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‘Dad, pray for me! I got Algebra’

Photo: Brett Jordan/Unsplash
There’s something reassuring about dads that makes them special in their own way. Their presence is comforting. They inspire, encourage and guide you through life. They praise you to the skies. They’re almost always there when you need them. And they make great friends and accomplices, too. Who else but your dad will make excuses for you; say yes when your mother says no; let you sleep a bit more when the alarm for school or work goes off.

“Does he have to go to school today? Can’t he stay at home? He looks tired!”

My dad was like that. He was someone who taught me English and History in school, introduced me to the pleasures of reading books, 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 when I was young, including and especially 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 practice hard and keep 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 graduated from 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 the Lord might have felt about this prayer by proxy. I’m sure He wants me, call direct, as He does all of us. I can even make a collect call if I like. 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 and college — 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, like green and yellow, if not flying colours. Along the way if dad wished me luck and sent up a silent prayer, that was a big 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 placed his palm where my heart was and smiled, “He's in there, too, you know.” His words were like a security blanket for me and my family. So whether I prayed or not, it was comforting to know that the universal Guardian was already looking out for me. 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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