He loved kids, and was called ‘toffee-uncle’ to the children around the block. One day a new girl came up to him and asked, ‘Are you toffee uncle?’. He replied in the affirmative. She held her hand out for a toffee. He said he’d give her a toffee the next time he came back from the market, he was fresh out. So she kicked him.
A favorite pastime with him was picking up one of the kids clamoring around him, hang him upside down over his shoulder, and ask the rest of the gang ‘Where’d he go? Where’d he go?’ And when the children would frantically point behind him, he’d spin around, child and all, and ask, where? Where? The children would choke with desperation trying to point out a fact so obvious to them, to help out the dim-witted uncle, and the dangling, upside-down child would try and keep as still as possible, choking down giggles, hiding in broad daylight.
He used to love our tiny hands in his hair. So he’d bribe us. ‘I have lice in my hair. For each one you find, I’ll give you 10 paise. And I’d spend hours pouring over every inch of his scalp looking, with no success, through his scalp while he fell fast asleep. I remember one afternoon, disappointed as usual, sitting on his tummy, I decided to try my luck elsewhere, and combed through his chest hair.
I would whimper all the time when I was born. So I was dubbed cranky baby. It wasn’t till five years later when I was old enough to point, that I pointed to my ear. They found a severe ear infection that took a year of regular visits to the ENT specialist to clear up. My father will tell you, ‘no one loved her in her infancy’. ‘Only me, and our housekeeper. He raised me with these stories: at first, I took pity on you. Then after a while, I truly started loving you.
And it was thanks to my father’s love, on his lap, that I grew strong and flourished. He was in the II world war, and raised me with that discipline. He taught me to be honest, telling me stories of how bank managers would give him loans on his verbal assurance alone. He taught me, my word was my bond. Growing up, I was called Satyavadi Harishchandra, after an honest king who sold his son and wife into slavery rather than break his word. Now I’m called T N Seshan. He taught me what truth and justice are, what civil society is, how men ought to treat women.
Today I am a grown woman, strong, with a father who stood by her in everything she did. And today, I still sit on his lap, and he is just as proud to have me there as when I was a child. I will always be his baby.