My Journey With My Father – The Four Waves of Papa
We are all mostly born to Papas who are super men. They are invincible and can do no wrong. They are men of steel who go out there and face the world so that we may have our toys and do well at school.
Over weekends and holidays, but mostly through conversations with Mom, we get to know our Papas. Papa 1.0 for me was similar – his life was a journey of making all of us materially and financially secure.
A few generations ago, I would have accompanied Papa to the fields or learned his craft early. But now, I was in school getting ready for the world, the world that he dealt with mostly.
(Featured Image Courtesy Flickr Ian D Keating)
As I hit teenagehood, some realizations began to dawn. My Papa was a very successful rockstar. If I had to have the remotest chance to do better than him (who doesn’t wanna out do their Papa?) I would have to work very hard.
So I decided not to be like him. There was no way I could match the level of sacrifice, hard work and focus anyway. Being a child of moderate to highly successful Papas is not easy.
Interestingly, other friends also reached similar conclusions – irrespective of how successful their Papas were. Those who had Papas who weren’t as successful in worldly terms wanted to do exceedingly better. So Papa 2.0 was who I did not want to be. While I wanted to be successful, I did not want to do it his way. .
He was steady and focussed so I explored and dabbled. He worked for the large corporation. Perhaps, that was one of the factors that drew me to start ups. He was good with money, so I ended up being not as careful.
None of these decisions were conscious really – but they were happening through my teens and early 20s. Papa 2.0 was not all that cool. He took plenty of boring decisions and played it safe. Slowly, I was becoming my own person, different from Papa 2.0.
Here, I must also mention a wise old man who became a friend and mentor to me in the Papa 2.0 era. He was always the go-to person for my challenges and difficulties. His was a rare balance of acceptance and encouragement. I didn’t feel judged Though I ignored some of the most important suggestions he gave me for my life, we got along pretty well.
It was only on his sudden demise that I realised that he was like a father figure to me. His departure left me feeling exposed to the world. It was only then that I realised that he was a kind of PapaX for me. A father I did not have but made a choice to honour. Today when I look at my choices (of both career and relationships) they seem to be more similar to PapaX’s.
So back to Papa 2.0 now. Inevitably, my education came to an end and I hit the world, ready to take it on. I thought it would be a breeze, and I had beginners luck. But soon, life with all its messiness began to emerge. The challenge of doing something, the intricate behaviours of people and the general difficulty of succeeding, all hit me like a slap in my face.
Suddenly, all that Papa had accomplished dawned on me in a whole new light! Things must have been difficult for him too, and he never even let us know. And I, who had drifted away from him, began to value his journey and struggles.
Slowly, I also began to see that some of my behaviours were uncannily similar to Papa’s. I thought I was rebelling against him all the time, but in his 30s a man discovers his dad within himself.
The qualities he represented, the ones that I had detested, were precisely the ones that I needed now. Slowly I connected to my roots, to the legacy that he had given me. Papa 3.0 was here. A man I carried in my behaviour, my ideas, my genes.
As much as I had tried, I would never be disconnected from him. My rebellion from him was also all about him eventually.
It was time to re-establish my connection with Papa 3.0. I realised that all I knew about him had been filtered through Mamma. Slowly, I began to understand him as a person. The more I understood him, the more I understood myself.
As time passed Papa 3.0 retired. I could see his energy reducing, the wrinkles forming. His hands felt soft, not made of steel. I realised that my achievements were planted in the ground of his sacrifices. My freedom was enabled by the financial base that Papa had spent a lifetime building. And if there was someone out there looking out for me, it was Papa 3.0.
With the passing years, I am becoming more and more of my own person. In the “Way of the Superior Man,” David Deida says, live as if your father is dead. What he means is stand on your own feet, be a man in your own right.
It is now time to parent my parents. It is time to meet Papa 4.0, a person who is more a bro than a dad. He is a man to whom I can reveal myself more and more. A man with whom I can have healthy disagreements, and still feel unexplainably fond of him. A man who ultimately belongs to my tribe. The tribe of men. Of fathers and sons.
And now, I have a chance to live my life as a Papa all over – there is someone who looks at me and says, here is Papa 1.0.
Abhishek Thakore is a full-time lover of life. He is a published author, leadership educator and a movement builder. He is the founder of The Blue Ribbon Movement. He is also a Gold Medalist and an alumnus of IIM Bangalore – Class of 2005 and. He contributed one of InsideIIM’s first stories in 2011. You can read other stories by Abhishek here.