I remember when I was 14 or 15 was the first time I sported a T shirt with a Brazilian flag… when I tasted a Maracuja drink.. and when I heard my first Samba song.. Thanks to my dad.
What was my dad doing getting me Brazilian gifts… you’ll know soon… Well, I have to say that I hardly knew my dad…. for the longest time, he was just this guy who we lived with, who used to work a lot and smoke a lot. I knew that he was exporting some stuff to Latin America (that was his business) and that he would travel at the drop of a hat to countries I had never heard of. My sister and I would eagerly wait for him to come back, to see the gifts that he would carry back for us (we were kids and we loved gifts.. who doesn’t). Unlike kids who wanted foreign chocolates, I remember I enjoyed receving things I knew nothing about… like a bottle of Maracuja pulp.
My dad is no more. He passed away 5 years ago. And my parents got divorced almost 10 years ago. So, memories of my dad include Sunday lunch together and random gifts from around the world.. it includes old photographs of his that my grandma and my mom kept stashed away in the cupboard…. However, I dont think I really knew too much about him…
And I discovered him after all these years in Curitiba, Brazil. The people I met in Curitiba gave me a gift that I would never forget in my life. It is one of the most precious things I received in this trip. They told me who my dad was.
While I knew that I was traveling in South America for various reasons like Capoeira, music and just good ole travel, I also knew at the back of my head that this was a continent where my dad actually spent 10 years traveling. He traveled around Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Venezuela, Chile…. He had met so many people and worked with so many people at a time when Indians really did not travel to Latin America….
One of his dear friends he would always talk about was Efren Williams…. I wrote to him before leaving for Brazil and he invited me to stay with his family in Curitiba. Williams, his wife Mozara, his mother in law Donaita and his kids Thayna, Diego and Nayara welcomed me like I was a part of their family.
All I remember about Williams was that he was dads closest business partner in Brazil… I did not know how close they were and how much Williams knew about my dad….
Well, with 4 days in Curitiba, I discovered this..
My dad actually attended birthday parties…. seeing pictures of him with Brazilian kids and balloons looking totally carefree made me wonder why he wasn’t around that much for our birthday parties at home. I don’t have that many pictures of him at our birthday parties in India… maybe he was playing photographer all the time… he loved to take pictures.
My dad had a sense of humour… Well, what Williams tells me is that he could keep a straight face and be totally witty… I remember seeing that only once in my life… before I got married, my dad wrote a really witty mail about the wedding invitation list…. Im glad that during all his trips to Brazil, people remember the witty side..
My dad was super organized. People tell me I plan. And when I don’t have anything to plan about, I still plan. I guess now, I know where I get this trait from. Apparently, he would double check and triple checked air tickets, hotel bookings, meeting timings and note down everything in his palmtop. Sounds a little like me.
My dad carrried his bag of spices. I guess its not strange that I am carrying Garam Masala with me. But, Williams tells me that dad carried Paruppu podi (lentil powder), Manga thokku (mango pickle), Thenga thogayal dry (Coconut chutney dry) and Puli Kachal (Tamarind paste). He was known to ask for rice and eat all this stuff when he got sick of all the meat around the place.
My dad got gifts for everyone. Not just us…. He would apparently carry chocolates and gifts for Williams kids and spoil them. Thats a wonderful thought.
My dad needed his coffee. Phew! Thank god I am not the only one drinking 6 cups a day. I heard he was no different.
My dad entered a country without a visa and convinced visa officials to let him in. When they reached Bolivia, they realised that Indians needed a visa and they did not have one. So, he along with Williams convinced Bolivian officials… Im totally impressed that he used the whole ‘world without borders’ philosophy on a Bolivian police official years ago.
My dad gave an Indian name to Nayara…. Williams daughter. Her Indian name was Lakshmi, like the goddess of wealth. He loved the mystic Indian names…..
He loved to travel. Williams and my dad traveled around for almost 10 years to all these countries on business trips that would turn into leisure. Apparently, he would just walk around after work discovering nooks and corners in cities. Sounds so familiar…. Guess I know about the travel bug in the family…
I cannot believe that travel can tell you so much about a person who is no more…. not only did I discover who my dad was, I also discovered that I am a lot like him… its those people who you meet traveling that see your other side.. or actually your true side… Williams was the lucky guy to have known my dad… and I am lucky to have finally met Williams and taken a trip down memory lane…