The big fish eating the small fish

Abu Abraham's daughter remembers her father on his 10th death anniversary

Abu was hardly a conventional father. He never really knew which class we had graduated to, or what homework we were to do. He did let us know how difficult it was for him to pass exams and it proved equally hard for us. He did not mind. He took great joy in having us around him. At least that is what I remember, though my memories do vacillate, from a recollection of his being a totally preoccupied parent, poring over his newspapers, his books or drawing his cartoons, to an engaged storyteller of personal experience and humorous myths, and an acute observer of everyday life. We were always welcomed to participate in this world. The world of rescuing little birds fallen out of nests, feeding the fish, the goose and its baby, the rabbits, chicken, ducks and later in Kerala, a goat!

His passion for drawing marks my memories and my relationship to him as a father. Be it the portraits he drew of us as children, when we had to pose for him. Or when he did those flipbooks of the big fish that ate the little fish. Of gentle and docile figures belonging to the animal world, imbued with humanness; the kind of humanity he practised in his art. His animals were wide-eyed and curious like he was. It certainly was an unconventional way of bonding with your children but that is precisely what my father did. It was more often than not through this art of drawing, and his obsession with it. He had an amazing ability to stand amidst jostling crowds and be quite unperturbed. Any journey, any holiday meant sketch books full of images. Sketches, impressions, astute portraits of ordinary people in marketplaces; women and children and animals that mingle. There were visits to prominent people's homes, sitting in silence, when he tried to extract the essence of his model's personality. He was interested in what people wore, their food, culture, language, much like an anthropologist. He made copious notes, inscribing in little handwriting by the edges of his drawings all the information he gathered.

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