I learnt a lot from my father. Some things he taught me consciously, some he taught me by example which he didn't know he was teaching me and some he taught me that even I didn't know I was learning!
But learn I did!
My father was a simple man! If I have to define him in one word it would be that. He had no pretensions, no delusions that he was a very wise man with a lot to teach, no, nothing like that. He simply was!
Much of his life was spent in earning a livelihood for himself and then later in life for his family. This he did with remarkable success. I say remarkable not because he left us a business empire but because of the distance he covered in his life. He started as modestly as anyone could, at the age of 10. And he learnt and improved himself and made a life for himself. And for us - me, my mother and my siblings.
I will try to keep this brief as I have so much I can put in here that it will become a book. In fact, I did at one time decide to write a book about him. I was not diligent enough. Even before that, when I was just a boy I had started collecting quotes, things that he just said, but sounded like pearls of wisdom to me.
They still hold true today.
Simplicity is very powerful. This I learnt from his example. My life and desires are not as simple as he kept his but nevertheless the learning is there, rooted deep in my mind. Simple, is beautiful!
I can describe his life philosophy in this couplet from poet Rahimdas.
रहिमन इतना दीजिये जामें कुटुंब समाय
मैं भी भूखा न रहूँ साधू न भूखा जाय
[God, give me as much in which my family should be covered.
May I not stay hungry, and may I not need to turn away hungry a beggar (saadhu, fakir, saint, sanyasi) who comes to my door.]
I learnt from him the strength of truth. No matter how poor or weak a man may be, if he has truth on his side nobody can touch him.
That was his word and that was his life. I have seen him turn down material temptations that any other man would jump at, with no effort, without even considering them as temptations.
I learnt that money has a purpose. I always saw him care about money only insomuch as it was his livelihood and the daily bread for his family. He never ran after money, never compromised his principles, never compromised his family life for money.
Quality is important in everything you do. That lesson he taught me without saying anything. But everything he did, he put all of himself into it. Anything less than perfect quality was never even a consideration for him. It was always achieved by the sweat of his brow but he did the hard work as a matter of course, nary a complaint on his lips. Ever.
There are many, many other things that I learnt from him.
To this day, I often pause and think "What would dad think if I did this?" and it guides my choice.
It has been 6 years. Today.