My Father

Saraswathi Ganapathy.

Is no more – in his mortal form. But will live on.

At 92, a mind as vast as the cosmos, an intellect sharper than a razor, he continued to inspire. There was not much that passed him by – philosophy, politics, medical science… He made it his business to keep abreast of everything. Having never ever bowed down to circumstances or social moors, he stood strong. One can never fathom the depths of his genius, the true grit of his personality just as much of his writing has been lost in the yellowed annals of ‘The Mail’ in Chennai, India and in the other newspapers he helped launch. Fortunately, he learnt to blog, at the age of 88, and leaves behind a handful of them, laboriously typed on the laptop between brutal dialysis sessions, even as his eyes were failing,

He could quote Shakespeare, Milton as the occasion ordained, or even the Rig Veda for that matter. He never won an accolade, never won an award and did not care for any. He put his heart and soul in the newspapers he helped start. From television to radio, he covered it all. He wrote speeches for famous politicians, from Indira Gandhi, to MGR. In an time when ‘stable permanent jobs’ and government jobs in particular were revered and entrepreneurship frowned upon, he started newspapers and magazines, taking on behemoths and when they failed, he moved on, effortlessly, shrugging them off as another experience down the line.  He took risks, let nothing set him back. Never one to ever worry about money, he lived like a king, to his last day.

All the education that ever mattered – books strewn around – thoughts strewn around – from Dostoevsky, Norman Mailer to Updike and History of Love – in all their glory – to be chewed upon, and pondered. A bounty of thought and visions of far away lands some real, some imagined lay hanging in the air. ‘We all live in bubbles’ he proclaimed one day. My 5 yr old mind imagined us all in soapy kaleidoscopic bubbles as I walked carefully as to not pop them. “The world is Nothing” he said another day. It took years of rumination to get that one. He said schools were useless, grades a farce and traditions bogus. He filled my head with existentialism, scientific breakthroughs, Freud and art while we were ‘taught’ to memorise grammar and historic dates at school.

He inspired me to be intellectual, irreverent, creative, rebellious, and inquisitive – in an era and culture where girls especially were brought up to be complacent, normative, politically correct and in the box.

I was never rebel enough for him.

Assimilating into a new country was for him, an easy uneventful transition, not a full blown rite of passage. One would think that he had lived in his adopted country all his life. And when it was time to start dialysis, 3 brutal times a week, he dealt with it with aplomb, waking up at 5am, dressed like he was out to party, making great friends at the dialysis center, and fought on, head on, against it, for 8 years. In the meantime, he researched wearable dialysis gadgets, signed up for clinical trials that never happened and kept his hopes alive nevertheless. Dialysis and any of his other assorted diseases never kept him from enjoying all that life had to offer. His illnesses were mere wrinkles. He ironed them out and moved on.

His intellect carried on as usual. He wrote blogs, followed politics, lived life. In his nineties, when I informed him of the supreme court decision allowing gay marriage, and how things had changed ‘since his time’, he remarked ” things have not changed, this is a concept as old as…and proceeded to educate me on the philosophy of Havelock Ellis. At 92. Between gasps of labored breathing.

Saraswathi Ganapathy. 1924-2016.

He had taken up his mother’s name instead of his father’s in the 1940s.

…A Rebel, a Genius, a Mastermind.

A great mind never dies.

8 thoughts on “My Father

  1. Just beautiful. It brought tears to my eyes. I salute him and pray lord Kashi Vishwanath ji to give him a special place in the heaven, Hari Om.

    Sanjay K. Pandey, San Diego, CA, USA

  2. What a great soul! I pray to God that he finds eternal peace! You are really fortunate to have been born as his daughter! God give you the strength in to bear this loss.

  3. An old friend and your cousin (Suresh) recommended this post and I really enjoyed reading your tribute to your father. He reminds me of my own who passed away over a decade ago but his words and wisdom continue to guide my path. Indeed, great minds never die!

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