The ball sailed effortlessly over the 50 ft net, alongside the wall of the first hole, and kept going the distance. Feeling pretty pleased with myself I looked at the 3 wood and smiled in approval.
It was not until after a few seconds later, when the caddy remarked “I think the young master needs to spend more time at the range”, that I realized it was one nasty slice. I did notice, however, my father-in-law, said nothing. He was, as I know now, someone who’d never embarrass you or make you feel little.
- Drove the car backwards into a tree. “Oh, is the car okay?” was his question.
- Forgot that my flight was the day earlier, and I showed up 24 hours late to the airport. “When’s the next flight?” was the thing on his mind.
- Left the house keys in the car, and the car keys were in the garage. “Does your neighbor have a key” was his response.
If he ever panicked, he never showed it to me. If he was irritated, he’d make it clear, but never to make you feel small. Just remind you not to do it again.
My first golf outing was with my father-in-law. He was in love with the game after retirement. He’d discuss it with me, my friends, cousins, almost anyone who was ready to listen. He was also in love with photography, cricket, classical music and luxury cars and most anything to keep himself out of the home.
He had his way of convincing you that whatever he was doing at that point of time was the only thing worth doing at all. Like he’d watch the cricket match live in the morning at the stadium and shush everyone when they were disturbing him watching the highlights reel later at night.
I met him for the first time at Mysore, at the railway retiring home, 3 months before I graduated. V had prepped me well and advised me to stick to trains, cricket and music. Topics, she assured, would get him to talk more and save me from putting my foot in the mouth. The first few meetings were mostly about trains. The next few were about cricket. We found two topics we could have endless conversations about, so our jokes, our frame of references were all those two topics. Calls from the bay area to him to India were mostly about catching up on cricket more than how he was doing.
He loved his work and the Indian Railways. During my first road trip with him to local temples at Tirupathi and Tirumalai, we were accompanied by a junior railway officer. That was the first time I really got to know about how accomplished he was at work and how much he was respected. The junior officer could not stop singing praises of my father-in-law – youngest officer in the railways, first to introduce new catering services, first to leverage multiple coach shunting systems (I still don’t know what that is). I later got to know this junior officer never worked for him, just was railway folklore he was repeating.
During his first trip to the bay area, he met with my co-founder and wanted to hang out with us at our basement pad where the two of us would be coding all day and he’d be browsing the web, telling us how this “Internet” stuff could truly change Indian Railways.
He took to retirement with as much passion as he did when he was working. Side projects became obsessions.
On our road trip to Grand Canyon and San Diego, he was fascinated with taking endless photos of the rising and setting sun. I realized after 2 years that he showcased all his photographs in an exhibition which he was looking to do very soon after his retirement.
When our daughter was born, he loved just hanging out with her, talking to the 2 month old as if she could understand everything there was to understand about trains. Reminiscing on the days my wife was born, he mentioned, he hardly had any time to be with his kids, so he was reliving his fatherhood experiences with his grandkids.
He passed away 2 weeks ago after a 3 year fight with Parkinson’s disease.
Ananth Madabushi, Rest In Peace.
Every night when I pray, I will remember what you taught me, which psychologically gave me more courage and strength, that most problems need to be thought through, not necessarily solved.