If there is a Father who is in Heaven, it’s most likely `our father’ (mine & my 2 sisters’ that is!), and not some bearded deity!
That said Hindus (people who follow Hinduism) do deify their dead ancestors and relatives. Well, not just Hindus, so do a number of other religious people – like the Chinese, Japanese, Africans and so on. So I am quite okay to make such a statement.
Today is the 71st birthday of my father – Mr Kanapathippillai Navasothy – had he still been alive. He had a road accident – way back in 1990 (4t
h January 1990) and passed away in hospital following head injuries, and being in a coma for a few hours. The accident took place, in the streets of `Elephant & Castle’ in SW London, when he was returning from his civil service work (as one the then-Poll-Tax officers!!).
He wasn’t always that of course. Educated to degrees – well, a B.A and then an M.A in Sri Lanka, he was working on his Ph.D thesis while in London when he died, so his work was never finished. We have stacks of all that research in cupboards – and at one point, both my sister Vathani & me vowed to finish his work – but life took us in different directions. It’s not our cause!. We have our own paths and works.. my sister in the direction of Psychology & Counselling (B.SC & M.Sc), and me in Physics (B.Sc) and esoteric and paganism. (We do have another sister, who went in the direction of Education, working with kids in schools, sign language etc until she got married and has now a baby boy – who incidentally is the same star-sign as my father. Magicians with soul-considerations will make what you will of this. Well, that;’s not all. All 3 of us – me and my 2 sisters have spouses who are all Aries- the same start sign as my father! Psychologists will have a field day on this, am sure!)
Back to my father – Navasothy – for that was his first name – meaning `Nine-lights’. In Tamil culture, the first name of one’s father / husband becomes one’s Surname. So his name `Navasothy’ became my surname and now that we are in a western country, that has become our family surname for ever! So in some ways, my father’s name lives on!
He was a Tamil Scholar, reading and writing so much on folklore and cultural matters. He’s written and published many books – and here I am proud to say, his children’s novel `Odiponavan’ (tamil for `(boy) who ran away’) became the first Children’s fiction book to be read in Tamil classes in schools – back in Sri Lanka. His next book was on folklore & poetry. He had attended many international Tamil conferences (last one was in Mauritius); his articles appeared almost every week on newspapers, and his voice was heard on tamil radio stations. We grew up with all that as `normal’ occurrences (he took me to a children’s radio `story telling’ programme recording, and I got to say a few words once !) I recall his first TV session ( a 15 min talk). And here in London, he started up one of the first Tamil Sunday Schools in Tooting Broadway, as well as a Monthly magazine.
He was hardly home, but when he was, he’d be writing, or gardening! Those times with him (having tropical fish!), stalking lizards that ate our vegetables, or going for a walk in the forest (and trying to get me a `pet monkey’ ) are ones I still cherish – as well as the fact that he believed in my creative talents. He took my comic books to try and publish them (alas I now know they were not good or original).
I’ve been following in his footsteps for decades now- writing, art works, community events organising, public speaking, teaching.. even interests in books (he worked as a Government Archivist back in Ceylone), and archaeology (first few months in UK, he did some volunteer work in the roman town of St.Albans). Many of my writing projects have started to culminate, so I think that’s my best homage to him.
I must mention, it was his sudden death (I was just starting my Physics in University when that happened) that set me initially on an atheist path and then spun me around topsy-turvy – and finally into Paganism & spirituality.
It is time, 22 years after his death, that a memorial is built for him – for the world has almost forgotten him. But in true modern fashion, a website and online is where I’m building his memorial.
In Tamil, I call my father `Appa’ .. So here’s to you – `Happy Birthday Appa’.