Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day, Dad

In those halcyon times at College, we used to say that Mother's day usually comes nine months after Father's Day, if you all remember? Or should we rephrase it that Father's Day comes nine months before Mother's Day?

The world celebrates Father's Day on June 16 where Mothers, Wives, Children and friends congratulate the old boy for having played his part towards his responsibilities and guardianship.

We are all Father's in some form or another. Even SS must have his secret hidden somewhere in his closet, for sure. Even if not, he still has his Oru Paanai children to carry on fathering, in his own special ways, anyway.

It is quite natural for growing up boys to dream of the day when they become a Father, pacing the floor in anxiety, after having planted the seed(s) nine months before. I chose the plural to include all the Randy fellows who may have multiple trees to water at any given time.

As I remember my old man, tall and lanky as he was, a very strong personality and icon within my paternal family since he was the only real professional and breadwinner from the family in the 50's, employed as a Civil Engineer with the Buildings Department of the CMC, a very unusual and high profile position for a Thamby to be sitting in, during those good old days. Most Moors usually had their own businesses in the Pettah during that era and the sons simply took charge of the till after the old man moved on. We had so many of them within our own batch from RPS to College.

After retirement, much later on in life in the 80s/90s, there used to be many real estate and high powered building magnates who used to visit our home at Bamba to see Dad, seeking his advice on property and construction in the city, since he had become an authority of street lines, drainage systems, water lines, and other related parameters involved in the industry. Leedons Builders also hired him as a consultant to support all their real estate acquirement and construction projects which he carried on delivering until the time of his demise in 1989.

He also carried on his practice of Surveying, being one of the oldest Licensed Surveyors in the country. On the day of his funeral morning several clients called over at our Bamba home to collect their plans which he had called and confirmed were ready, the previous day. They were simply appalled to see his body lying in the living room waiting for burial. All the completed plans, invoices, and attachments were neatly clipped together on his work desk with names of the clients and instructions to deliver to the clients. hat was his style of working. Totally meticulous in everything he did. he had suffered the stroke on the evening of the previous day while watering the front yard with a hosepipe in his usual way, and my wife who was at the Bamba house chatting with him at that very moment rushed him to Nawaloka. I was, at that point of time conducting the IT operational support for the FX "Bourse Game" Workshop for Central Bank that Citibank was delivering at the Galadari Meridian  Hotel in Colombo.

When I got to Nawaloka he was still conscious and we spoke a little even though the medics were shooing me away from the ICU. He was in great spirit and possibly was aware tha it was his final call. He squeezed my hand very tightly as if to say "the ball is on your court now, mister", and passed away at 3:00 am. We buried him at 10:00 am on the same day.

My memories of him are so many. The drive to RPS in hos old Green Skoda CN7522 and then later on to College in his Black Hillman EL1468, are unforgettable. Some days we used to pick up the Aziz boys (Shibly, Imthiaz, & Ifthikar) from the private road adjoining the Bamba Market, along the way.

After retirement from the CMC, he joined up with Abbas Freighters Ltd, which was owned by one of his close friends SM Abbas from Ketwallamulla Lane in Maradana, and managed the complete operations of his freight forewarding and delivery services, mainly to the Government Stores at Slave Island. There were days when he used to pick us up from College at 3:40 pm and take us back to his Harbor office at Queen Elizabeth Quay to complete his days chores. We had lots of fun boarding the cargo ships and being entertained by the crew with fruits and toys. Watching the way they loaded and unloaded cargo on to the ships was also terrific. The labor force used to use code words for lifting (Arya) and for lowering (Abeys) to communicate with the crane operators. The harbor lunch packets were also a great icon of that era which we relished being so hungry at that time of day.

There were other interesting on goings within the harbor. Crates of whiskey used to be stored in the warehouses. The laborers used to hammer a nail through the wooden crates to penetrate the bottle inside and use a straw to take a swig, taking turns, one by one. The hive of activity, accompanied by sounds, screams, and screeches, inside those environs was unimaginable.

Having finished with Abbas Freighters Dad joined up as General Manager of Ceylon Carriers at Alvis Place, Colombo 2. Old man Nanayakkara was also a  close buddy of his. During the Russian Exhibition held at the Wesley College Grounds in Colombo, dad was fuly responsible to see that all the equipment from Russia was delivered and installed at the grounds. His Russian counterpart was Mr. Kranshoff, who was a jovial personality, and used to visit our home very often. I remember one of the huge wooden crates, as big as a 40 foot container, was shipped to our Bamba home to be used as a chicken coop for the many varieties poultry we used to rear in those times. We also enjoyed our first taste of doughnuts from one of the vending machines at the Exhibition.

I also remember the wonderful evenings we used to spend together, driving all the way to Galle Face, The Light House at Galle Buck, and then to Pilawoos in The Pettah for some Chappati and Chicken Curry.

Saturdays and Sundays were special cos all the cousins used to assemble at our Bamba house for the weekend and we played a cricket match followed up by Buriyani and topped up with Elephant House Vanilla Flavor Family Blocks. Evening tea was accompanied by "Murukku", "Vadai" and "Kesari" from Ramjee Lodge, opposite our home.

Dad was a good man. He spent his life fruitfully. He supported his parents and siblings, responsibly. He doted on us three. Yes, he had two official wives concurrently, but what the heck, that was his right and he utilized it honorably, instead of screwing on the side like many Thamby's used to do, and are still doing for sure. His quality of the English language, writing prose and poetry was fabulous. he was also an amateur photographer with his good old Kodak box camera which won him many awards from newspapers and other magazines. We used to subscribe to Life, Time, Mother India, and all the English newspapers at that time. Reading was mandatory in our home and everyone enjoyed it. The Radio was the next favorite.

Bless you, Dad! Thanks for everything.

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