One of my earliest memories as a young girl was running around in the corridors of Darrang College with Pompi, as if we owned the place. I must have been old enough to pronounce Statistics, though. And that’s because I remember memorizing: if anybody asked, I had to say that my Deuta was a lecturer in Statistics department. I clearly remember the times when you’d had your students over at our house; when our verandah would be converted into a study room, with all your students cooped up in that tiny space while you continued teaching them stuff from the syllabus that you couldn’t finish in college. All I knew at that point of time was that my father was a very learned man who knew heavy words like probability, and also that his bookshelf was filled with heavy books with titles that made no sense to me. I particularly remember the department picnics, even though I hated how your students would pull my cheeks and make me sing. Most of all, I remember you as the person who always had time to wait and talk to people on the street, while we would grow tired of standing and waiting and Ma would roll her eyes and tell us, “Once a lecturer, always a lecturer”.
And this thing I clearly remember: the day you joined Tezpur University. I was in Jiten Goswami Bordeuta’s place that day, and that was the first time I had heard that you were joining the university. I must have been, what, ten years old? All I could wonder, at that point of time, was how you were supposed to work in a place that resembled an abandoned forest, dotted with cow sheds here and there. But then, visiting you in your very first office (that room in Tezpur Law College), that was the day I realized how it felt to be really proud of my father. Not that I wasn’t proud before, but there was something about being in *your* office, as compared to that huge common room in Darrang College that I had once or twice visited, that made me puff up my chest and strut about in your room. From then on, I remember, it was a series of one office after another. Ten offices in twelve years, wasn’t it, Deuta, until you finally shifted to the office that was to become yours for the longest period of time? And it never failed to amaze me each time I walked into any of your offices. Must have been something about seeing you in charge of things, giving out instructions, and looking like you had the weight of the world on your shoulders, but each time I saw you at work, I felt proud to have such a sincere and hardworking person as my father.
You taught me the value of honesty and sincerity and how a little patience could go a long way. You taught me that being grounded was the most important thing you could be, no matter how high you soar. And most importantly, you showed me that there should be no excuse for not trying to be the best at what you do. For if a simple boy from a village with an extremely humble background could one day shoulder the responsibility of the Controller of Examinations of a distinguished university, anyone with dedication and determination can achieve success no matter where they come from.
Even though I had detested the very idea of studying in the university where you worked as part of the administration, I now appreciate having you right next to me each time I needed you. And I surely appreciate your having the foresight to give me a surname different from yours! Whether it was to crib and cry about bad grades, or to calm frayed nerves after a bad examination, or to sneak a bite from your lunch box that Ma so lovingly packed each day, your office was the perfect place for me to go and remind myself that beneath that serious extremely busy Controller of Examinations exterior of yours, you were my Dad first. And now that I am thousands of miles away from you, I certainly appreciate the value of times we spent together, you and I, sharing lunch now and then in the university canteen, or driving home together on weekends and back on Monday. My proudest moment of all, however, was to get my grade card signed by my Dad when I finally passed out! I mean, how many people can boast of that, right?
And now that you have wrapped up your professional life after all these successful years, I can’t help but think just how much seeing your sincerity, honesty and selfless dedication has influenced my own attitude towards working and work ethics. A part of me wonders how it is going to be back home, now that Ma doesn’t have to cook up a storm (literally!) to send you to office on time and then wait for you until late evening to come back home. But then again, I like to paint a picture in my mind, where I see you scribbling furiously on a notebook (or typing on your laptop, now that you’ve got Assamese fonts installed and everything), and Ma brings you your cup of tea and sits beside you to talk about what you’re writing. I also see you having a nice extended breakfast instead of a hurried one, and taking your time to compliment Ma (yes Deuta, now you have to!) on the lovely dish of tenga or khaar. I see you sitting with your violin cradled on your ankle, yielding sweet music throughout the evening, every evening. And then, as if in a flashback, I see you and I, sitting with our harmonium between us, with four year old me looking at your face eagerly as you write out a song for me, just because we are alone and I have been bothering you all evening. I see Baideu, you and I, working furiously in our vegetable garden, digging for fresh potatoes and carrots, and carrying the harvest-filled basket back to Ma with pride. I see all of us having oranges while soaking in the afternoon winter sun in our backyard, and in the evening, sitting by the fireside swapping stories and singing songs late into the night. And then I know, everything will be splendid and beautiful and warm.
Congratulations, Deuta. And here’s to this remarkable chapter that I call Life: All Slowed Down. Now’s the time to sniff the roses, or rather in your case, the bokuls. And to have lazy afternoons and lengthy vacations.