Thursday 23 May 2024

Memories of My Father - Part 3


Excess was something I never saw at our home during my childhood. Our needs were so limited that I never felt a lack of anything. Somehow, even at a young age, I understood that my father worked hard day in, day out but earned very little. I remember one time, on the day of Chaitra Sankranti (last day of Bengali year), our father took my brother and me to a fair in a village about three miles away. In the morning, we walked there with great enthusiasm without any problems. 

We spent the whole morning licking ice cream on sticks and watching people shaking their heads like mad in front of a tall bamboo pole wrapped in red cloth. On the way back, the sun was scorching overhead. Father opened an umbrella over our heads, sweating profusely himself.

"I can't walk anymore, father, rickshaw..." I almost cried.

At that time, there weren't many rickshaws. After standing by the roadside under a tree for a long time, a rickshaw finally appeared. Father approached and spoke to the rickshaw puller. The rickshaw puller shrugged and left. While pedalling away, he turned back and gave us a contemptuous smile. I don't think I'll ever forget that smile. Rickshaws were a luxury for the wealthy back then. Those who couldn't afford it walked miles and miles.

Father came to me and said, "Get on my back."

I was five years old at the time, already attending school. The war had ended about a year before. The war had left my father destitute. When the long struggle for independence ended, my father's struggle began, to rise again from the ashes of our burnt-down home. War ages a person mentally. Without realizing it, we had learned to understand many things. I understood why father offered his back. My leg pain disappeared. We continued walking in the shade of father's umbrella.

Parents sacrifice their lives for a bit of comfort for their children. If that’s not enough, they resort to philosophical sayings. "Money, wealth, status—none of these are permanent. They can be taken away any day for any reason. Everything I had was looted and burned. But the one thing that can never be destroyed, stolen, or taken away is education. I may not be able to leave you money, wealth, or status. I couldn't get an education myself, but if you study, no one can ever take that away from you."

I don't remember what I felt hearing these words at that age. But now, whenever I recall them, I wonder in amazement—does true philosophy arise from deprivation?

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