My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.
-Clarence Budington Kelland
Exactly a year ago, My father left us, leaving behind a treasure trove of memories. He didn’t leave behind a vacuum for the family, instead he filled our minds with warm thoughts of his positive aura. As a family, we traded funny stories of how he made us laugh and wove his magic around people. Each of us felt blessed that he walked besides us and touched our lives forever.
Looking back, I realized he never lectured us or told us how to behave, he showed us by example and left us simple life lessons to follow. His biggest legacy were these ideas we imbibed as we watched him conduct himself. It struck me how much his actions have moulded our personalities distinctly over the years.
Here are 10 life lessons, my father left behind for us. These serve as stepping stones for us today and were his greatest gift to us and his grandchildren.
1.Humor and laughter solves most problems
My father had an amazing sense of humor and diffused most problems and situations with laughter. He showed us the power of laughter and how infectious it can be. He could make anyone laugh and used it well to even convert frowns on any face.
He would recite stories from the past that made people hang on every detail, he could pun on everything and his comic timing would win hearts everywhere he went. In a crowded space, we knew we would find him at the epicenter of the laughter and giggles.
2.Treat everyone equally
He always showed us to treat every single person with respect and love, regardless of religion, status or race. He would connect with every single person on their level, making them comfortable and he made them feel unique. We would see him walk with his arms around the shoulder of people on the streets, remembering the name of everybody he met even after years. Each person felt he was their best friend and they always felt heard in his company. We saw and learnt never to ever talk down to anyone, instead to respect and understand their situations. We learnt by watching him, to listen intently without prejudice or judgment and that everyone was equal. The concepts of discrimination, status or economic divisions remained alien to each of us.
3.Stay a child always
Vappa was a child to his very last day. His childlike curiosity, his eagerness to learn, his hunger for new experiences and perennial innocence enveloped him and he wore it proudly like a unique cloak. He stayed more excited than any child I knew when he visited new places, or travelled and met new people. His face would change into a little child as his eyes would light up brightly soaking in everything around him. Every time Sachin or Kohli were belting sixes my phone would ring with him screaming on the other end “Are you watching this?!!”.
Every birthday party and gift was received with unbounded enthusiasm which he would be extremely expressive about. This quality allowed him to connect with his grandkids like best friends. Children everywhere would flock around him as he would enamor them with his magic tricks and jokes. He taught us to renounce adult cynicism for childlike glee.
4.Never lose connection
He never lost touch with anyone he met. From childhood buddies, to college friends and hundreds of people he met over the decades, he stayed in touch with each and every one of them. He would call them regularly, and make it a point to meet all of them wherever he travelled. Whats app was God’s gift for him and it allowed him to stay connected with everyone even more easily. Every day without fail his “Good Morning” forwards and jokes would happily ping themselves into 100s of phones and make people smile during their day. He taught us to value our circle of friends that we make along the way and that it took no effort to stay connected and make each one feel loved.
5.The family is everything
Beyond the 1000s of people that became his circle of influence, for him his family was everything. And this he regularly expressed to us and made each of us know we were way beyond everyone else. He would shamelessly talk about our little victories and bore his friends with our achievements. He ensured we all met regularly and hung out as a family. Every holiday was made special and he would dote on each and everyone of us and pamper the grandchildren rotten. He ensured we in turn were all best friends and we would stick around each other come what may. Our childhood was peppered with unforgettable holidays and constant occasions and surprise parties. Along with my mother, he taught us that family was everything.
6.Know the universe conspires for you
It may have been written in books and self help gurus may scream about it on world forums, but my Dad knew it before everyone else. Regardless of any situation or crisis that was knocking, he always knew that good things were going to happen and the world was always conspiring to make him succeed. And the universe always complied to his unrelenting belief. In the middle of hopeless situations, a door would always magically open, or a burst of silver lining that would miraculously appear through the darkest of life’s storm clouds. And with his trademark mischievous smile, he would embrace this good fortune with an “I have been expecting you” glint. We learnt that when you believe good things happen, they magically do. We learnt that hope invites good fortune and luck stalks strong belief in positivity.
7.Ask and ye shall receive
Vappa never felt awkward to ask. He would show us just for fun the things he could get done just by asking. So many times, when we would feel silly or shy, he would walk up confidently to anyone and disarm them with a smile and just ask. It could be an upgrade on a flight or a hotel, it could be a better seat, or an extra batch of toiletries in a hotel or even an audience with heads of states. He would ask and 8 out of 10 times, he would get what he wanted. We learnt that it doesn’t matter what people think, just ask.
Recently, when I heard Jack Canfield say the very same concept on stage at a training session I attended, I thought to myself with a grin that I have learnt this a long time ago from a master trainer.
8.Whatever you do, put your everything into it
Everything my father did, he did it with extreme passion and high energy. He would put his soul into it. From decorating a home, to creating a garden, to organizing weddings, to helping people or hosting events. Every network he was part of, he would leave his indefatigable energy as a mark. He would want to do his best and pour everything into what was at hand. No half measures was his motto and he went about life soaked in this electrifying high octane energy infecting everyone around him. We learnt to put our very best once we took on a challenge. We watched him and learnt to channel high energy into whatever we did too.
9.Touch lives along the way
The biggest asset you can leave behind for your children is goodwill. He touched so many lives just being himself. Thousands of people flocked to pay their last respects from the wee hours of the morning. I watched as people from all walks of life came by, with a lump in their throat, sharing stories and recounting how much he meant to them. We were amazed as each person would share how close he was, and say that he would keep in touch, and recount all the things he had done for them. Everyone of them pledged their love and support for their family and said they would be there for anything we ever needed. The outpouring of love and positivity made us realize how much he had done for so many people and just how loved he was. It taught us the value of doing things without expecting anything in return and how that grows exponentially as goodwill for generations to come.
10.Celebrate life. Have no regrets
His last few days, he was in and out of the hospital and we all spent time by his side. He laughed and smiled his way through every visit. We would laugh and tease him about his flirting with the nurses and he would laugh mischievously. He held my hand through each talk and he kept telling me about how he has no regrets with his wonderful and blessed life. He shared how he had a life he always dreamt of and a family he was so proud of.
He went ahead and bought his dream car a month before his last days, he stopped enroute to hospital to buy my mother a diamond necklace and celebrated his birthday with a cake just 2 weeks before he left us -making sure all the hospital staff was part of the celebrations. Even the day before he left us forever, he was cracking his trademark jokes and smiled with the same childlike glee in his eyes.
And the universe conspired yet again and took him without suffering nor leaving him bedridden or dependent on anyone. He left and taught us to celebrate his absence, not stay sad or mourn him. He left with a smile, knowing his legacy would live on through his children and his grand children.
Thank you for your lessons. Thank you for the unending reasons to smile while remembering you.