I had always seen him in kurta-pyjamas, sitting on a recliner on our farm, managing cheerfully the sprawling vast lands with love, toil and sweat. Things around him moved with clockwork precision. From fulfilling harvesting needs, feed for the buffaloes to filling our swimming pool with fresh water, every action was undertaken under his care and supervision. I had met my father-in-law four months back. Since that day, we had spoken daily on the phone, and during my visits, he had always shown me around with much gusto and enthusiasm. He was a phenomenal father, grandfather, husband and a loyal friend to many. With a dry sense of humour, a hearty laugh and boundless compassion, he had an uncanny ability to fix things around the farm and had a deep knowledge of the world.
When I had just got married, I was apprehensive. I had come from a household wherein my parents had believed in and championed gender equality and helped break down gender barriers at all levels for me and my brother. What if I did not get my due? How will I ever adjust? Soon I found my worries were needless. Breaking all stereotypes, my father-in-law ensured that before I had entered my in-laws’ house, my name was to be engraved on the nameplate outside the house. He had no qualms about me retaining my parental surname.
It was barely three months of my marriage, when over a weekend discussing the farm laws, I expressed my desire to learn the skills of a farmer. He more than delightfully accepted to help me transition into an IRS officer-cum-farmer. We could discuss at length all social and political issues, while he valued my presence and opinion over his own son’s. He taught me that care-giving was not feminine, but was simply human. Here was a true son of the soil, a man of substance, an unsung hero who had no social media presence, but with his inherent nature and respect for women, quietly managed to spread his magic and helped make this world a better place for women like me.
We lost him recently and unexpectedly. Still he seems to be teaching us from beyond that grief is grief, there is no contest. Sometimes, there is resentment, how dare he show us so much love and leave us, and yet acceptance to have been lucky to have lived with that love and sense of security. It is in difficult times that one takes refuge in the memories of the past. A smell, a tune, a glimpse are all it takes to drift back in that moment in time, where the mind seeks solace in these memories. It makes us appreciate the beauty in stillness and hope. As we battle endless grief and pain, the family celebrates the progressive farmer; what a man, what a life.
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