For many, an ideal example of masculineness and machismo would be their iron-fisted father, doting lover, stout professor, spiked-cut buddy, he-man or even superstar Rajinikanth. While I certainly like to confer the manhood title to Popeye the Sailor Man, for some reason I have a change of heart and would now pick my frail-looking granpa (fondly called apachan). An unconventional pick you bet. On the week of my granpa’s demise, as I reminisce those days spent observing him and being loved, I miss him more than ever before.
Sure, he died at a good age of 86, showing no pain, leaving no debt, and even paying for his own grave. Suddenly, all those beautiful moments spent with him breezes in as a flashback. How I looked forward to those fabulous vacations to travel to Allepey, the picturesque town with breathtaking backwaters and lagoons. The old dilapidated, palatial house of my apachan was absolute heaven. The house was bereft of any modernity, technology or the comfort of life. Yet in all the places and palaces of this world, it is here I felt the most loved, upbeat and contended. The smell of coconut, cashew in the backyard and those traditional wood-fire hearths used for cooking, is still so strongly imprinted. And above all the teddy warm hug of my apachan sure told me how dear I am than anything in this world.
My apachan belonged to a family of many brothers. All known for their vendettas, hooliganism, coarse words, ruckus and so on. In all seriousness, who wouldn’t be? I was proud of it as well. I felt a little above class knowing I will have knife-wielding, able-bodied uncles. Their husky voices, massive thighs, toned muscles and ready-to-fight approach, defined manhood and masculineness in terms the 21st century understood. Every time I clamored and raised my fist to fight, I was proud of them. And my apachan was the least masculine, even the dogs least cared. Blaa, I wasn’t attracted at all, he was frail, he spoke less, he had a calm demeanor, stood far from anything violent. Considering the money-making professions others were in, my apachan had not one to boast. He was the last person any modern lad would look up to.
I remember, he would wake up and pull up the chair every time a woman came by. Would give a keen ear and enquire the comfort of his new visitor. And the house should always be filled with food. And if even a speck is thrown at his loved ones, he would stand up, but never pull up his shirt’s sleeves for a fist fight. My apachan was never the Popeye I admired. But with time, I see that none in my family could have defined manhoodness and masculineness as much as my apachan. He worked hard, fed his family, ensured all his children were happily married, lived for his loved ones and till his last breath kept his dignity and self-respect.
Even when all his daughters and sons, spread over different corners of the country, left him bed ridden at his last days, my apachan would never hurl a complaint. He would patiently enquire their well being every time they called to find if he was anywhere close to dying. He was a man to be defined in words that needed more novelty. He would leave no trouble to anyone, take care of his own needs, ensure even his meds are taken care from the pension he earned. Love was the foundation of his life; his action and words exemplified Christ to me.
When masculinity continues to be defined by the quickness of feet, vigor of face, loudness, assault, chivalry and chauvinistic temperament of person in an era obsessed with larger-than-life personas, my apachan was unique and fabulous in ways one can’t perceive. As I unlearn some of what I believed to be part of one’s manhood, I have more admiration for him and understand why some men are never men. Why some men never cross over the juvenile phase. Why some age but do not break from the infantile mindset, the youthful, blood-boiling stuff.
Should any step into adulthood and manhood, start with maturity, responsibility, elegance and civility? If masculinity is shown by ferocious fighting, vulgar rhetorics, powerful friends, wallet full of cash, more number of celebrity Facebook friends and women that have gripping admiration, adolescence is where you are at. We men merely just talk like a man. It is harder to be one.
Grace in demeanor, calmness in voice, compassion to others, optimistic to problems, balanced in thought, integrity in action, self-respect in projection, moral consciousness, temperance, good humor, patient listening, and so on, they don’t count any more. Why not? Signs of weakness? We are deceived to believe the stereotype masculinity that celebrities, movies, TV shows, news media and social media project. We are deceived to think it is all being sissy to own them. To grow up is not the same as growing up. While it is one thing to have seen the oak-tree masculinity, the other lies in the swarm where the lilium grew.
My apachan’s demise has been part demise of myself. Every time I want to pull up the chair for someone, speak up for those in need, to hug so tight as to choke and to remember to provide and protect my loved, near and dear ones, I will remember him. Love is the greatest of all masculine semblance. Any of it should start and end from there. If they won’t remember you when you are alive, they will remember you before they ‘live’. The day they ‘live’, you will live too. The culture of machismo, male chauvinism, and all that shall wane away some day, but the muscularity of your spirit and grace of your soul shall stand out and live for eternity.
The next time if my tea is short of sugar or my Unicorn is brushed by and sparks a road rage, I doubt if I would stand straight and get beaten. Surely, I will roll up my sleeves..and..and..ok, that is for your imagination, nonetheless, my apachan will still be my cherished idol. And the warmth of his hug and kiss on my cheek, would be those that I will always miss. Rest in peace apacha, and if in case you are reading this – my love to amachi. And by the way, before you even find that out and be surprised, it was the last of all puppies you loved that stole that bundle of note. He does not regret and would like to believe it was all part of one big elaborate masculine scheme. Happy Honeymooning!!