I thought my father was poor.
He used to take me on his bicycle to watch football matches. We had to share a mango among five of us, my two elder sisters, mummy, papa and me. We have always traveled by public transport.
I never asked my father to buy me a magnetic pencil box because I was made to believe that designer box was not meant for me. He used to take me to the tailoring shop to have a couple of outfits stitched only twice in a year, before Durga Puja and Bihu. Today I take my daughter for a movie in an air-conditioned car. I buy her the dolls she likes, the dresses she wants, irrespective of any festivals or discount sales. She thinks I am rich. I can even buy her an airplane, she thinks.
My father built a house which took years to complete. He never thought of buying a car. The only luxury we had was a black & white portable television, an HMV record player, and a Philips radio. Today I have the latest television, I have a big car and I have a house. One more thing which I have in abundance today but my father never had – the long list of EMIs.
And still, my daughter thinks I am rich while I thought my father was poor. Illusion, I believe.
One of our neighbors who worked as director of a reputed company retired when I was in my early twenties. He had traveled and read widely. After retirement, he took the initiative of empowering us about the threat of global warming. He would show us an alarming documentary prepared by former US Vice President and Noble award winner Al Gore on the possible outcomes of global warming.
The scary visuals coupled with a high-quality background score left a strong impact on the viewers. Our young minds were impressed with his initiative and so we talked about the CD to whosoever we met. The well-dressed, decent speaking gentleman always carried the original CD to wherever he traveled. In his initial years after retirement, he must have spent a fortune on petrol to spread the cause.
One day, I brought the CD to show it to my father. From his body language, I realized he was not much interested in the video. Perhaps he was not comfortable with the foreign accent used in the CD and instead wished to watch an India-Sri Lanka cricket match. That day I was quite disappointed with my father’s attitude.
He was least interested in a cause which, for us, was the most important issue at that point in time. I felt bad, however, I and my friends continued our efforts to popularize the cause.
Now, after almost a decade later when I was watching footage of the recent Uttaranchal cloud blast, I felt a pinch on my spine. I tried recalling what I had done in the last one decade which could have contributed towards preserving our environment. I had been an empowered youth in my locality and an active member of the local environment initiative group.
I realized that besides talking, reading and surfing Google, I had not contributed much towards the cause. I found a job, bought a scooter, bought a car, an air conditioner and availed whatever possible luxury my salary could afford.
The footage brought back memories of my father. I remember being annoyed with him when he ignored the video which the world applauded.
The same day I also de-coded another old Illusion.
The Illusion of believing that my father was indifferent towards the environment.
Every morning my father used to spend hours in the vegetable garden. He had a huge collection of flowers and plants. He was a consistent prize winner at the local flower show. He managed to domesticate bees, had his own pond, planted trees and rode his bicycle till the day he left us. He always traveled by public transport, never used an air-conditioner and wore a mechanical watch for the most part of his life. We would certainly need a powerful microscope to calculate the carbon footprint my father had left behind.
And still, all these years, I kept thinking my father was unresponsive towards environmental causes and we, the retired director’s team were the real environment protectors.
Illusion, I believe.