The fondest memories of my father are from his days in Lahore, the political, educational and cultural capital of pre-independence Punjab province in India. His typical day in Lahore was much longer than most other working men of his time. It started at eight in the morning and ended past midnight, most of it consumed in concentrating on his two jobs with passion and pleasure, so that he could not only afford a luxurious life to his large family, but also provide sufficient funds for our mother, the most generous host one had the fortune to meet and enjoy her hospitality. His primary post was of Vice-principal and senior teacher of English language in D.A.V. High school, the most prestigious school in Punjab, which topped in studies as well as sports every year. He was also the Chief Representative of the Oxford University Press, the world famous publishers, for Northern India. When at home, he would be seen most of the time engrossed in his book, the latest publication of The Oxford University Press. Sitting on his classic easy cane chair with hookah on his side, kept alive by frequent refilling with burning charcoal by the old family servant, he would be engrossed in the new arrival from the publishers till past midnight, when the rest of the family would be fast asleep.
Father, being a very busy person, hardly had any time for us during the day. But his absence was well compensated by our mother's omnipresent company and great devotion every minute of our growing years. However, on his part in parenting us, our father made it a priority to be with the family at dinner time every evening without fail. In fact, he had made it mandatory for everyone in the family to be together at the dinner table. Mealtime at night was a ritual in our family which must not be missed by anyone. Apart from the family members, anyone around the dinner table was family, most often a friend of one or the other sibling. Father would generally jump-start the family conversation by asking questions like, "What did you like most about your day?" or "What was the best part of your day?" He would suggest slow down and savor the food, not so much to inculcate a healthy habit, as to give more time to enjoy mealtime conversation before clean up began. Indeed, this used to be the best quality time for the family in a day, the important elements being family cohesion and family communication. The atmosphere was essentially kept fun-filled, non-confrontational and stress-free by focusing on fun topics. Personally on my part, being the youngest in the family, I found the dinner time conversation my best source of information on family, particularly, my brothers, all elder to me, who would relate anecdotes from the time when I must have been a toddler or, may be, not even born then. One of the most interesting was the one, narrated by my eldest brother, relating to how Om Prakash, the legendary comedian-cum-character actor, became his best friend from their school days: “We were both in the same class and Om Prakash, being very naughty and frequent defaulter due to neglecting his homework, was often punished by the teacher. To escape canning or standing on the bench, he exchanged his seat with an another student and became my benchmate, knowing that I was son of the Vice-Principal. It paid off, as he was never punished thereafter and was let off with a warning by the teacher, who did not want to displease me and thereby my father by inflicting a severe punishment to my dear friend. Since then our friendship started growing and eventually we became best friends, which continues till date, when he plays the very popular Fatehdin of the famous Punjabi program of All India Radio, Lahore. There is another very interesting anecdote relating to Om Prakash’s AIR days talked about on the dinner table which I leave out for some other day.
August 15, 1947, father was still in Lahore which was now a part of Pakistan. Though he had sent the rest of the family for a vacation to Srinagar, Kashmir, he had continued to stay in Lahore for quite some time after the Partition. Father firmly believed that sooner or later the atmosphere would calm down and people would settle peacefully, well protected by the new Pakistan administration. His logic was that if the Hindus and Muslims could live amicably in Lahore under the British rule, a foreign power, why couldn't the two communities live together in Lahore under the Pakistan government, which was controlled by our own countrymen. But his logic proved irrelevant at that point of time, when mobs of fanatic Muslims were roaming on the roads of Lahore, vowing not to let a single non-Muslim live in Lahore. They were on a killing spree and it was a miraculous escape for my father when they forced their entry into our house on learning that he was still living there. Our wonderful Muslim friends living next door helped him escape by crossing over to their house from the terrace and later escorting him across the border to India. And thus ended my father's Lahore days, leaving behind whatever he had in Lahore, including his two jobs.