Growing up I don't remember having too many clothes or shoes or accessories. But it wasn't a point of sorrow for us kids because we had other things- books, road trips, train trips, good food, and... Sports. My father was and continues to be a sports enthusiast. He hates seeing us sit idle (it's another thing that I still turned out to be a sloth, instead of a human). When we were in school he'd send us to sports camps just to keep us out of the house and moving. My mom would take my brothers and me to a far off coaching centre on the weekends just so we got better training. She'd sit and wait for hours as we played badminton. And she did it willingly!
I remember innumerable road trips across India. We had a green omni van in which we'd all pile in and set off for weekend trips. Mom would make hot rotis and spicy curries and loads of snacks to keep us sated throughout. Now the car deserved to be in a museum, it was a unique specimen. My dad's friends used to say that it's the only car that runs on three things- 1.Petrol. 2. Gas. 3. Human Push from the back. That's how frequently it broke down. Yet, we had fun in that rickety car. We never felt deprived. Even now, when we are financially far better off, I've noticed our quality of life hasn't really changed much, in fact we might have been happier back then. It's because we never really took pleasure in buying things just for the sake of it. (Although I admit sometimes buying things does make me feel good).
Years later I wanted a video camera, I begged and cried and grovelled and dad agreed to buy me one. On one condition- I had to use it to interview people. So at 17 I did my first interview. We had gone to an eco-resort in Wayanad and he asked me to interview the owner. What I didn't expect was the owner to take it seriously. She went and changed into a silk sari. Asked the head chef to come wearing his poofy chef hat. They chose the best location and I awkwardly interviewed them as my brother recorded. When we were leaving she asked me to send them a copy of the interview and the chef asked which tv channel it would come on...it never made it out of my hard drive. I used that camera to record some of our trips and share it with our relatives back home. It was my first tryst with journalism and story telling.
In 2010 I joined a journalism and literature degree. My father got posted to Italy the same year. On our first visit there, he asked me to set up a blog. We did a 1000 km road trip across Italy, going from Brindisi to Rome to Florence to Pisa to Venice and back. I wrote a travelogue on it. It was my first serious piece and it got great feedback. I got hooked to writing.
Later on I used this blog in my personal statements to get into better colleges and courses. It was and is my baby. Just like this page. And it happened all because my father pushed me to do something with my skills. He invested in me too, heavily. Sending me outside India to study was a heavy heavy financial strain and a cultural taboo, but he never saw it as that. He let me see the world and grow into my own person, ready all the while to catch me if I fall.
My parents gave me and my siblings incredible opportunities at every stage, but they also made sure that we earned them. Things came with conditions. And we only benefited from it. It didn't spoil us. It didn't make us entitled. It made us experience-rich. As a writer now, I benefit from this huge pool of stories and experiences: They took us to see places, my mom accompanied me to libraries till I could go myself, they bought dictionaries and guides for us, encouraged us to stay physically fit, made fun of us constantly so we don't take ourselves too seriously.
While they've stumbled a lot in raising us and have subjected me, their first born, to some weird parenting experiments, I think we turned out fine. My mom and dad didn't read any parenting books or watch how-to vlogs, but they got this parenting thing right. They taught us to care, to share, to be empathetic and compassionate. They let us fly, but reminded us that the air should be under our wings, not inside our head. And if we did get full of ourselves, they never hesitated to knock some sense into us. They did it right because when you parent like that, you become a root no one wants to go too far from. Because no matter how high we reach, it's still them holding us together and high.
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