Updated: Jun 22, 2020
It’s Sunday, June 21, 2020. If you give me access to your browser today, chances are I will find one or more of these queries in your Google search history:
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So what’s the best gift you can give your father?
I will tell you, I promise. But first, let me tell you the name of the song I’m listening to: Cats In The Cradle. When the hard rock rendition of the song came out in 1992, I was a teenager living in Agartala, Tripura. Back then, if you liked something, you couldn’t just tap or swipe a screen to get it. You had to go the distance. And so I made a wishlist and waited. Then when my father was invited to visit the UK and the US by the World Health Organization, I gave it to him. It was a handwritten list on top of which were the words: America's Least Wanted – Ugly Kid Joe. Cats In The Cradle was the third song on side two.
My father – Dr. Kumud Poddar – was in his forties and had lived most of his life in Agartala. He had never traveled internationally before. Years later when I did, I understood the challenges he must have faced and how burnt he must have been. Yet, upon his return, he made it feel like Christmas. He brought everything I had asked for... including my audio cassettes, my Sony Walkman, and my classic rock memorabilia. It will be no exaggeration if I say I felt like a kid in a candy store when I listened to the new songs. But the one that really spoke to me was Cats In The Cradle. And perhaps for the first time in my life, I understood the importance of the time that a father spends with his son.
Let's cut to 2009.
When I returned from my first international tour, the watchman of my housing society said, "Saab, aapke aane se Diwali Diwali jaisa lag raha hain." [Sir, you seem to have brought Diwali with you.] By then, my father had become a memory. But in some ways, he had left behind a younger version of himself... one that people seemed to enjoy having around. You see, inside every heart is the light of the father who nurtured it. No matter who you are or what you do, you must shine that light as brightly as you can, and carry on your own modest version of his work. You must give him of your time like he gave you of his. You must be patient, generous, and kind with him like he was with you. Do this even when he becomes a memory. For he will be alive as long as he is remembered.
That’s the best gift you can give your father.
So call him. Pay him a visit. Or light a candle and whisper a prayer if that's the only way. But give him of your time. Because that's the greatest gift of all. Maybe someday you will be a parent yourself, and you will understand. Maybe you already are, and you do understand. Here's my sincere wish for every parent: Be the hero your children need. Because that's who they will be when they grow up. Harry Chapin said it best in Cats In The Cradle. Understand his message. Listen to his words. (They are spelled out here by Whitfield Crane.)
It’s Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. It’s also the Solar Eclipse, World Music Day, Yoga Day, and most importantly, Father’s Day. It's a very special page in your book of life. By the end of it, history could have a new author: You. So write well. Inspire the future.