My father’s greatest gift to me

That night, he offered me a whiskey, like a grown adult. He told me to man up, but not in a condescending way, but as a best friend would, JAGDESH SINGH recalls one vivid moment with his father.

| Opinion | 25 Feb 2017 | Asia Samachar |


Like any typical son, I had a roof over my head and food on the table, and more. I grew up with the comforts many take for granted till today. There is no doubt about this. My education, my trials and tribulations as a teenager, all painted over a canvassed backdrop of peace and freedom from heavy burdened shoulders. As a father today, I honestly couldn’t have asked for more from my dad. And I have no qualms saying this because I wouldn’t have changed a single second of my existence while under his care. But all of this merely gets mentioned nor, even worse, gets displayed as appreciation to him, even till today. Taken for granted. I will never know what was at play that I was born with these gifts of life, but I am so very thankful. My pettiness with chasing after what life offers often makes these reminders far and between, but when reminded… Well, makes me wish I learn to never forget.

The biggest gift bestowed upon me by my father was the gift of being treated as a friend from a very young age. My earliest memory of this was when, in my early teens, he joked to me about how animated my mother was.

She was seated on the floor, in that area that acts like a hallway in the middle of three rooms upstairs. Her back hunched and propped against the pillar between the master bedroom and mine. She was sewing something, I can’t remember what. And was clearly irritated with the mosquitoes biting her as she steadied the needle through the cloth. Suddenly, as if on cue after a minute of silence, I heard a loud slapping sound and her exclaiming loudly, not sighing, not muttering, but exclaiming loudly “HAIYAH!!”. Bruce Lee would’ve been proud.

I was next to my dad, he was sitting up on my single bed watching over my sister who was struggling with her homework that night at my study desk. He smirks at me and says “The way she killed that mosquito was like slaying an elephant!”. Perhaps it was the timing, or perhaps it was the slight surprise I experienced that his joke reminded me of how he joked with his friends. I laughed and giggled for quite a bit. While laughing, I felt a sense of appreciation that he thought of me as his friend at that moment. It was not like he never joked with me before. Laughter was prevalent in our home. But this time, for the first time, he joked about his wife with me. My mother, meanwhile, was oblivious to this light moment, and carried on with her mission that night, slaying more mosquitoes, short of cursing in Cantonese in my young impressionable presence.

On to my final year in university. Exams were over and I decided to stay in campus and not go home to mom’s cooking for about a month or so. I was at the age where, without me realising, I was asserting on myself the alpha male role that was so typical of my Pa. Young adults that age always vow to never be like their fathers, almost like a ritual, as if to announce that they are their own individuals. But what these young fellas don’t know is, more often than not, a little of the old man gets rubbed off without them knowing.

I was nursing a severe case of heartbreak. The girl I was madly in love with decided that I wasn’t in her long term plans. The last thing a young man should do when trying to recover from this is to be all alone in campus with the rest of the gang all at their hometowns. I reluctantly dialed my home number as the coins get swallowed by the phone booth. I didn’t want him to hear my voice because Alpha males don’t go through heartbreaks, at least in my mind. But it was Pa who answered, immediately followed by a gruff “What’s wrong? You ok, beta?”. I tried my best impersonation of someone very busy with extra projects to complete in the computer lab. “Stay where you are, I’m on my way”, he directs me. I couldn’t curse under my breadth like I normally do and protest that he was treating me like a child again. I just hung up and waited.

When he arrived, I was a mess. I sucked on the Vicks menthol sweet to hide the cigarette smell from my mouth. Pa knew right away what had afflicted me. He told me to pack my bags and drove me home in silence. No lectures. No pep talk. Just apathy. He understood, at least from a father’s perspective, of what I was going through. What I wasn’t prepared for was that he didn’t treat me like a son. He treated me like one of my university best mates.

That night, he offered me a whiskey, like a grown adult. He told me to man up, but not in a condescending way, but as a best friend would. My mother was all worried and concerned. He was calm and he joked away. That night, I felt better with the heartbreak slowly healing, but it wasn’t the whiskey. It was realising that I had a friend in my Pa, more than a father.

But like all Alpha males, we had our bitter arguments. As I became more of a man, establishing my own standing in the world, with my own family growing up, our relationship had many a clashes. Some very emotional. Some lasted for weeks. But, like good friends, these arguments become water under the bridge. Each of us recognised that there’s very little can be done to change each other’s mind, and that accepting each other as who he truly was, would be the wise thing to do. Even today, that acceptance is growing, never full blown, because we both are still evolving. Things that made Pa who he was have changed due to circumstances. Mom is no more around to play peacemaker, and so we’ve had to fend for ourselves as we trudge on each other’s territory to being the man of the house. But we remain as friends. As he had shown me how to be one all my life.

The greatest gift that my father will bestow unto me will be the lessons of how I will treat my girls as my friends as they grow up to be independent and strong willed Alpha females. There will be arguments. But we will, I pray and hope, always be friends.


jagdesh-1Jagdesh Singh, a Kuala Lumpur-based executive with a US multinational company, is a father of three girls who are as opinionated as their mother


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    Mahinder Kaur: Brought back many a beautiful moments I had with my Po, shortened version of Bapu. Thank you for this beautiful article.

    Nadia Ahmed: Salute you for being a good son to your father. Bless you.

  2. Like any typical son, I had a roof over my head and food on the table, and more. I grew up with the comforts many take for granted till today.

    My prayer and hope that the comments by Sardar Jagdesh Singh Ji will be appreciated by not only sons but also by daughters and spouses/siblings and other close relatives as the seniors especially parents/grand parents may be perceived by many as ‘old fashioned’ and not understanding vastly changed situations.

    Some feel the loss only after a person is gone for ever. It has been often observed that the elderly may not be taken care of when alive but then ghee is poured in the deceased’s mouth and on the body to signify that the deceased lived a life of plenty. Some even put blankets or send flowers but rarely even visited during the persons life time.

    Gur Fateh