In so many immeasurable ways I wish I wasn’t like my dad. Because in so many immeasurable ways I know he’s a very difficult person.
I think teaching thousands and thousands of students over a span of more than twenty five years makes you that sort of a human being. My dad is a complicated and twisted human being who has his own unique and sometimes very mind-boggling eccentricities. Being a teacher, he cannot help but judge anyone and everyone on merits. There is a certain very high level of moral quotient which you develop when you have hundreds of classes of thousands of students looking up to you for guidance and directions. He cannot help but be an epitome of what is the right thing to do. My dad is a perfectionist in every sense of the word. He has high standards of doing things, living a certain kind of life and he incessantly strives to achieve that perfection in all his affairs. And just like him, I am a perfectionist, anti-pathetically so. I many a times wish I wasn’t this way. Perfection is beautiful on an orgasmic level. But just like orgasms, achieving perfection is rare, and on non-fulfillment almost always disheartening. We as human beings, live in an imperfect asymmetric world and when a majority fails to taste that level of success in their endeavors, we tend to glorify imperfections to create false illusions of a sense of achievement. We begin to call it a practical approach which gets mass endorsements because it is easy and it works. And that is when perfectionists start to be looked down upon. I wish I wasn’t one, but I have grown to realize I am unarguably and irrevocably born this way.
When I think of my dad as a teacher I begin to realize that although he tends to meet a lot of new people very often, he is characteristically and essentially a very private person. He is as much an introvert as he is a charismatic outwitting professor in his class. It is hard to explain such diametrically opposite behaviors encapsulated in a single individual. Or rather I should just say he is selectively extrovert. He tends to pour his heart out to people with whom he manages to strike a chord. Others, well they simply don’t deserve much of his attention. And much to other people’s discontent, I am a very private person myself. It is tough for me to keep up with trivial conversations. I cannot do small talk and I often times get caught up in awkward silences in empty spaces with not so close acquaintances. Many a times I did try to fight it and often landed into situations where I didn’t feel like myself anymore. That space is very tricky to manage. You feel so conscious of not coming across as someone who is proud or pretentious and you also don’t want to spill a lot of beans. But thankfully I am learning. Over the past few years, I have subtly changed my approach to such situations and have been better able to deal with them.
Just like my dad and mine idiosyncrasies about having a closed personality, we both have starting troubles. Now I don’t know if there is better word for that sort of a disorder but it means that when we meet someone after a long stretch of time, we do not know how to start. It is weird because even if we shared a good chemistry with the person earlier, we take some time to fall back in the comfortable space where it doesn’t feel like we’re trying to make an effort. And this syndrome, is not just with outsiders. It happens between me and my dad as well! When we meet after a long time, we take some time, almost a day to start talking like we do. It is ridiculously weird, but somehow it just is.
My mom on the other hand is very different from my dad and me. She is exceedingly good at people skills and never for once I have found her at a loss of words with anyone and everyone. She glides gracefully into the space where I and my dad barely manage to keep pace. And because of such lopsidedness, there is often a discord between my mom and dad. But in spite of countless dis-satisfactory remarks of my mom about my dad’s behavior, he continues to mind his business as his alone, not even my mom’s.
My dad is a creature of habits, many of which he refuses to change. For example, he has a habit of never telling my mom the exact time at which he has to leave for college in the morning. And this leads to much of my mom’s confusion as to when she should keep his lunch ready. Sometimes when she hurries her chores to prepare his lunch, he very leisurely leaves at 12 in the noon. Other times when my mom is short of time to finish her morning rituals and temple routine, he tends to blow up a squabble of getting late for college at 9 in morning. Some things like this are unexplained mysteries in my house which cannot be solved. There is no reason for his such an etiquette and no amount of banging heads will lead to any sensible justification. He just is this way, a slave of his habits. And so much like him am I. I am a lousy packer when it comes to packing for a trip. I hate to pack, I just despise it. There is no reasonable justification for me not packing until the last hour and always missing out on stuffing something important. But there is no learning happening because I am never going to pack one day in advance. It just is not me. It is a shoddy habit, but there is no coming out of it.
I and my dad both love to hoard books. We have enough books at home to open a library and have a steady passive income from the library memberships. And even now when I live away from home, I have a travel bag full of books which I refuse to give away. I always carry a book wherever I go. If there is a book fair, I and my dad are bound to be there. If there is a roadside book stand, me and my dad will definitely go and browse the collection. We are books junkie to the extent that we cannot sleep in the nights without having books tucked in our beds. And strangely enough, that gives us a sense of security nothing else can. But the other side of the story is this – the obsession is so bad that we tend to buy books we never read. This not just involves cost, but they also eat up space in our house. We still very naively believe that someday in our lives we will be free and have nothing to do but read all those books we have bought. And then our fairy tale story of reading all those books will come true.
The more closely you see someone, the more you realize that we are all inherently flawed. In some or the other unique way. What is really interesting is that I find my flaws on a saturated level in my dad. It gives me a sneak peek into what I might be like when I grow up. Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll learn. Who knows?