Daddy Runs Away
Daddy was a restless boy. He had an overactive imagination and was forever up to some prank or making an endeavour to live out his dreams. This was one side of the dreamer, poet, artist and fun loving ambitious boy. However buried, not far beneath, in his soul smouldered a terrible temper; perhaps an accumulation of all the unspent energy and also the frustrations he must have had. He was impetuous and reacted, often, very irrationally when in a rage. Usually it meant beating up someone or being destructive in some way.
One day when he couldn’t have his way with his mother, he decided to run away from home. He must have been about thirteen or fourteen then. They lived in a small town in Punjab, where my grandfather was a teacher in the Government School. Dad didn’t have any money nor did he have any kind of plan in mind. So once his temper had cooled down and he realised that running away from home wasn’t the wisest thing to do, he was already quite far away from home. Hunger and fear weren’t making things any better. He kept walking and sat down only when his legs couldn’t hold up any longer. He was sitting near a watermelon rehri (cart) and one can only imagine how much his mouth must have watered for a bite. He was miserable and wanted to go home, but being arrogant he did not know how he’d face, not only the beating he was bound to get but also the humiliation of defeat. He found it was harder to say ‘sorry’ and accept his fault than sit out his hunger and fatigue.
At a point he did come close to giving up and going back. It was summer and the Punjab summers are extremely harsh. Perhaps he would have swallowed his pride and turned homewards but someone approached him. It was a eunuch. Daddy didn’t bother to dwell on this as it was a relief to have someone sympathetic talk to him. He spilled out his story and didn’t feel ashamed to cry. He was consoled and given watermelon which he walloped down. With his hunger and thirst satiated, he expressed his desire to return to his home, worried now that his mother, who loved him very much, would be sick with worry and crying. But the eunuch talked him out of it. Daddy reluctantly acquiesced to what the eunuch said more from a sense of gratitude than conviction. So he quietly went along and they reached Karnal, a town very far from Daddy’s home. Here he was made comfortable in the eunuch’s shack and told to rest as it had been a tiring journey. The eunuch went off to earn his living singing and dancing dressed as a woman.
Back in Daddy’s hometown, his parents were stirring up search parties. Everyone was looking out for him. The news of Daddy’s disappearance reached Melzhar Gilani, who later went on to become a judge, and he swung into action. Fortunately his contacts proved to be excellent detectives and Daddy’s whereabouts were traced to Karnal. Before the day was through Uncle Melzhar drove down to Karnal himself and rescued Dad from the eunuch. Uncle belonged to an influential and rich family and it was enough to warn the eunuch not to try and come anywhere near Daddy again. Contrary to Daddy’s fears, he was received with tears of joy and relief.
One would think he had learned his lesson; he had in a way, but it wasn’t that running away wasn’t the solution. About four years later he ran away again. This time however he knew where he was going and what the purpose of his mission was, and he did carry some money with him. It seems that the lesson he had learned was that running away was fine if one had a destination, plan and constructive purpose for it.
I fancied the adventure and thrill attached to such stories, but I could never be fully convinced that this was the right way to achieve one’s goals. There are other ways, which perhaps might mean confrontation, but they serve to guide you and also provide you with other viewpoints and better options. Maybe that’s why, though I dreamed of running away, and even kept a few of my valuables bundled in a handkerchief, tied to a stick, a la vagabond I never did want to ever leave home that way. Very early in life I learned where to draw the line and also to distinguish which fantasies could be realities and which only made for good play-acting and dreaming.
Daddy didn’t advocate running away, as a means to an end. His mistakes were youthful ones, made in haste and perhaps regretted bitterly in quiet moments. He never admitted it openly but I can safely draw this conclusion from the way he guided me with lessons on perseverance, determination and going through rather than around. His main stress always lay on education as the way to achieve one’s goals.
In the final analysis, Daddy had learned some valuable lessons from his shenanigans and he passed these on to me. What I marvel at is the way he taught me, by recounting tales of his successes and mistakes. He never hid his escapades and neither did he conceal the negative outcomes. He blamed no one for the adverse consequences of his actions and gave credit, where due, for his achievements. He didn’t denounce his actions and didn’t praise them; he left it for me to work out. I had questions which he never fended, answering each honestly. I had to seek my own ‘Truth,’ he only showed me the way to the ultimate truth. From him I have learned to live my life with courage and a firm belief in God.