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Monday, March 29, 2010

Repost - The Story

Hi Friends,

So, this week, I have obviously been getting in touch with my roots. It may have something to do with the upcoming visit from some of my family from New Jersey and New York this week. I am not my usual snarky self, so bear with me as I kind of go with the flow on this one.

I wrote this a long time ago - before most of you knew me.

Meet my dad. I call him "Papa."

It's Papa's story. I can never do it justice, but I love him enormously for giving me the opportunity to tell it.

I hope you love him as much as I do.


All of these lines across my face

Tell you the story of who I am

So many stories of where I've been

And how I got to where I am

But these stories don't mean anything

If you've got no one to tell them to,

it's true
I was made for you . . .
The Story, Brandi Carlile

The lyrics above are from one of my all time favorite songs by singer/songwriter extraordinaire, Brandi Carlile. Despite the wisdom of her words and the lines she speaks of, I think she is only about 27 years old with no visible lines that I see.

But I get it Brandi. I really get it. And thank you for one of the most moving songs that brings me near to tears every time I hear it.

Every time I hear this song, I think about my father.

My father has a lot of lines on his face. And each line is a beautiful line. My father has a lot of stories to tell, and over the years, I wish I had listened more closely.

I wish I had paid more attention to the stories he has of growing up in a poor village in India, the eldest of ten siblings. I wish I had listened to the many stories he had about each of his siblings, my aunts and uncles, some of whom have passed away, and others whom I have not seen in years.

I wish I had paid more attention to his own stories of growing up in poverty but having the love of an amazing mother and father, whom he still speaks of with emotion in his voice, pushing them through.

I wish I had stopped being distracted by my latest "issue of the day" to maybe listen to the inflection in his voice when he talked about what it was like to be so malnourished that he did not walk until he was four years old. Or stop to think about how some of the health issues he experienced later in life, like premature blindness, may have been related to that rocky start in life.

Of how he made it out of the village to earn scholarships to get an education at some of the better schools in India. So that he could help be a provider for his family, as the eldest of so many children.

Sometimes I want to go back and ask him to tell me in more detail about how he came to this country with no money but with the support of a strong band of friends who were like brothers, many of whom I call Uncle today. How these men came with nothing to this country except some petty cash and their hard earned degrees, and stayed at a YMCA in NYC until they were able to get jobs, rent places and set up shop in a country that was so new and foreign to them. How they supported each other till each was able to stand on his own feet.

Where was that YMCA? Did I ever even think to ask? Queens? Brooklyn?

What did he feel like, leaving everything he knew behind in India?

Leaving his first wife and children behind in India, while he tried to start a life for them. Was that scary?

Being in the United States when his first wife got sick and passed away and returning to India to four grieving children, my brothers and sisters.

Of being arranged to marry my mother and returning to the United States with her and his four kids. And carrying not just their luggage, but what must have felt like the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Of what it was like to have me years later, years after he thought he was probably done, to welcome a fifth child into the world. Of the relief he felt the day his last child was married, long after he had given hope that anyone would have me.

And his undying gratitude to John for taking me off his hands. (see that smile below. priceless). **

Of the pressure he may have felt as a young man, knowing so many people in India still were counting on him for money while trying to build his own family in a new country.

Of the mistakes that he made - maybe in his career, maybe in his marriage, and even sometimes in raising us. Because while he is a wonderful man, everybody does make mistakes.

Of the happiest moments in his life.

And the saddest.

I have a great life today. I have had opportunity. I have had food. I have had education. I have never gone hungry. I have been loved always.

I have two wonderful sisters and two equally wonderful brothers. We don't always get along as well as we probably should but I love each of them dearly. I love their children and am proud to be an aunt to all nine of them.

I have an amazing extended family that was able to come to the United States with help from my mother and father. I am lucky to have grown up with cousins who are more like siblings to me than anything else.

I have a husband and two wonderful children.

We are healthy.

Life is not perfect, but at this point in my story, it is my responsibility to make it as close to perfect as I can get (without being too perfect that I want to gag).

My own story is intrinsically tied to my father's story, and all the subplots that unfolded within it.

It's not too late for me to ask my father to tell me these stories again, and for me to really listen this time.

So that one day, I can tell my own children these stories that need to be retold so they never forget where they came from.

I love you, Papa.

** (Also note, my mother looks like the cat that ate the canary. I bet she is thinking, "Oh, John! You sucker!")

In Hindi, of course.



MiMi said...

What a beautiful post!
I can't even imagine having been so malnourished he couldn't walk until he was 4!!
He looks so cute, like you just wanna squeeze him! :)

AJ said...

wow. powerful Kiran.
It must be so inspiring to have a father who you can write a book about! :)

Candace said...

That's beautiful. We all have a story, and his sounds like a difficult, but rewarding one. Hope you enjoy your upcoming visits with family. Cherish it!

Anonymous said...

did I tell you that Trent speaks Hindi?! said...

I love you when you write about your drunk-nights, but I think I love you even more when you write about your family.

Anna See said...

Oh Kiran, I just loved this! Thanks for sharing this wonderful man and his story with us!

Sara said...

I feel like I'm getting to know your family, and I'm really enjoying it!

Kristin said...

What a beautiful post. I'm so jealous of the connection you have with your Papa!

alessandra said...

Oh, this is one of the most moving, beautiful post, full of love, ever.

Sarah said...

What an amazing story. It's incredible what our parents, grandparents, sacrifice for us so that we can have a better life. It's easy to get wrapped up in the day to day, but thanks for reminding me. Your father sounds like an amazing person. xoxo

Mrs Montoya said...

Kirin this is really special. My story is so homogenized that I can't even relate to the stories your Dad would tell. They ARE a treasure and it's so wonderful that you are recognizing it before it's too late. You should print this and give it to him as a gift. I love that I read this today. Thank you

Kat @ said...

I just loved this post. I love everything about my own Papa, most of all the love I felt whenever I was around him. Your Papa sounds like a lovely man. priceless memories, to be sure.


Salt said...

You're wonderful even when you're more sappy than snarky. :)

This is a beautiful tribute to your dad. I love the picture of your parents! (And the expression on your mom's face...priceless!)

foxy said...

So incredibly sweet, chica!! An obvious and apparent love for your papa... just beautiful really.

Annie @ astonesthrowfrominsanity said...

I love getting to know you, chica, by reading about the depth of your feeling for your dad. Awesome. Really.

Erin said...

What a powerful, moving, and beautiful tribute. I am going to call my dad now.

Amy said...

What an amazing father you have! The thought of even moving to a different city fills me with anxiety and worry and your father had the courage and strength to move to a different country where customs and culture must have appeared even more foreign than the land itself.

How terrifying!

I find myself intrigued with India. The culture and traditions. I watched a documentary once about a british photographer who taught poverty sticken kids in India how to take pictures, which ultimately ended up on display in a gallery in NYC where money was raised for their education.

I love snarky Kiran, but the stories of your family and where you came from are so fascinating to me. Thank you for sharing:)

Melinda said...

Wow! You have such an amazing heritage! And what a beautiful tribute to your incredible father. I hope he reads your blog ... what a gift to him. ;0)


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