The First and the Best

He lost his father to double pneumonia when he was just 9 years old. Third of six siblings he is. An elder brother and sister and two younger sisters and a younger brother. His mother, a widow at 32, had a tough time bringing them up. Sleepless nights, empty stomach and a society that is not easy to deal with, she had. She struggled all odds to ensure that her kids did not get into wrong company.

Freebird by Bobinson (
Freebird by Bobinson (

Playing with the bicycle tyres and umbrella made of palm leaves (ollakkuda in Malayalam), plucking and selling mangoes from the roadside mango trees to pay off his school fees, are some of his childhood memories that he has shared with me during my childhood trips to his village. The shorts he wore to school were made out of his uncles’ old trousers. They were so worn out that he had to stop playing kho-kho for fear of them getting torn and him getting embarrassed. He still remembers and explains the design of a shirt piece that he thought was being bought for him by one of his uncles who had taken him to the shop. That uncle had bought it for his own son as Onapudava (new dress for Onam).

He grew up to be the first one in the family to clear his SSLC (10th board) with first division while his peers within and outside the family didn’t clear it. He wanted to attend college, but his family couldn’t afford it.

All of 16, he landed in Dilwaalon ki Dilli in 1967.  It was Holi and a girl from the neighborhood colored him while he was sitting unaware of anything about the festival. Today, he repents having bitten her.

His first income was Rs.2 that he got after guarding a typing institute from morning till night. After a few years, he managed to get into a job that got him Rs.48 as salary. From this he had to send money back home, pay rent for the barsaati where he stayed, and pay his food bills at Sreedhara Menon’s restaurant in Gole Market. To save 20 paise per day, he would walk to and fro to his Rajender Nagar office instead of taking the bus (covering a distance of 4-5 kilometers one way).

I have learnt what friendship is from his relationship with his friend Balan. Those days, both of them used to stay together and since they both didn’t know English language, they found out a way to learn it quickly. They used to read novels and had promised not to speak to each other in any language other than English. In the beginning, people used to make fun of them hearing their Mallu accented, grammatically wrong English, but today he is the one I would ask my daughters to have as their dictionary. He still speaks highly of  Sreedhara Menon’s restaurant which used to have a monthly account for him and Balan uncle.

He cleared his 12th boards from Open School while supporting his family back home. He also managed to complete his graduation later and got into better roles professionally. He supported his mom to get his sisters married off decently enough.

I still remember the typewriter keys moving tak-tak-tak late in the night or early in the morning, because he was completing the freelance documentation work that he had taken up apart from his day-time job.

Marriage, two daughters and then a dream home for which he had to take loan from friends and to repay the loan faster, he chose to spend some important years of his life away from his family. By the time he repaid his loan, his daughters had grown into teens and he decided to slog a little more for their future. I always wonder, was it a wise decision? A decade of our life is what we have lost. 

He is happy with whatever comes his way. In all these years, I have never heard him complain about life or ranting about his problems. He always says, “Never did I imagine I would reach this place in my life. I am thankful for whatever I have achieved in life.

From guarding an institute for Rs.2, he is now the PA to Chairman of a prestigious organization.

A self-made man he is and I am proud to be his daughter. The First and Best Man in my life. 

Acha with us
Achan with us

Amma is one lucky woman is what sis and I keep telling. Apart from serving him food, mom doesn’t have to bother about anything for him. Of course, Amma has a different story to say, mostly owing to his temperament. 😛 And we do agree with her on this. 😀

Gratitude, time management, honesty, taking risks, organizational skills, maintaining friendships, joy of giving, accepting life with open arms and many more is all that I have learnt from my Dad. Of course, short temperament and a little bit of stubbornness too is something that I have inherited from him. 😀

Love you lots, Acha! 🙂


vecchio libro con stilografica

This post is a part of Write Tribe Festival of Words – 2. Today’s prompt is PEOPLE.


39 Replies to “The First and the Best”

  1. Hi Rekha, So nicely and poignantly conveyed. It’s nice when parent’s hardships are acknowledged and appreciated by their own kids.

    Made me to think about my dad. 🙂

  2. This was just such a beautiful take on the prompt Rekha. Your father truly is an inspiration for all of us just to try that little harder to make the lives of our families and those around us a little better. A lovely, lovely tribute to ‘the first and the best’ man in your life 🙂

  3. Very inspiring post, Rekha!!! It’s a story similar to my Dad’s who had to leave home at a young age to support his family and then onward, worked real hard for the life we have today. Thanks for sharing!

