Remembering Appa

The world need not know the story of this man but everyone who knew him has come away richer for it. So here I share a collection of thoughts and memories – in no special order – much like my relationship with him – random, tangled and cosy!

It’s been 10 years since Appa (my father-in-law) passed on. Time has flown by and yet crept along …

He was by no means perfect. I suspect he was not an easy spouse. He liked his own way and was definitely a force to reckon with. It took a while for me to understand him. A lot of people never actually did! He was like the proverbial iceberg keeping most of himself unknown.

Every single day I remember him … for the little things and the big …

His open hearted welcome to me when I joined the family – indeed, before I was married. We daughters-in-law were definitely the daughters he never had. He trusted me with his dreams, his ambitions, his concerns for the future. Possibly more than to his son, he shared his innermost joys and fears with me. Sometimes it embarrassed me, sometimes I felt like an intruder. Always I was touched and honoured by his trust and confidence in me.

His childhood, by all accounts, was a struggle beyond my wildest imagination. People who ought to have nurtured the child taught him the meaning of hardship. Yet, he was one of the few people I know who gave affection without reservation. He trusted people with an innocence that often worried me. A difficult past never got in his way of enjoying the present.

Often we argued – an unheard of activity between a father-in-law and daughter-in-law in an Indian context. At the end we would sit together and laugh at ourselves. Every single time. Or there would be a look of understanding. Or a hug. A man who took advice in the spirit it was offered, a man who was able to laugh at himself, a man who understood that differences in our perspectives brought us a special relationship … truly a rarity.

He was the ultimate sous chef! His expertise at cutting vegetables was legendary. He would grate, grind, chop and arrange all the ingredients you’d need in a beautifully organised fashion so the chef just cooked! And then he would clean up and put away everything leaving the kitchen like a model for a television cookery show! Often he would stand at my shoulder and give me advice. Sometimes he’d object to my methods. Often he criticised my order of ingredients going into the pot … till I lost patience and told him “you do it, then!” It was comical, each time, to watch him hurriedly back off!

He loved food and made it a point to appreciate every person who cooked – simple or elaborate menus. He told you the truth but alway with love. Given this, his acceptance of the most stringent diet post his surgery was astonishing. Yes he did protest. Once. For the next one year he ate what he had to, exercised as he was advised, never missed his medication. He was a model patient. And he never lost his sense of humour through all of it.

I only got to know him in his later years. By all accounts he had a temper as a young man. Apparently he threw tantrums. Certainly he was stubborn – but open to argument. By the time I joined the family he had become an oasis of calm.

He really had the “healing touch” – but that is not surprising. His hand and heart were so gentle that they naturally healed – the body and the mind. I don’t think anyone could stay angry or hurt for long in his vicinity.

He was possessive. Every object in his home was cleaned and polished. Every bit of cloth washed and folded neatly. Every person in his life was given the same care and attention.

Some of strongest learnings I have taken from him are his insistence on perfection at what he did and his zest for living!

I cannot say that I miss him, for he is with me constantly!

Remembering with love and gratitude and respect, Ramaswamy Krishnamachar.