“How would you describe your relationship with your father?”, asks the family counselor. Silence. She repeats the question . “I have no idea,” I reply. “Do you love him?”, she probes further. “I don’t know!”. Two years later, from a problem child I have been officially declared a nutcase. The slitting has gotten worse, the scars that were only on my wrists have gone from my arms right up to my shoulders and formed keloids. Sometimes, I run out of the house in the middle of the night and at times refuse to come out of my room for weeks at a time. Though, I barely scrape through my classes, at 16 I’ve graduated from going to a family counselor to a full-fledged shrink. The question remains the same. The answer, also remains the same. Much probing later about this that and the other, the experts decide to start me on meds to calm my nerves down. That’s when the man I supposedly don’t love, steps in and shuts the party down.
It’s twenty years later. My relationship with my Father remains as tumultuous, as ever. He hates aggressive women and I hate being told such an aggressive person can’t be his child. But there’s something I never forget. My Father saved my mind. He refused to give me what I call the ‘crazy pills’. Eventually, with age and the help of my mentors, I calmed down, relatively. Though, once a masochist always a recovering masochist but most of the time, I can fool most of the people, including myself to believe I’m absolutely normal. Now, as exotic as all this seemed to me in my adolescence, I find nothing extraordinary about it anymore. My Dad always says that children understand their parents only when they have their own kids. I disagree. I think as we grow older we stop seeing our parents as infallible heroes and heroines. When we make our own mistakes…. when we break hearts and our own hearts are mangled, when we struggle for survival and when we deal with the ambiguity of relationships, that’s when we understand our parents. That’s when we actually start to see them as mere mortals, with their own set of insecurities and failings.
My Father is not a villain of some story. Though, many a times when I try to replay the story of my mother’s life, it comes across as that. That’s why it becomes harder to explain. That’s why it takes me three hours to write a few lines and I’m still at a loss for words. Let me start at the beginning. My Father, Paramjit Singh Kochar, was born in 1956 to parents who had migrated from Pakistan to Delhi. He had two older siblings- a sister and a brother and one younger brother. When my Dad was a little boy, his parents were going to give him away to one of the relatives. Somehow, they didn’t but I guess it’s something a person doesn’t forget. As a little boy, my Father who was a little meek was constantly bullied by his more aggressive elder and younger brothers. In those times, parents were busy trying to put three meals on the table for their kids, no one had the time to intervene in such matters. But my theory is that his absolute aversion to aggression stems from his relationship with his brothers and his emotionally distant behaviour stems from early abandonment issues. Psych 101.
My Dad grew up being the good guy. He was the good son to his parents, he was the good guy when my Mum fell ill and for most of his life he played that part very well. But there’s a problem with playing the good guy and that is someone has to be willing to play the corresponding role of the bad guy. My brother was just like him. He was treated more like Daddy’s little girl- protected and fussed over. I’ll never be Daddy’s girl because I’ve always been more like his prodigal son, the rebel without a cause, the uncontrollable, the unmanageable, bad guy. So, I play my part and he plays his. We infuriate each other no end. Even though the answer to the question do I love him remains the same, I’m always amused how the only boy I couldn’t make myself leave was so much like my Dad- emotionally distant and a good guy, too.