    1. My father’s story too mirrors yours and Fabida’s in the amount of heartaches they suffered as a child.
      My dad was an orphan and had to struggle just to survive… the will to do more motivated him beyond his means… he sacrificed his entire life for us… reading your post really brought back many memories.
      Thank you. Sincerely.

      P.S. I had written this for him many years ago…

  4. What a lovely tribute to your dad! He is so very inspiring! I can feel the pride and your love for him, for his achievements, as he rose high in life despite all odds. Simply wow! 🙂

  5. Rekha , as I started reading it ,I thought it to be just another story and towards the end I learnt that the hard-working , sincere person is you Acha, my eyes were moist. You are a proud daughter. salute him.

  6. a poignant post that left me misty eyed. Hats off to u for your emotional tinge to words. Hats off to Ravi for his excellent qualities. God bless all of u.U specially Rekha for writing more such beautiful pieces.

  7. my dad’s story is also similar…..from working for Rs.5 to supplement his education to working and retiring as an employee of RBI, he came up the hard way too…… and like you, I’m also proud to be to be his daughter!!

    wonderful read!! cheers!!

  8. Hard work and perseverance can really take you places and change your ‘luck’. It truly is a matter of pride to have such a wonderful father.

  9. This one brought tears in my eyes Rekha. What a resonance. My dad was an orphan when he left his house at the age of 14 and never went back. It was I who made a trip in 2010 to his native place some 25yrs after his death. He died when i was 16. The hardship he suffered alone aches my heart.He was a sought after building contractor in Goa in the 60s and 70s. Whatever I am, the credit goes to him. A heartfelt thanks to you for this post.

  10. For all fathers daughters are their angels. And woman by recreating his life story you have most definitely done the perfect angel work. His life inspires so many of us now… real men and women and their stories make the best reads. God bless you and your family sweetie *hugs*


  11. Rekha, you are justifiably proud of your dad for all his achievements and all that he has done for his entire family. From what you’ve described, what I respect most about him is the fact that he chose to work harder and to put himself and his family to inconvenience instead of resorting to dishonest means.

    What I find most heartwarming about this post is the fact that you have described in detail the difficult financial situation he faced during his childhood. Most descendants of such rags-to-riches persons speak a lot about the later part of the person’s life and are embarrassed to speak about the early days. I personally respect rags-to-riches persons much more than the Silver Spoons and Golden Spoons.

    Your mother deserves equal credit for choosing to bring up her two daughters single-handedly (no mean task in Mera Bharat Mahaan) while her husband struggled in a distant land.

  12. Some parts of your father’s story resemble mine – growing up without a father, mother widowed at the age of 30, lots of physical struggles, including the bloody partition and starting from scratch in a new country/city. Their generation had that grit and courage of spirit that we sort of have missed out on, that’s what I sometimes feel. How I wish we can imbibe some of that! This was a great, inspiring read, Rekha. Thanks for sharing about your father.

    1. “Their generation had that grit and courage of spirit that we sort of have missed out on, that’s what I sometimes feel.”
      I share your feelings here, Beloo. And that scares me. I believe we should all go through tough situations and then only survival instincts are built. Thanks for reading!

  13. OMG! There are frightening similarities between us! The initial struggle and the Never Say Die spirit, the fierce stubbornness and the anger directed towards anything which comes between our goals, the hardcore focus on the target and the monomania… BTW, is he a Taurean by any chance? He seems to have all the telltale signs! 😀

    The bicycle tyre and the stick were my favorite toys during my younger days as I couldn’t afford any other toys. I’m not sure about my dad’s, because I never imagined him playing 😀

    I learned English exactly the way he did. As I was from Hindi medium municipal school, I didn’t not know much English till I reached college. Being from the next generation, I also tried to watch English movies initially to improve the diction and enunciation, but gave up as I couldn’t understand half of what was said. But the friendly raddiwala came to my rescue and I read used to sit late at night with a dictionary of Bhargava’s English Hindi dictionary and a thick Wodehouse in another hand, trying to wade through the quagmire of an alien language. 😀

    Your dad is a force to reckon with! Someone, who dragged himself from the abyss to scintillate! A true phoenix! You are lucky to have him as your father!

    A lovely and inspirational post, Rekha! 🙂

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