An Excerpt on Father’s Day

21 Jun

…Freedom, for my father, meant solitude and I think it is safe to say, loneliness. The freer and more independent he became, the more it sunk in that he was isolated from his family and to a certain extent, from life.  There would be no rock, no foundation, to return to, and so, like others before him with that double-edged luxury, he began to travel.

My knowledge of my father’s travels is wrapped in black and white photographs – thick cards with serrated edges and short descriptions written in his hand on the reverse side. The comments are in English, in Roman letters shaped slightly with a curvature derived from an Indian script, perhaps Telegu. They place my father with only the barest of details. He refers to himself in the third person (so distant from the American sense of “I”), and thus, it is Sudershan at Patiala, 1956, or Sudershan with M. Singh in Kashmir, 1961. I imagine that third person habit to be a signal of his loneliness, as if from a distance he is narrating a story about a character who happened, quite naturally, to be him.  Maybe he didn’t know himself that well.  That too is a kind of loneliness.

I could be wrong about this aspect of my father.  It’s entirely possible that he simply enjoyed his trips and his pictures of himself across India. He certainly doesn’t look lonely in the pictures. In almost every pose there is a half-smile, something between a light-hearted challenge and a shy smirk. He looks pleased with himself, which is a far cry from the loneliness I want to ascribe to him. Really, it’s probably likely that my father was a relaxed, happy traveler.  With happiness there was no need to explain himself to anyone. People after all are more inclined to ask “But why are you unhappy?” That may be the reason my father described his travels with the barest of details – what was the point in kicking up dust if everything was going his way? Why raise questions in people’s minds? Wasn’t it preferable to ruminating too much?  This is who I am and where I was.  A young man in search of the world around him…

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