to play as he pleased.
My aunt laughingly said again, “I told you so, he is exactly like your father. Your father was always short-tempered. We grew together and I was a little elder to him. He used to quarrel with everyone”.
My father was not happy with my aunt’s statement. Even I was not amused much and it was for a different reason. My son’s Birthday party went on well. But a nagging fact started to haunt me, that was Puni would grow to be like my father?
I respected my father because he was my father. But I did not like most of his personality. Certainly, we did not want another person like my father, in our family.
Physically my father was a bit stout. He was a serious person. He was very intelligent and his mathematical genius was superior to most of the people I knew. He was a government officer. Socially he was recognized and respected well. But at home, we had a contrasting experience with him. He was to be seen and heard from a distance. Any relationship with him could be very painful. He was a self-centered and selfish man. He used to write off any person who did not measure up to his so-called minimum sense.
The immediate victim was my mother. He dominated her so much that he forgot that she had some talents, likes and dislikes. He gave her a son and money to run the house. She suffered tyranny with him. She always said that for my sake, she kept suffering.
My wife was excited when Puni got the U-KG progress report and shared her happiness with me.
She asked me, “Want to see how your son fared?” and showed me his report.
“See Numbers and counting abilities got excellent ranking”. My wife said.
“Wonderful” I also said, happily.
“Maybe, he is like your father”. My wife said.
“Do you mean that he is not like me?” I said for fun. Of course, I was average in academics all the time.
I felt good that he would fare well in Mathematics but the following thought and disappointment was that he was going to be like my father. I did some good things. I never shared my fears of Puni’s hereditary faculties with my wife.
I could feel my characteristics were very distinct from my father, as I was more like my mother. My physical features and attitudes, I inherited from my maternal uncle. As I grew to adulthood, I could see and feel the divide between my father and mother very clearly. I did not fare well in mathematics so he branded me dullard and refused to invest for my post-graduation.
There was another strong reason for my antipathy to my father. As a touring Government officer, he had a clandestine life outside our house. My mother had a strong feeling that he had an affair and that was the reason for his complex behavior at home.
When Puni was in his first class, we attended the parent-teacher meeting. We met his class teacher, Rani.
“Puni is a very clever boy. He has good handwriting”, Rani, teacher certified.
“Thanks, Madam” my wife thanked the teacher. But I remembered my father had good handwriting. I cursed again, why these genetics should work so consistently?
Rani continued, “Puni is not that social, He is a quarrelsome boy. He does not make friends well. As he grows, he will learn to be good, need not worry” Teacher gave very encouraging words.
My wife returned satisfied. I returned scornful.
My son started growing. After all, he was my son. All our attention was on Puni. Our lives were around Puni. I could only feel and grumble. I could not even say it to my wife. Puni started growing fatter. My father’s features were quite visible in him. His progress card in academics showed mixed indications.
My father had a heart attack and he passed away. We all mourned. A very old surviving person from our families visited us. He praised my father. He attributed many noble qualities to him. He was not aware of our family ordeals. He could have been a wife or a son to feel good about my father. I got inquisitive and asked the old man:
“Uncle, do you know my father when he was a boy?”
The old gentleman replied,“Yes I knew him very closely. He used to be a peevish boy. Your father did well in his studies. But his father used to feel happy that he was like his grandfather. Your father was named after his grandfather.”
I got the required reply. There was no escape for me. My father was like his grandfather. My son would be like his grandfather. I thought that it would be better for me to like my father.
Puni’s tenth standard results were announced. His performance was average. He got just pass marks in Mathematics but he got good percentage in other subjects. My wife and I were disappointed. We were worried about, what to do with his studies. We started searching for alternatives for his career. We decided we would engage a mathematics tutor for him.
But there was a tiny entity in me, which silently rejoiced Puni’s poor performance in Mathematics. That was a reason to cheer for the rest of my life. My son Puni missed the hereditary cycle. He was an average student, unlike my father. No one would dare to say that “He is like your father!”.