Letter from a father to his son (2022)

Partha Chakraborty-

Partha Chakraborty

Sometime in early 2006, I was caught dancing around a room full of white and green-coated women hovered over another woman, my wife, still on a contraption. In my hands was a bundle of flesh that was writhing in pain minutes ago, crying his lungs out so loudly that it drowned out every other sound if only for the fact that every other soul in the room was waiting with bated breath for this moment to happen. By the time he was picked up from under the hot light – he was peering intently into the light with an unblinking eye while I had to glance away immediately – crying had stopped. As I held the lump wrapped in white cloth close to my chest, the tiniest hand rose up and grabbed my pinky with an entire fist with movements that were slow, halting and unsure, missing it many times before a hold was secured.

You had me all over you with the first touch.

Maybe you had me months before. When tiny waves would travel across the tummy. When five toes would trace a winding path across the skin. When you and I would play a game where I would tap ever so gently the tip of these waves and, almost surely, the wave’s crest would become more pronounced. When, even earlier, you were nothing but a triangular alien with three holes. When you were nothing more than a heartbeat that was faster than a passing train. Maybe you had me at the first ultrasound, or even the first mark on a blot announcing your arrival. You had me when you were significant in my desire to shape my own identity but insignificant in the usual metrics of measuring existence.

That brings me to the first lesson I want to leave you with – the significance of insignificance. We all are working towards a goal – to become significant. Our paths differ, how we define significance is a matter of quest and fulfilment. You are insignificant during the journey through which you must wander through before you find the story finds its crescendo. What’s left unsaid is this, being insignificant teaches you the value of earning significance. It teaches us to value the journey at least as much as the destination itself. An inner calm while working to achieve significance gives you the strength you need to go for a higher high, or climb the next peak, or simply, create a portfolio of successes that shines better than a single bright star could. Be at peace with being insignificant while working towards significance, and seek out insignificance in a different field when you feel like you have achieved significance in one silo –  that is the lesson.

If you are at peace through a journey while stepping ahead at every moment, you can also go for higher highs. Accept that discovery is a perpetual motion and that success is an upward climb with no plateau – whenever you reach a high, remember it is just a valley before another arduous trek begins at a right angle. Since you are at peace at all points, you shall not coast, you will not arrive at a finality so long you have a physical and mental strength to seek out a next challenge. Life is a process, not a single destination – when you feel like you have reached a destination, look out for the next port of call. The fact that growth and fulfillment are a perpetual trajectory with no end is the second lesson I want to leave you with.

It can be said that in so doing, you will always remain unsatisfied with yourself – and that is a very good thing. Satisfaction is a mirage outside of your personal life – and reject it at all costs. We have all been duped with a promise of safe passage to the gold coast, but whenever we tried, we found it no more than a bait for the middle passage to denigration, destitution and denial of self for the glory of others. Are you going to sacrifice self before satisfaction? Pray why? You must never.  Seeking satisfaction is a default state and inherently injurious to your developmental goals. What you must opt for is a life by design, your own; to do that you must be unsatisfied with status quo ante. That you must seek life by design, and not by default, and that you must never let dreams retire as success builds, is the third lesson.

When you are in perpetual motion, when you are seeking growth by design, you do risk it all. You do it repeatedly. And that is perfectly fine. Your life is all about risking it all without puking. Think of how humanity came through before you, remember how your own bloodlines moved through their steps – diffident and insecure as they may be – but they did it by mortgaging their safety to the grand house of dreams. Dreams of their own. Dreams of their parents. Dreams for you. You are child of dreams, and you will do an insult if you do not dream big. That requires risking it all, repeatedly. Leave the small amount that sustains you, if barely, but then plunge with your both feet. You may not bet on the slot machines, except for an occasional excitement to keep things fun, but you must learn to bet with your whole life – that is my next lesson.

Memories are made about the moments of creation, are crafted in a process of a continuous fulfillment of your dreams. They are about your dreams, achieving one dream is an important memory that fuels you on the road to the next dream. Memories are about moments, like the one I started out today’s piece with. They are about people – family, friends, and people who are not friends yet but will be. Memories are about sitting around with plates filled with kosha mangsho with alu dum biriyani laughing hearts out with mouths full. Memories are about ribbing each other and crushing with a full embrace. Memories are never about consumption, not about any single object of material desire. They are not about a dapper suit, but about being complimented by your girl for looking dapper in it. That happiness can never be bought for a song, even two, and that you must never forget that memories are never about consumption is my next lesson.

The biggest memory one can have is parenthood. Being a dad has been the biggest accomplishment of my life, and you are the best thing that happened to me – ever. That simple fact is true for all dads out there, and I can guarantee it is going to be true for you too. Never sacrifice the joys – and challenges – of being a father for anything else in life. If you need to sacrifice anything else, including the lessons above, do it for your child when you must. And do it with smile in your face, contentment in your heart and no rancor or regret thereafter. Remember the little faces you saw the first time, so precious and so fragile at the same time, and remind yourself that they had absolutely no reason to be here except for you. As a result, you have all the obligations to them. That parenthood is the biggest accomplishment in and by itself is the last lesson of today.

When your Book of Days is opened and judgment begins, you will have a chance to go over what’s in it. At that moment ensure that the inscriptions spell out action in preference to slumber, diligence and not decadence and that dreams built up steam inside as your achievements accumulated. If you balance your persistent quest for the needs of your progeny – even stall if you must as they are children of your eternal dreams – you will be rewarded because child of yours will be a parent of some other child through whom these lessons shall transfer.

Let dreams of your father live and prosper inside you, seed your even bigger dreams, and, through you, mold the dreams of your children. That’s the biggest Father’s Day gift you could ever give me. And thank you for that.