Vinni is the younger Brat who is better known as the @ and can be found on the highway during his free time. When he is not actually riding, he is talking or writing about it. He blogs at royalenfielder.me and occasionally comments on my posts, if only to correct me with some detail in the L&M and the Brats series.
In this guest post, he goes on a nostalgic trip remembering their growing up years and paying rich tributes to his Dad, the man who inspired the L&M and Brats series. I am sharing the immensely popular post once again…..
We’ve been a very different kind of family – still are. Liberal and unorthodox. We’ve never gone around telling each other that we love them. Hugs are shrugged off and we usually imperceptibly pull away. That kind of affection is not our thing, especially with Dad. Most of the meetings with him begin and end with a handshake. Yes, I am talking of the L&M. The same man Mom had christened and begun writing about all those years ago when I was a kid. And she has done a great job of capturing the essence of our family, our childhood and Dad — in all the colourful details, in exasperation tinged with affection..
This is a tribute to the L&M from a son — a proud son.
I had always looked up to Dad as the provider in the family. (Oh, boy, don’t I know about THAT! — Mom) He did a lot for both Vikki and me. This included getting us into things only mischievous friends got each other into. Not just mischief — he got us into the best colleges in the country but never kept track of which year we were studying in. He taught us physics and
math, but always signed the answer sheets when we did badly without batting an eyelid. But that was Dad.
There were many more instances like these. I’ll share a few.
I was a notorious kid back in school. I had got into some mess with the Hindi teacher in class six and I wasn’t too surprised when she wanted to meet Dad. She probably hoped that he would knock some sense into me. So Dad came to school that fateful Saturday. The teacher told me to step out as was customary during parent-teacher meetings. After a good 15 minutes, when I had chewed out all my nails and was looking for something else to chew, he walked out with the teacher, both laughing. He had managed to charm his way with her, and got me off the hook! But he gave me a tight whack on my head later, and told me to behave in future. He added as an aside that if I did get into trouble, I should do it without dragging him all the way to school. Typical of Dad.
He had done the same for Vikki. His high school physics teacher was being difficult and when he complained to Dad, he assured Vikki that he would meet him. After all, physics was his favourite subject. During the next parent-teacher meet, in marched Dad to say hello to him. God knows what he spoke to the teacher, but Vikki swore that his teacher actually began smiling at him from that day onwards, maybe remembering some goofy joke Dad had told him! We could go to him with any problem and expect to be bailed out of it.
He bought me Chacha Choudhary comics much to Mom’s disgust, let Vikki wheedle something out of him while pretending to be angry, laughed the loudest watching a silly comedy at the theatre, merrily mispronounced and mixed up names of people and places (read all about it here) dug in with gusto at the restaurant, initiated us to the delights of chicken and fish, taught us how to drink the soup from a ‘steamboat’…
We had some great times as father and son. Like the time when I was around 18. He woke me up 4 in the morning. ‘Let’s go on a drive,’ he said. And drive, we did. All the way to Jaipur, and then on to Ajmer and made a visit to Pushkar as well. That was a road trip I won’t forget in my lifetime, including the run-down motel where we stayed for 150 bucks a night; and the mixed vegetable curry which he ordered that had only potatoes in it. He gave the memories that make us who we are today – in his unique way. While he was seriously handicapped when it came to showing emotions he was every son’s dream Dad. I am sure Vikki has such memories too.
The next big road trip we did was when we drove from Bangalore to Mumbai. I was doing my MBA then, and he dropped me off in Pune before heading to Mumbai. He had hugged me then, and that was the only time I remember him doing it after I had grown up. And it meant a lot, during those trying times.
While he was oriented towards his career, he always put family first, not as in being there all the time, or doing everything together, but in ways that went beyond just physical presence. In many ways, he reminds me of Peter Griffin from the Family Guy.
He still acts like a 10-year-old when he gets a new toy to play with, be it a phone or a car. I will not forget the times when we go to a movie and he buys popcorn. The boy at the counter would deftly fill up the tub to make it appear full and push it to Dad. And he would simply give the boy ‘the look’ and give the tub a sharp shake and lo! the popcorn would’ve settled down leaving more than a quarter of the tub empty. Dad would raise his eyebrows questioningly at the hapless boy, who would sheepishly top it up! And we? We would have simply vanished from the place!
Sometimes Mom and he would fight like kids and appeal to us for support. They would pull each other’s leg at the least expected moment but would soon end up having a good laugh over it. He would jump in to help with the most misplaced enthusiasm – ever the handyman — driving her nuts.
Not much has changed over the years. Recently, I was bragging about the latest clients and the deals we had closed when in his characteristic style he asked, ‘Are they also paying you in coins?’ I wonder if anyone would ever be able to take the rock star out of him.
We aren’t the perfect family, and the L&M series over the last so many years is testimony to that! But in spite of all the imperfections, we are one in happiness and sorrow. I remember the time when we had all danced outside the Chandigarh station after Vikki had got into TIET — yes, even Dad!
Here is to the hero of our times, the man who effortlessly navigated through the confusing and confounding times when kids had begun playing video games instead of real games, more powerful bikes made it to the roads, the Indian middle class was upgrading to a Maruti from a Bajaj two-wheeler, women were already part of the workforce, the staid was giving way to the jazzy, Doordarshan was replaced by Star TV and sundry other changes that were taking place.
In those confusing times to him and to us, he kept us grounded in his own way. He gave us an identity when everyone was battling an identity crisis. He made us strong, made us stand on our feet, taught us to stand up for what’s right and stand up for ourselves.
We aren’t the perfect sons, we have all the imperfections any man would have, but we’re still able to hold our head high and take on the world and the worst it sometimes throws at us, with courage and integrity. That’s what Dad did for us. Thank you Dad!
Couple of other articles that were published in The Tribune in 2001
And thank you Mom, because without you making him the L&M, he wouldn’t have done all that.
(Note: The last line is just so that Mom doesn’t descend on me like a ton of bricks.)
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