A Tribute to Appa

A Tribute to Appa
Thirumakal Balakumar

If you know my father, you know he does not beat about the bush. And having his gene and having evidenced this throughout my life, I will get right down to telling you about Appa. Not the educational or career background but who he is as a person and what he means to me, and by extension to our family.

Ever since I can remember, Appa has shaped our lives and influenced us to be the best version of ourselves. He taught us important life lessons in very succinct ways. He was not the type to lecture or raise his voice to mend our ways. A word here or a question there was plenty enough to reset priorities. So rare it was, that I can count on my fingers the number of times this has been the case.

The running joke in the family is that while we were growing up, he was not sure which grades we were in at school, so busy was he with community work. Although there is a grain of truth to this, he was able to be an effective father despite this, or perhaps even because of it. He didn’t sweat the small stuff. He saw the world clearly for what it was, a man-made cauldron of conflicting systems, values, and beliefs. And therefore, the opportunities to influence and change it were there for the taking. He always had a very open mind and did not impose any values or beliefs on us. We learned these by observing the life he led, coupled with what we each absorbed as our set of values. The sense of justice was always paramount in our household and as a daughter, he always made it crystal clear that I had every right as any of my brothers, much to my mother’s chagrin and at times even horror.

A few of the things I admire the most about Appa are his integrity, strength, determination, and resilience. He has gone through cycles of political and social upheaval, unimaginable injustices and genocide, and volatile situations at every level, and yet he never for a second wavered or gave up. These only served to act as fuel for his mind, blood for his body, and ink for his pen. He taught us the value of hard work, perseverance, and honesty. Appa is incredibly hard-working and I do not really know of any other civic role model who has put in so many hours of work in such a
consistent manner. He worked and continues to work tirelessly each and every day, through all the stages of his life, juggling education, work, and family while relocating locally and globally and building/rebuilding life. The younger generation would be familiar with the concept of logging in a certain number of volunteer hours for school.

The amount of time Appa has spent giving back and advocating not just for human rights but for the environment, women’s rights, etc. cannot be counted in hours. It would be ridiculous to do so, as it sums up to years. He turned 90 this year and most of those years have been spent not on himself or his family but on his community. As far as I can remember, on a typical day aside from the hours spent asleep or at a paying job, Appa would have spent maybe an hour at most exercising or having his meals. The remaining went to volunteer work and trying to make the world a better
place, mostly through writing. It was a Parker ink pen and pads of paper in bygone years, and then it was the computer. And as his grandchildren like to joke, his birthday cakes should be in the shape of a computer. As a role model, we couldn’t have asked for a better one.

One thing that still awes me is Appa’s thirst for education. He is a born learner, and nothing was ever going to distract or discourage him from learning something new. Be it formal education or keeping up with the latest technology, including building his website. He is always ahead of the game by anticipating and preparing for the future. He bought us our first computer over 40 years ago in the early ‘80s. It was the first time anyone in our town in Nigeria ever saw a computer. He bought me a CD and had me learn to type, albeit reluctantly, even before I had any sensible need to. Vacations with Appa were bittersweet as we always had to write an essay after the fun was over when we returned home. He would review, edit, and off we went to rewrite. Speaking of vacations, Appa took us around the world and we didn’t sit around at the destinations with friends and family, even though we would have liked to many times. It was off to museums, parks, and other tourist destinations. We would get back and off we went again the next day. To be fair and true to his character, he did ask for our input on the attractions, and some we did choose and enjoy such as a visit to Sherlock Holmes’s abode in London. In hindsight, as a parent myself, I can appreciate the time, money, and toll this would have taken and so can only call this a sacrifice Appa made for us.

Not all of you may know that he is an avid gardener. My younger brother and I would be given daily tasks to keep us busy during our holidays in Nigeria, because what else were school holidays there for anyways? We weeded, watered, trapped beetles off plants, and pulled out more weeds. However, the first curry I made at ten, a cucumber one the thought of which still makes me nauseous, was declared hands-down delicious by Appa. One other responsibility I had was to proofread his articles and translate them between Tamil and English.

Although what he tasked, taught, and encouraged through the above activities seemed mundane, frivolous or a complete waste of my precious time for the most part, they were exactly what defined me. To this day they help me, more than my university degrees I might add, in my professional and personal lives.

As Booker T Washington once said, success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which one has overcome. Appa has shown that success is not just possible but has made it clear that one can achieve it in one’s personal and professional lives, apparently with ease. Where there is a will, there is a way. You don’t get time, you make time. Rome was not built in a day.
You get the picture.

Dear Appa, today I want to honor you for everything that you have given me throughout my life. You are the person I most admire in the universe and you have been my lighthouse, role model, and guide. From the moment I was born, you have loved me unconditionally and provided me with everything I needed to not just grow but thrive. As I look back on all the memories we’ve shared together, I feel so grateful for every moment, as they have helped shape the person I am today. I have courage, and confidence, and stand taller than my 5 feet and a debatable inch because you are
my father. Just when I feel I cannot be prouder of having you as my father, another day dawns and I am even prouder. Thank you for everything you have done for me, you are one amazing father and it is a privilege to be your daughter. I only hope that one day I can be as great of a parent as you are. We all wish you many more years of health and happiness

About editor 3016 Articles
Writer and Journalist living in Canada since 1987. Tamil activist.

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