5 Lessons I Learned from My Dad

In my childhood days, Dad was my hero. I remember happily passing tools to him as he worked. He could be standing on a stool placed on top of a table fixing some ceiling fan or braving the scorching heat to buy parts of a mixer grinder from the crowded Channa market or he could be painting the doors of our own house.

As I grew up to be a teenager however, I thought all this laborious work should be delegated instead. My hero lost his charm in my eyes. Dad’s habit of working like a horse and many other of his habits appeared eccentric to me now.

It was only later in life that I realized the hidden learning such as that there was great satisfaction in doing things with one’s own hands.

1. Relentless Work Ethic.

Dad has been the hardest-working person I know. Always on the move, always up to something.

He would create a list of 3-4 goals to achieve each quarter and then every day he would create tasks to pursue those goals. And he wouldn’t stop at that, he would do EVERYTHING POSSIBLE to achieve it.

It was rare for him to go to sleep without achieving what he set out to do each day. If he could not complete a task, it was NEVER due to his inability, inaction, or ignorance; it was always because of some external factor.

But whether it was something he needed to do himself or something he depended on someone else for, he would go to great lengths to make it happen.

On the rare occasion when it didn’t work out, he couldn’t sleep well. That said, he would get up stronger the next morning and look for more creative ways or means to achieve it.

Thanks to him, I learned the satisfaction of doing things on my own.

2. Blunt Honesty.

Dad would never mince words – he always called a spade a spade. This got him into trouble a lot of times, and he hardly ever became a favorite in the extended family. He was often misunderstood, and relatives would talk behind his back. He never cared about that.

I always craved the courage to tell him to be more diplomatic and mindful, but he was who he was and never missed a chance to say it like he felt it.

In his last days, I realized that in a world where people wear masks, shed crocodile tears or sugarcoat their message to fool us, here was my Dad who had the courage to speak without any fear of consequences.

I told Dad two days before his passing that he was a person not many people loved, but the few who loved him loved him like crazy because of who he was – Someone who said what he meant, nothing more, nothing less!

3. Simple Living, High Thinking.

Dad has been the simplest person I know in our extended family. He has been stoic and minimalist before I knew these terms.

He found joy in simple things – simple food, simple living. He spent little money on luxuries (no ACs, no coolers in his workplace where he spent most of his life; even the only fan on his shop floor would be switched off unless there was a “dying” need).

He cycled till he could, then used a scooter until it was hard for him to carry its weight, and finally a lighter Scooty till he could manage to go to the place he loved the most – his place of worship, his workplace!

People would often make fun of him cycling or sitting in the heat in his “simple” shop. Even Mom would often feel embarrassed (what would people think!), but he didn’t ever care.

These were petty matters. Whether the hospital has a fan or not is irrelevant, it is the treatment of the patient that matters, he’d say.

He always taught me to stay away from false prestige and “superiority/inferiority complex“.

4. Decisive Clarity.

Dad was always clear. Whether he was right or not is open to interpretation, and like most decisions, time decides whether the decision was correct or not. But he had an amazing clarity of thought and action.

He would almost always make a firm decision and quickly take action in that direction. That is such an amazing quality in a world where many of us, including me, would mull over matters for a long time.

I would think about who we were dealing with, consider the consequences, and in doing so waste precious time and energy. Many times, overthinking would eventually mean that the matter would lose its essence. But not Dad.

He taught me the importance of making a decision and then making it right. As someone said, “You don’t make a right or wrong decision. You make a decision and then make it right.”

In the last month in this world, he was in the ICU, and we could hardly meet him. They had put all sorts of needles and medicines and blood and platelet transfusions for almost a week. We were making last-ditch efforts to save him and make him feel alright.

The macho man he was, he hated being in that state – alone, bruised, and troubled for basic needs. Above all, helpless.

He was clear he didn’t want to be there. He knew we would not get him out of that place easily, given we wanted to save him. That’s when he came out with his most dastardly weapon which led us to get him out of that hospital in a day and back home. He spent the last 11 days at home with his family. I often slept next to him, held his hand, and all my fears of losing him gradually vanished in the process. I would have regretted not having held his hand, not soothing him in his sleep, and not being with him when he breathed his last. Thanks, Dad, for teaching me clarity.

5. Unyielding Courage.

Dad was the most courageous person I knew. He couldn’t tolerate someone doing something wrong – whether it was someone parking a car in front of the road, chaining the back lane gate, or not giving him what was due. He would be courageous enough to face the situation. This used to scare me. My Dad was my hero, and I never wanted him to get hurt standing up for something like that. I would often tell him, “Why is it your problem? Others can also confront the wrongdoer, why you?” and he would narrate to me the story of “Who would bell the cat?

He meant to say that someone has to take the lead and you should be glad you can be the one. He would fight for himself and others, and when he picked something, he would go ALL OUT to address it. No matter who the opponent was, he didn’t care.

In his last days in the ICU, his family members became his opponents. We were dead against the idea of taking him home because we wanted to treat him and make him alright. He knew he had to show us he still had the power. He was mentally perfectly fine despite his lungs failing him and cancer eating him inside. He was also clear that all these attempts are pointless. He could see his time had come.

Seeing that I was weak and unable to take that decision, he urgently and vehemently called on my sister, Seema.

He shouted unequivocally, “I can’t stay in this wretched place even for a minute. I am going home. If I have to die, I better die at home.” 

There was no looking back. He had made his decision. We were to take him home. Period.

He once again taught me the importance of showing courage in any situation.

Dad, I am proud of you.

I love you. Always.

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