I couldn’t let today pass without saying a few words about my dad, who died exactly 10 years ago today, aged 74. I don’t have many photos of him that have been digitised so I apologise that this one lets MsDD take centre stage, but it shows his delight at being with her. He thought the world of his grandchildren, and made a point of showing his love for them.
This photo was taken a year or two before we moved to Paris which was, I think, one of the things that made him give up a bit on life. In the end he died from Hepatitis caught as a child in India, and that, his blindness and the strain of being with my mum, who was already showing signs of dementia and very difficult to live with, must have been the last straw.
Dad had called me the Sunday before to let me know that he was going into hospital for a minor operation and, while there, he seems to have contracted the infection that killed him. I remember being at Parc Astérix, where I was spending the last day of our summer holiday with the children, and racing back home through the traffic on the Peripherique to grab a ticket for the last Eurostar back to London. As we prevaricated about whether to ask the doctors to turn off his breathing machine, suddenly his blood pressure dropped and he was gone on his own terms.
He came to the UK in 1952 aged 19, leaving his university course and taking the opportunity to join his big brother in the “Mother Country.” He continued his studies for a while, combining evening classes with work on a building site by day. He suffered so much cruelty and racism but he was of the generation that turned the other cheek and assimilated. He was called George by colleagues who could not be bothered to learn “Keshav.”
Having marched to Aldermaston with CND and been active in the Labour Party for much of his life, it was my dad who taught me about apartheid and nuclear disarmament and probably he who was responsible for my lifelong interest in politics. He introduced me to classical music and used to come to our school concerts and conduct from the audience.
It was my dad who taught me that there was always more than one side to everything and that one should not judge people unfairly, that one should always look for the good in people. Towards the end of his life, however, his disability got the better of him. He never acknowledged his poor eyesight and subsequent blindness, as if it was something of which to be ashamed and it made him insecure. At his deathbed I could think only of our blazing rows and bitter words that always came back to his helplessness. The generation gap could no longer be bridged and we lived in different worlds.
No-one seems to remember important dates in our house where we seem to have acquired an almost puritanical disdain for ceremony. But you were in my thoughts today, dad.