Expressions of courage

Will we be ready to practise courage when we recognise it in everyday life?

Updated - May 04, 2019 02:34 pm IST

Published - May 04, 2019 02:28 pm IST



How would you feel at the sudden dawning that you were living close in the presence of a celebrated virtue, entirely blind to it when you did? What if the knowledge of that virtue being the guiding light for someone of indelible influence in your life — the knowing that it was a virtue at all — came to you when he is no longer accessible?

So today, as I sit down to pen this audacious prose, I am representing that moment of dawning, and accessing conscious streams of remembering, recounting and processing what it meant to be him — my Dad.

Recalling the years

Without much ado, let me state that I resented my dad for a large part of my growing up years. Barring the softening in the last 15 years of his life managing a degenerative illness, he was a rough and tough guy! When I say tough, I am not being entirely supportive, in my memory of him. I remember the toughness of a hardened patriarch, steeped in the regulation of a missionary boarding school, living a stern, austere life; with a perpetually laden backpack of pathos, pain and thankfulness of the eight-year-old boy who fled his birth-home to save himself and rebuild a life in this country. To me, his toughness was ruthless, dogged, most often devoid of the indulgent ‘I wish’ or ‘I’d love to’ — perhaps because his one cardinal wish toescape, to flee the communal killings in Noakhali, was fulfilled miraculously, early on in life. Dad almost begrudged the romance of life — eating the same kind of food for every meal, never ever tempted by the mouth-watering Delhi street food, frugal in acquiring, owning or trying new things, spartan habits — no tea, no coffee, no tobacco, no downtime and often sombre; fathering by the should and must, living by denying himself simple comforts, toiling to save every penny to sustain his family of five. We heard his most generous allusions mostly in his thankfulness to the God he prayed to, for his (re-built) life, his stable government job and the roof above our head.

So, today, as I listened to Maya Angelou ruminate on the abiding human virtue of courage — that without courage we cannot practise any other virtue consistently — it shot off telling connections to the man who I have come to understand better, over time. What follows is a short recollection of what I now understand as ingrained expressions of courage:

Dad was reclusive and secured in being so — this was his courage, to ignore the comfort of belonging.

Dad was brutally stern; often rude in his refusal to align with anything he didn’t believe in — this was his courage, to stand apart from popular opinion.

Dad was frugal, yet fearless, in lending substantial sums from his small salary to the most unfamiliar borrowers. This was courage to trust.

Dad was comfortable with being the aloof, distant, unyielding man down the lane. This is courage that cared little about what others thought of him.

Dad was relentlessly repetitive — this was courage to follow the monotony of discipline.

Why? This is because courage gives us strength to stand apart. Courage is consistence and daily observance even when it gets tedious and dreary. Courage demands accountability. Courage negates hesitation. Courage cushions the anxiety to belong — to rise above pressures to locate in the centre of a polite society. Courage gives us the voice to speak the mind — however stark and raw the truth. Courage, above all, is deep faith in the self. Courage underpins consistency — to be kind, generous, steadfast, fearless, disciplined or honest.

And as for my Dad, it was perhaps in those perilous minutes confronting being hacked, submitting or dying, to finally escaping across the border — when overwhelming fear would have been trounced by this courage for life.

Nivedita is a life coach, blogger and writer who simplifies the patterns and archetypes she encounters at work and in life.

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