LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
Stephan C. Hmar, Agartala, 14.05.2014
My father said that his father (my grandfather) was the second or third earliest believer among us. Separations left him alone, he stayed with his belief, his God, and did not follow any of his colleagues that fluttered like chaffs in the wind of changes. He was faithful to his original Mission.
He said he was one of the earliest mission pensioners of our original Mission….
I said to myself, “Oh! Another story….. Dad! Give me a break!! ”
My father could study my thoughts from my looks, that I am most interested in the unknown, the delights or the tears it brings. So, he deliberately changed his topic, and started speaking about the unreality of the unknown, in a way I could understand and stay awake.
I arranged my pillow, straightened my neck. My ears started to grow bigger.
He took a deep breath and continued…..
That was during 1910 through 1912. People heard the story of the son of God from missionaries and started giving up their regular ritual of slaughtering animals to pacify spirits. As the spirits knew they were fighting a loosing battle, they attacked the new believers in their most violent ways. It was the time when spirits physically fought the new believers.
One evening, he said, my grandfather was walking along a deserted road in the village with the Bible in his hand. (It was a practice, then, for the new believers, to carry a Bible, as spirits confronted them anywhere). He saw a dark shadowed faceless form approaching from the opposite direction. He, at once, knew it was an evil spirit, but he kept on walking advising himself not to be scared. When they met in the middle of the road, the faceless form grabbed my grandfather on the chest, put the smelly black leg against him and pushed him. My grandfather was thrown backward. The whole space was filled with nasty, irritating smell. He held back his ground fearlessly and looked around for the faceless, smelly form. But, like the quickness of a lightning, it had disappeared right under that opened sights and spaces in that half-dark evening.
My father said, “That was the story of your grandfather as told by himself! You see! Believe in God, and don’t look back and even evil spirit will not be able to harm you. They will disappear in thin air….”
He told me that the only thing that remained in his childhood home was poverty. They depended on the seasonal jhuming farm (where they grow rice and crops) on the slopes of hills in those thickly forested landscapes, far away from the village. The success or failure of the farm depended on the unpredictable monsoon.
The first time when he went to their jhum farm alone, he was 15 years old. It was nearing the harvest season, and he needed to keep guard of paddy and crops from wild animals.
The sky was moonless and he was in the farm hut, making fire, to chase away wild animals. The fire made a reddish sphere, enveloped by an unimaginable darkness, in the middle of nowhere, far far away from the village. The reddish sphere blinded his eyes to see anything across the swaying paddy field. He looked out across the darkness. He could see one big man approaching the hut. He could not believe his eyes. He rubbed them and looked at it again. The approaching man was bigger and walking faster.
Quickly he put off the fire, and stayed quietly in the darkness, trying to notice any sound of footsteps. There was no sound, except the sound of the swaying paddy field. He peeked through the window again. Still, he could see the man approaching. He was almost scared to death. He hid behind the thatched wall.
He was enveloped by the eternity of fear of the unknown man. He knew he was going to die anyway and a thought came that he must prove the man that was going to kill him.
He then took his slingshot and shot at the approaching man. No sound, except the sound of the sling stone over the field. He shot him maybe five, six times. He was still approaching him.
Then, my father took his big knife, walked out of the hut and approached the approaching death. He walked nearer, the man too, walked nearer. When my father came face to face with him, he cut the man right on the neck.
Then, there was this strange knock in his head, knocking him back to senses.
He said when he came back to sense, he realized that he cut the half burnt tree right in the middle of the field.
And then he looked at me, and said, “You see! Don’t be scared. Move forward. Things may appear big, difficult, scary or deadly. If you sum up your bravery and courage, they will be as timid as that half burnt tree, which I mistook for approaching man.”
He would tell me, not of the tribes unrealistic folklore or myth, but of his own experiences in flesh and blood. And he would try to hand over me the morals linked to each of them.
Handed over the morals from his experience?
That was what bored my innocent mind. From my kindergarten to class X (the time when I was with him) in that sweet hometown was filled with tales from him---from the Bible, from his father, his childhood adversities and more. I was fed-up, to be filled with tales of morals and I was ready to explode like a balloon.
More and more, I wanted to run away from his known morality. I don’t want to live in his shadow. I don’t want to live a borrowed life. Why can't I live a free life as I wish?
I tried running away from his life and from him to mine. I really tried hard! But the more I ran into mine, I see his life in me. His moralities were induced in me. Perhaps, that could be why I don’t seem to give much attention to my own. At times, it seems I am not living for myself, but just for his moralities.
Was my father doing so wrong, to his son by telling him everything, so that I will tell those stories to other people? Indeed, he wronged, and left me empty. He left me empty like a barrel filled with his stories. He left me not having any story of my own.
Today I am telling some of the stories in brief, but it took my father 70 years to experience them and 10 years to tell them to me to the smallest details and particulars. And today, against my will, those stories let me say out the thing I had never liked to say: My father is the greatest story teller to me.
I am going to be forty years old now. My father died six years ago. I could not go to his funeral even. Death took him away from me. Today, long after my father is gone, I began to know the greatness of my father as a story teller. My father must have suffered so many awfully great things in his life and in his later stage, has something to tell me. He had left me with plenty, of course, plenty of stories that I don’t have any of my own to write----only his.