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‘Dad, pray for me! I got Algebra’

Photo: Brett Jordan/Unsplash
There’s something comforting about fathers which makes them special in their own way. They inspire and encourage you; they teach and guide you through life; they praise you to the skies; they’re always there when you need them; and they make great friends, and accomplices too. Who else but your father will make excuses for you; say yes when your mother says no; let you sleep a bit more when the alarm goes off. “Does he have to go to school today? Can’t he stay at home? Look how tired he is!”

My dad was like that too. He was someone who patiently taught me English and History on school days, solved the daily London Times cryptic crossword with me, and indulged me in marathon games of chess and Scrabble on weekends. He taught me almost everything I needed to know in my young days including how to be a good person. In the course of the twenty-four years that I knew him, Dad left me with plenty of memories and uplifting stories filled with hope and joy. I remember one in particular. During my school days in Goa, the picturesque tourist state on the west coast of India, I used to ask dad to pray for me just before I was to appear for an exam. For some reason I believed his faith was stronger than mine or anyone else's and that it would see me through an insurmountable Maths paper. It probably didn't occur to me at the time that dad would've prayed for me anyway. On exam day, I would plead with him — "Dad, don't forget to pray for me! I got Algebra today." And he was always quick to put me at ease. He would tell me in our native Konkani, “You know I won't. You're going to do well in your paper.” I didn't share his optimism. He was that way about most things in life. If I fared less than average or even failed in Maths, it wasn't because his prayers lacked the power to sway the Supreme Architect in my favour. Rather, it was because I had little faith in my own and because I didn't pay heed to the familiar motto ‘God helps those who help themselves.’ Which meant that if I didn't help myself by practicing hard and keeping my end of the bargain, God was simply going to stand over my shoulder, hands behind His back, and watch me blunder my way through a Quadratic Equation. It wasn't until after I had passed out of school that I realised, asking dad to pray for me was like telling him to take my exam for me. It didn't work that way. Over the years, I have often wondered how God might have felt about this whole Prayer of Attorney thing. I imagine He doesn't care much for prayer by proxy. He wants me, call direct. I can even make a collect call if I like. I'm sure He won't mind that. Just so long as I'm the one talking to him. Palms folded. Straight from the heart. Like nearly everything else in life, I had to work my way through school — in this case attend classes, draw up a study timetable, put my heart into my lessons, give my best shot on exam day, and pray like hell that I passed with some colour, green and yellow, if not flying colours. Along the way if dad wished me luck and sent up a silent prayer, that was a bonus. On another occasion, when I approached dad to send up one of his divine entreaties, he took me out on the balcony, pointed to the clear night sky and said to me with deep conviction — “Do you think, He, who listens to millions of prayers every day, is not going to listen to yours? Show me one place where He isn't. The universe is filled with His presence.” And then he touched my heart and smiled, “He's in there, too, you know.” His words were like a security blanket for the family. So whether I prayed or not, it was comforting to know that the universal Guardian was already looking out for me and billions of others. All He wanted in return was simply my faith, as sure and steadfast as the rising sun, and all would be well with my Maths paper and with my life. Thanks, dad.

© Prashant C. Trikannad

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