While driving back in the car after the party, he turned to my sister to ask her the one question that seemed to giving him heartburn. “Was this a birthday or a sendoff?”
Returning back after celebrating his ninetieth birthday, the one thought that kept lingering in the mind of Daddykins, was that of mortality, and how much more time did he have? In this memoir that’s written with utmost affection, love and respect for a man the author grew up loving, her father, we see life through his eyes, and how with changing times, Daddykins, remained loyal to his routines, his family, and everything that was dear to him.
Kalpana Mohan, a journalist in California, flies down to take-care of her father whose health keeps deteriorating, She describes her father’s life, piecing together every little detail with precision, and caution coupled with laughter and wit. She traces her father’s life of when he was growing up in a country that went through partition, his marriage at an early age, and fighting poverty to landing his first job. Often dealing with the crankiness that the illness brought him to seeing him wither down and accept defeat when his body could no longer cope, Kalpana, captured the journey of a man who never lost sight of his bold nature, and smiled even at his lowest, never letting his physical inability hinder his sharp mind.
It was delightful and heartwarming to read about the relationship between a father and a daughter. The instances narrated made me tear up in parts, often making me think about my father’s idiosyncrasies, and how universal the bond is. No matter how old you are, you’ll always remain your daddy’s little girl.
The staff at the theatre walked up to Daddykins and asked after his health. He introduced me to them. “My little girl,” he said. Fifty-one years old, with hair dyed black to retain her youth and on supplements to stave off the onset of osteoporosis and peripheral neuropathy, his ‘little’ girl held Daddykins by the elbow and led him to their seats in the first row.
The camaraderie between Daddykins and Vinayagam, the witty remarks laced with admiration and respect for each other together with the author’s stark observation about the mundane, made the book even more special. Families come together during difficult times, and it is families who help us see the shore when the tides are high. Through this memoir, Kalpana, weaved a beautiful relationship between daughters, and their fathers, and how, when all is said and done, you need your parents to help you see the light.
I never imagined that my father would really die. Death had been a stunt practised in our home. My father had ‘pretend-died’ and come back to life many times before. Sometimes when my mother or his daughters castigated him for something, Daddykins’ face would fall. “I’ll just go away,” he would say, “and then you’ll see how life will be.” Then he would flump down on the sofa or bed. In a display of cinematic bravado, Daddykins would let his arms go limp. His head would roll to his side, his eyes would shut and the tongue would leak out of his mouth. But he always got up and walked back into our lives. That night in June, however, while my sister and I paced outside his room, anxious about the readings on his oxygen monitor, Daddykins exhaled, never to inhale again.
Author: Kalpana Mohan
When journalist Kalpana Mohan’s elderly father falls ill in Chennai, she is on the next flight over from California and the home she has shared with her husband for three decades. Caring for her sometimes cranky, sometimes playful, and always adored father at his home in Chennai, Mohan sets out to piece together an account of her father’s life, from his poverty-stricken childhood in a village in south India, to his arranged marriage, to his first job in the city, all the while coming to terms with his inevitable passing.
Mohan’s tender, moving, and sometimes hilarious memoir is an account of a changing India captured in her father’s life, from the sheer feat of surviving poverty in I920s India of his birth, to witnessing key moments in the nation’s history and changing alongside them. Above all, Daddykins is an intimate and deeply relatable account of our relationships with our parents whatever our age, and the shared experiences of love and grief that unite us all.
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