I always tell my team that I’m the blended effect of everyone I have ever met. Today, while scrolling through hundreds of father’s day wishes on Facebook, I was trying to think how many ways my father may have influenced me and I realised it’s not only my father – there are father figures who have helped me become what I’m today. As a child, “Baba” was my go-to person for every question/doubt I had, be it literature, mathematics, science, sports, movies, politics, general knowledge or whatever. In a way, he was the mentor of an overtly curious kid who probably wanted to understand and analyse everything around them.
Then he introduced me to my uncle Mr Sibaprasanna Saraswati (husband of my father’s distant cousin), and I found my second father figure/mentor. He was the first person to make me believe in myself, who said it was OK if my literature paper marks are not that great because literature is more about the experience than analysis. It doesn’t matter if my school teachers were not impressed by my creative expressions, but I must carry on and evolve. Many students didn’t understand his teaching methods (including my fellow schoolmates), where he would mix pupils from different grades in a single batch and conduct classes. I loved it primarily for two reasons – it flourished my leadership side and I got a few followers from junior grades, which I immensely enjoyed back then as a teenager. It boosted my confidence because I could compete with my seniors and many a time emerged as a winner in his eyes. He taught me every piece of printed stationery is worth reading – even dictionaries are books and we must read them. He made me fall in love with English literature as he took the fear away that we vernacular medium students are not enough to learn the queen’s language. Quite humorously, he’ll do a percentage census and prove that the English speaking population in India was significantly higher than Britain’s total population! He emphasised learning mother tongue (Bengali/Bangla) because he believed if we know our mother tongue properly, then we can master and enjoy any language in the world. We never paid him any fees, but I sometimes got my father to buy him imported cigarettes! The lessons I learnt from him are invaluable, and they are the building blocks of my childhood and teenage.
I met my second father figure/mentor some fifteen years ago, Mr Bhaskar Sen, my best mate’s father. Because it is father’s day, I shall restrain myself from mentioning her mother, Mrs Jayasreen Sen, with whom I share an extraordinary bond whose impact on my life is beyond expressions. I was an ordinary IT employee when I met Uncle, and he was already retired from work, but a person like him never really retires. If not anything else, they keep mentoring and inspiring others, mostly people like me, searching for their ultimate calling. It was probably him and his life that gave me the courage to leave my hometown behind, build a life in Mumbai, and eventually becoming an entrepreneur in that unforgiving and challenging city (though successful or not is a different question!). I happen to spend both waves of the Covid-19 pandemic with him, and the way he has led all of us to through it is unbelievable. He taught me that a leader must lead from all fronts without dividing personal or professional, and just like a soldier, an entrepreneur is never off duty. He says entrepreneurship is not only running the business – it includes running everything around you with utmost dedication as much perfection as you can manage. He taught me life must be enjoyed even if the situation is worrisome and tense. He’ll appreciate my anger, and simultaneously he’ll teach me to hold my temperament through all adversities. If I ever have a future as an entrepreneur, it’ll be because he came into my life and changed the way I looked at the world.
Now that I have spoken a bit about the father figures in my life, it is time that I discuss a little about my father. A simpleton, a little bit chauvinistic when it came to his wife (my mother!) but entirely liberated in matters concerning his daughters (especially me!), a sincere worker with no career ambition, abstemious, food connoisseur, traveller (read tourist!), avid reader, sports lover and most importantly a communist. All in all, a total homely guy, great in theories of the world but hardly outgoing. He was quite the opposite of what I’m, but his values lie at the core of my value system. He taught me the basics of everything (except singing and drawing/painting and computer science), quite unconventionally though, as we never sat for typical teaching sessions. Let’s say if he didn’t teach me alphabets then I wouldn’t be able to spell “floccinaucinihilipilification”!
Last year I wrote a father’s day article on him while going through a complex state of mind – it became so emotional that I never read it a second time.