My father taught me to live life with wonder, hope, joy, and self-assurance. I realize that it was never a deliberate effort on his part to impart these lessons to me; they had always been an extension of his personality. He probably never felt the need to teach me anything different. His teachings always reflected in his daily habits.
On the other hand, as a child, I was imbibing his way of life in bits and pieces. Intuitively, I was picking up nuggets of his life philosophy along the way and that’s what children do, don’t they? Every child mindfully observes the environment, perceives the world in myriad ways, makes his or her own interpretations of it and retain a conscious and unconscious memory for years, which eventually take shape in the form of habits.
# One Tiny Habit: Buy books. Give freedom
Looking at my life now, I realize how my father had played an influential role, particularly in encouraging my fondness for reading and writing. Yet, he never instructed me with any typical advice. In an unassuming manner, he gently guided me toward written words and the art of doing it, of which I have become a lifelong student. I consider myself fortunate for growing up with and being surrounded by books of all kinds. There was not a single month when my dad didn’t buy a new book or a journal. On Space, History, Science, Mystery, Philosophy, we had plenty of books around. Especially in those days, Reader’s Digest volumes had a permanent corner on our shelf.
Of all things, my dad never compelled me to read them. I had the freedom to explore the way I wanted. I believe this freedom—the openness to find my way to reading had a great impact on me. In the later years of my adolescence, although late, I finally discovered the joy and a whole new world of learning.
Eventually, what I have understood is, you can never push someone to do something. The person might carry it on for a while until he succumbs to his old habits. A practice like reading or writing cannot be instilled forcefully. It comes naturally to the person. A lot depends on his seeking, his search for meaning and his pursuit to make his life worthwhile and books have the power to give you those.
I always tell my dear ones the importance of buying books and surrounding ourselves with them. It is such a wonderful and worthwhile activity to do. We don’t have the faintest idea of how one tiny habit can change the lives of our children and how we are influencing those who are not yet aware of this infinite world.
# Next Tiny Habit: Look up. Find meaning. Do it until you get it right
I have a habit of referring to the dictionary the moment I stumble on an unknown word, quickly write down its meaning and create a sentence so that my memory can remember its meaning for the longest time. This habit is a consequence of what I had observed about my father. He would often rake through a handful of vocabulary, jot down the meaning of each and all his favorite quotes and passages from the newspapers and books on a diary and promptly consult the dictionary the moment he encounters a new word.
Over the years, his habit started reflecting on my own reading and writing practice. This has helped me immensely in improving my vocabulary and for being able to use words precisely where they are required.
On a lighter note, just to emphasize how adamant my father is when it comes to words — he has a peculiar habit of murmuring words that are fairly difficult to pronounce. He would do it incessantly until he got it right. Although he looked funny, he was able to the damn job right!
# Last Tiny Habit: Write daily. Write for yourself
On writing, one advice that is common with all great authors is — write daily. If you want to improve your writing — write daily. If you want to articulate your thoughts — write daily. I haven’t been able to integrate that into my daily routine yet, but my father has been a great example.
Every morning, he would type a few pages on his laptop without fail. Prior to the laptop days, he used to write on plain pages; chucking, striking, and mending his craft. There are days when he struggles for the lucidity of his thoughts and words, but that doesn’t stop him.
Why does he have to do this—writing every single day?
He does that for his own gratification. His impassioned zeal to express thoughts and things he feels strongly for. He writes for himself.
That is why he is able to write daily.
Writing plays an important role in my life, both professionally and personally. It contains and consumes a large part of the day. I am fortunate for being a small part of this whole scheme of the literary and erudite world.
Writing and reading have given me a sense of liberation. At different stages of my life, books had been an emotional and spiritual retreat for me, each time revealing a new dimension to my personality.
Being able to find an expression to your thoughts through written words is redeeming and therapeutic, which not many people have discovered so far, but they must. It is like an escape to a paradise where you forget about the cynical world and its goings-on.
In closing, I would just say that had it not been for my dad who introduced me to the world of books without any expectation and compulsion, I would have never inclined toward learning, creating and honing the craft.
This will be true for all the parents who have children and mentors who are responsible for their disciples —to show the light, guide their way and make a difference in their lives. The adults can open up a whole new dimension for the young minds by being a strong example of how they want their children to be. Children are constantly observing and absorbing knowledge. As much as their minds are impressionable, they are equally receptive to the good habits.
My father’s habits may not demand great attention, but they made a difference to my life. He has given me the greatest gift of life —helping me embark on this beautiful journey of writing and soaking up the wisdom of the universe as it comes.