December 27, 2019

The Undefeated: A Life Worth Writing About - Part I

The Undefeated

His walk had the enthusiasm and exuberance, uncharacteristic for an Intensive Care Unit (I.C.U). At least it felt so to the two sets of eyes that looked at him when he entered the room. Strangers walking in and out of a room in a hospital is not unusual, but his gait seemed to have disturbed the monotony that had defined the past 2.5 months for these women.

Therefore, he was received with more irritation than skepticism. Brief introductions ensued and the young man continued towards the bed.

An old and frail man laid there. Unconscious.

They could sense the familiar unease in him, that every visitor had shown, in the months gone by. Reactions of disbelief, shock, trauma and grief had become commonplace.

This could not have happened to “Him”.  “He” was indestructible, and the laws of Nature were not supposed to get to him!

The young man, initially perturbed at finding him in this situation, steadied himself and addressed the ladies.

“I am one of His assistants and was fighting a case on His behalf in the State High Court. He prepared the whole case and trained us for every eventuality. Even though he was not present at the hearings, it seemed he had played it in his mind, all along.”

He paused, looked at Him again, smiled and continued.

“And WE WON!”

The case hearing had been recorded and he had come a long way to play that for Him. He put the headphones on Him and played the recording from his phone.

His face beamed; His fist unclenched; His fingers moved; He may also have smiled a little.

And just like that, He – Advocate Shri Pratap Chandra Mathur – my grandfather – my dear Nana, while in a coma, registered another win in his name.

Till the end, he remained undefeated.

Life 1: Death 0

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My grandfather passed away earlier this year. Today, December 27th, is his birthday. Over the past year, my family and I, have talked in detail about his life and legacy. But the fundamental shortcoming of reminiscing and discussing one's legacy is that it starts from the point of them passing away. We tend to gravitate towards the world that they left behind more than the memories they created on the way!  Thus, the beautiful intricacies of their life often go unnoticed.

So, to honor his life, over the course of next few weeks, I would be posting short anecdotes signifying how I would like him to be remembered.

While these stories are personal and unique, I am sure they would resonate with a larger audience. The emotions, experiences and challenges of the Greatest Indian Generation inspire us all and we grew up listening to them. It is, therefore, my sincere hope that in the life of my grandfather, my readers would find the stories of the great patriarchs and matriarchs of their homes too. 

June 16, 2019

The Fathers Who Raised Us

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A dedication to the fathers who raised grateful kids and build proud families. In memory of the inspirational patriarchs, weight of whose gratitude, we realize every single day!
Happy Fathers Day


We tend to look at our childhoods from our mother’s eyes. For most of us, the attachment to the Creator comes naturally, while it needs a certain amount of growing up to really appreciate the role of our other half!
But if you grew up in the India of the 80s and the 90s, that gratitude also comes bearing the realization of how much times have changed, for the better, of course.

I am going to make a few generalizations, based on my knowledge, experiences and interpretations. Barring a few specifics, I would expect them to be applicable to vast majority of Indian middle-class households.

“The complicated joy of being a father, is traveling two roads every moment-both looking forward as I watch him grow up while glancing backward at the boy I once was.”

An Indian father in those decades, was a young man caught between two ideas of India. One was that of his parents- who had seen and overcome times of national insufficiencies that had made them naturally circumspect. The other, was his own, in which he, along with his generation, envisioned breaking the socialistic cocoon of post-colonial India and dream bigger than his parents ever did.

In a few years, in the new millennium, this man, now a father of teens, was about to be introduced to another India – global, rootless, loud, brash, brave and uncompromising. Imagine keeping up with the times when the world changes around you, so dramatically, and so many times, in a span of one-half lifetime! The paradox is akin to enjoying the calmness of Sunil Gavaskar bat for 5 days, with Kishor Kumar playing in the background, immediately followed by the shock and awe of watching an IPL Super Over to the blasting tunes of YoYo Honey Singh!

Add to this, the responsibilities of raising self-sufficient kids, building proud families, keeping up and passing on parents’ traditions, maintaining a social standing and making a professional career amongst all, and we may start to see your fathers in a new light.

The illusion of joint-families was still going strong when men of this generation became fathers. If we ever found them lacking in expressions, especially of love and affection, this was a major reason. It was not the norm to spend an entire evening with just your wife and kids; one had to pencil in time for parents and social discourse. It was also unusual to buy presents for just your children, and often, you had to entertain the other kids in the house too! And remember, the circumspect parents are still very much a part of their daily lives. So, spending money for pleasure of any kind, was frowned upon, and often loudly so.

Another aspect of parenting that often goes unnoticed is, professional lives. These men were fathers in a pre-open market and sixth pay commission era. Their monthly salaries were a mediocre 4-digits, part of which, once again, went towards joint families’ expenditures. But we still got toys, didn’t we? Also, new bags, shoes, water bottles and stationery, each school year. And somehow, there was still money left for Mathematics tuition, if needed! Thinking of your father as a magician, yet?

But finance was not the only aspect. If your fondest childhood memories of home, are with the women of your household, there was a good reason for it.  This was also a time when jobs, private or government, did not acknowledge the significance of fatherhood. Hence, there were no provisions for paternity leave, family leave or work from home. The only savior were the LTCs (leave travel concession) offered by a few employers, mostly banks, for paid family vacations. Of course, only annually though!

That generation chose jobs over careers for the most part. Partly because, their elders, belonged to a guarded society often seeking stability over ambition and they passed on that wisdom. But also, because now, as fathers and parents, they sought the same stability for their children. Hence, a transfer, even the ones that were byproducts of promotions, were perceived as the biggest career challenge, especially in the middle of a school year. A job switch was a strict no-no!

Another lesser appreciated factor is language. This generation was mostly taught in vernacular but were forced to make careers in English. They then raised a generation obsessed with, and often judgmental about, English. Once again, they found themselves caught between changing times, trying to impress their parents, peers and children, all at the same time!


The Indian millennial (born after 1982) fathers have the luxury of being focused on just a few things in life. Make no mistake in appreciating how this generation is changing the course of Indian history by being resolute, industrious and unbelievably aspirational. But their liberties as parents cannot be understated. The MNCs ensure that they now have both money and time to start and raise a family. Society in its traditional form does not exist anymore. Hence, the norms, expectations and obligations that it brought along, have greatly been reduced as well. The biggest factor of all, though, is parental support. Most couples now, cannot imagine starting a family, without foreseeing uprooting their parents for months at stretch, to help with the babies.  
The challenges of our fathers were not limited to their younger days. The battle is still on. Now in their sixties and seventies, they are still trying every bit to be better in their new roles- as grandparents! Trying to be more involved, more understanding, less overbearing and sharing the burden (joy!) of raising families of their children. The modern life now demands of them to be tech savvy as well.  And, boy, are they winning on that front, or what!

The doggedness, adaptation and prioritization of our fathers is something to be inspired by. Their ability to learn new things and explore new places while of reminiscing the bygone era, is astonishing.
While Mothers make homes, Fathers build families. It is in their eyes, where we celebrate our successes and mourn our losses, the most. It is the reassurance of having those eyes watching us forever, cautioning us on every step and cheering for us when no one else would, that saves us from ourselves.

May they always watch over us! Like my favorite photo below! 

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