Strange connections…

The tomb of Feroz Shah on a wintry Sunday afternoon

David Baker, retired Reader in History, St. Stephen’s College, Dad’s professor, Dad’s friend, friend of the family. David has been a constant fixture in the family for like ever since that I can remember. Dad’s old teacher friend, for a long time I hardly understood the connection. Deep friendships that go beyond age, colour, ethnicity amongst other things was an alien concept to me when I was introduced to this extension of the family, who I have finally completely warmed up to- idiosyncrasies et al.
Australian by birth, I often joke that he is more Indian than I am, which I can safely say is true. Well traveled around the expanse of the country and well versed with its history, David has lived here for over 4 decades. He came to the country to study and later stayed on to teach, and life as my father and then the rest of our family would know it was to change forever. For good.
As a child I was just about as curious and excited about his visits as a child can be- because he brought me presents! Like I tell Dad, I don’t think David really knows what to do with human beings below age 17. My childhood whizzed past as I suppose he watched me grow up. Then came the teenage years, where I was only minimally wayward, outspoken and begrudged the old man his controlling ways. I would never see the positive, only the controlling or rather interfering aspect as I saw it then. He watched me struggle through those years into young adulthood, figuring out and coming to terms about who I was.
Memory has a strange way of throwing out random glimpses right out of our subconscious. Between looking forward to his trips and hating and begrudging him his visits- from childhood to teenage, I had subconsciously also picked up memories of his habits- compulsive re-arranging of his toiletries, stationery etc, panicking before every trip, insistence on picking up something for each family member however small, sitting out in the sun on winter mornings attending to his correspondence, nodding off every now and then- fond memories.One thing that remains unchanged is the warmth in his hugs that have consistently been the same all through the years!
Coming to live in the same city as him during my graduation days, I used to find his visits extremely annoying and intrusive and uncool. However, as time passed, adulthood set in and with it several realities at various levels, I realised I had grown to feel an honest affection for the dear old man- who looks a very young 86 mind you! And yes gratitude…
With the return to the city, a job and the real world later, I had grown to appreciate David’s bond with Dad, what it meant and his association with the family through everything. His simplicity with all his annoying little idiosyncrasies was suddenly endearing, amusing and comforting. I realised I had grown to genuinely love his company and actually look forward to it. Suddenly it wasn’t uncool anymore. It was the ‘coolest’ thing actually. To finally have someone who I could talk to, who could and would willingly feed my love for History, who better than a historian himself. We had somehow worked out a system for monthly appointments, which he writes down somewhere and we meet to go visit a place of historical importance. We have seen the Humayun’s Tomb followed by a yummy lunch at Kareem’s. Of course I love our afternoons at the Indian International Center and our walks through the Lodhi Gardens. I look forward to these afternoons as I change my schedule around these appointments – exasperated as I maybe that he still insists on using his cellphone like a land line and is as punctual as clockwork.
Our last visit  to Hauz Khas Village was fruitful and a completely new experience for me as we went exploring the ruins of the architecture around the area. His enthusiasm contagious and his knowledge impressive, it was a wonderful afternoon where I explored the history of the village and ruins like I had never before. And on my way back home after a wonderful afternoon, I realized that somehow unknowingly, somewhere I had forged a deep friendship of my own that didn’t know boundaries of age, colour, ethnicity. David Baker- historian, guide, fellow explorer and friend and yes family…

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