My role model
Decades ago, a young man decided to carve out his own destiny by moving out of the remote village in Assam that he was born in. Even in his childhood, he knew he would not limit himself to that small patch of the world. And he was prepared to go the long and rough way to make it happen.
And he did.
Later, his mother would tell me how as a child he would light an oil lamp and study throughout the night as the whole village lay in slumber. He would carry his books while out in the fields to graze cattle and read them in the blazing sun while his friends played kabaddi and football nearby. He would wade through miles of slush during heavy monsoons to attend school in the adjacent town.
“Your father has always been a sincere and committed person,” my (late) grandmother would say, recalling her son’s childhood.
These words have been used repeatedly to describe my father by people who know him. Particularly by the person who has lived and known him the longest – my mother. She would stick a warning finger at us when sis and I were growing up.
“Remember,” Ma would tell us. “Your father has given his blood and sweat to build his repute. Do not do anything that may sully his name.”
Deta (that’s how we call our father) has always been an upright officer and I have rarely seen anyone who is so passionate towards his work and so selflessly helpful to the need of others. His 18 years in Manas Wildlife Sanctuary is still remembered by old-timers as a Golden Period in the sanctuary’s history, though his work never got much recognition. An unsung hero, he had built roads, anti-poaching offices and mapped out Manas. I don’t remember sharing a single meal with him in my childhood. He would always be out patrolling the jungles with his men in the dead of night, not driving around comfortably in a vehicle but on elephant-back or on foot, disregarding the perils of the jungle. He hardly smiled; it was always his worry lined face that would peer at us in the wee hours of the morning when he returned home.
In his years in Manas, Deta had crossed swords with many politicians and higher- ups in order to protect Manas, not bending the rules for anyone. He survived death threats and a deadly attack on his life. Perhaps his good deeds were too powerful for anything untoward to happen to him.
On the personal front, Deta has a relentless craving towards garnering knowledge and the topics would range from wildlife photography to growing bonsai plants to breeding fish. At that period in the 70s, when there was no internet, he honed his knowledge by interacting with people from various fields as well as reading up on those subjects. Today, we have an impressive library which has tomes on almost every topic. It is another matter that his hobbies would end up as additional responsibility for Ma.
Although Deta hardly noticed how we grew up, he was very concerned about our studies. He hated the concept of private tuitions that was (still is) rampant in Guwahati. But it was always with a palpating heart that we would approach him for any help with our studies – he had a terribly short temper! We could never really gauge his love for us till we grew up and one day witnessed a fight between our parents. Ma had brought up the subject of us getting married and Deta had vehemently opposed it saying “I will not marry off my daughters! They will stay with me forever!” I could not bring myself to look at his tearful face when I got married and left home. I know now that he worked hard all his life so that we would not face the difficulties that he himself had confronted.
Today, even as he is in his 70s, his zeal for life and work remains the same. He is still the person who was workaholic enough to forget his own newly wedded bride and wonder about her when he saw her in the garden once on returning home from office. The same person who remembers tongue twisting botanical names of plants and yet could not remember his own daughters’ good names.
Last year, he had a massive stroke and we almost lost him. That terrible incident has taken away some of his edge. We find it very hard to accept that he has grown quieter after that and seems to have aged overnight. And yet his commitment towards work and his helpful nature remains unchanged. He is engaged presently with an office as consultant after his retirement and even today at this age and with such health issues, he would not say no to the call of duty. It is when I see him leave excitedly for some distant city or country that I find it difficult to ask him to retire from work.
I grew up with people telling me to ‘become like your father’. He was the first person from his village to go overseas, by dint of his own hard work. His honesty is somewhat legendary in his work circles. He is never known to have said ‘no’ to anyone. I remember crying out “Don’t find me someone who is like Deta” to Ma, frustrated by his gullibility. It is another story that I found that man myself, who is a copy of Deta.
I don’t know if my sis or I have done my parents proud. But we have remained steadfast to what Ma had taught us – never to tarnish the hard earned reputation of Deta. We have emulated his honesty and sincerity, though perhaps not his passion for office work! He has always been and would always remain my role model. Forever and more.
Deta with Ma
Celebrating Men Who Make A Difference.
I am writing about #MyRoleModel as a part of the activity by Gillette India in association with BlogAdda.com.