A Father Story: Chapter 9

Feline Danger in the Family Dwelling

There lived, in the house next door, a pair of cats named Bertie and Gussie. Their owners were a much loved Uncle and Aunty who much loved P. G. Wodehouse. The feline Bertie, like his literary namesake, had a special talent for creating commotion, and he once created a commotion of Woosterian proportions in our household. And I don’t mean Woosterian as in foppish and affected, although that is the accepted meaning. I mean of the Bertie Wooster kind.


It was a tranquil Saturday morning. Helios was riding his celestial chariot, its brilliant golden beams streaming in through our bedroom window. A gentle breeze sang softly through the trees, and the sparrows chirped sweetly along. It was too early for the raucous crickets and the raucous cricket the neighbor boys played every weekend.

The Favorite Daughters were in different corners of the house, each minding their own business. This was an extremely rare scenario in the Edwards home, and had Mummy been around she would immediately have suspected that commotion was a-brewing. But Mummy was not around, which is why we were able to mind our own business. Had Mummy been around, she would have forced us to mind her business, which was always very closely connected to the word “chores.”

Mind your own business

All these years later, I cannot recall which Favorite Daughter First Discerned Feline Danger in the Family Dwelling. Either way, that FD immediately stopped minding her business and got the other FDs to immediately stop minding theirs. This is why I think the First Discerner was the Favorite Daughter, because she was the only one who could make the other FDs immediately stop minding their business. The Third FD never had that kind of authority (though she now has more authority than either of us, having more kids than either of us). And as for the Second FD (as I refer to myself in the third person), I never had that kind of presence of mind. I was absentminded when I was minding my own business, and wild horses couldn’t Forcefully Drag me away.

But I digress. In fact, since my business always involved the chasing of some Futile Dream, I very Foolishly Digress. Let me return to the tale of Feline Danger.

How Bertie got out of his Family Dwelling I will never know, but he got into ours by climbing through my esteemed parents’ bedroom window. When I saw him he was perched arched-backed on the windowsill, hissing and spitting at Chibi. Chibi, whose legs did not permit him to reach windowsills, could only howl and prowl and scowl and growl like a Wodehousian constable.

Dogs rule

As Fate Decreed, the much loved Uncle and Aunty who owned Bertie, being Family Doctors, were at that moment inconveniently looking after patients. Mummy, being the same, was doing the same. And Papa, who had an inerrant tendency to not be around when we needed him, was not around. Consequently, the Favorite Daughters were left to deal with the situation ourselves – and all three of us were mortally afraid of cats.

I have processed my fear of cats in a cleverly titled short story, “Fear of Cats,” so I won’t process it here. I am taking the shortest route I can to The End, and I cannot stop to process every fear and phobia. When that story is published, you may purchase it for your reading pleasure. Meanwhile, I must get on with this story.


The Favorite Daughters may have been mortally afraid of cats, but we were exceptionally gifted  shriekers – and there was no shrieking caste system in our family. We were all equally gifted. For this special talent, neither of my esteemed parents accepted any responsibility, even though it was clear, even without any DNA test, that we were indeed their own three Favorite Daughters.

Mummy was one of three sisters, so Papa could have blamed her side of the family, but he was not stupid. He could recognize a special talent when he saw it – or, in this case, heard it. He often blamed our shrieking for all manner of things, once even the loss of his nail clippers, and he sometimes claimed he’d go mad living in a house full of shrieking women. (This he did halfheartedly,  because he knew he had come into the house already mad.) Still, he was not going to let any special talent be passed on to the other side of the family. He blamed it on his mother and her sisters, whom he had heard shriek (mostly at each other) throughout his younger and more vulnerable years.

Papa’s theory on the origins of our shrieking pleased Mummy greatly. She had always maintained that she and her sisters were the paragons of Female Decorum, as befits the daughters of a well-respected minister.

Whether we inherited our special talent From Dadi and her sisters, or whether we acquired it on our own (which is my own opinion), I can honestly say my sisters and I were exceptional shriekers. And it is this special talent that Formally Delivered us from a Fate Decidedly worse than Fearsome Death that Frightening Day.

Our talented shrieking alerted the neighbors to our plight, and some kindly neighbor delivered us by taking Bertie off the windowsill. What would have happened had that kindly neighbor never been born I leave you to ponder.

Ch 9


A Father Story: Chapter 8

The Famous Drummer

The time has come to reveal the real name of Ringo the Former Dispensary Star. But first I must ask you a question. While reading this part, would you be so kind as to remember that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet? It doesn’t matter if you don’t remember who said it. All I’m asking is that you would be so kind as to remember it.

You would be so kind? Great! I’m grateful for your cooperation as I try to take the shortest distance I can to The End. It would be a different story if The End were not the end I had in mind, but unfortunately (or Fortunately, Depending on your literary tastes), it is not a different story.

Balcony_sceneWhen we first got the Family Dog we had squabbled over what to name him. The Family Drama dragged on for Five Days. In the end, as Fate Decreed, Mummy’s Japanese friend happened to drop in in the middle of a scene. Seeing the chance the chance visit had to end the scene and the Family Drama, Mummy asked her to suggest a name

“Chibi Chan,” the Friend Declared. “It means rittre one in my ranguage.”

Mummy knew we didn’t like it, and we knew she didn’t like it, but she liked Family Dramas less, so the Family Dog was christened Chibi Chan without Further Delay. The name was butchered left and right, as one Favorite Daughter had predicted, but before he became Ringo, Chibi would have responded to Rosencrantz or Guildenstern if there was Food Displayed.food displayedNo one in our immediate circle had your Fervent Desire for Hamlet, so they didn’t know how to say Rosencrantz or Guildenstern. Chibi was called Chubby, Chippy, Chibu, Chibbers and, when we were Feeling Deferent, Mr. Chibbers.

And now I will let you into a secret. I wish Ringo was the name we had given the Favorite Dachshund. Not only was it better than Chibi Chan, but as the pet name of a Famous Drummer, it suited our pet better than the name even I had suggested.

Ringo Starr

No, I am not going to reveal what that was. I have just shared one secret with you. It’s too soon for another.

Ch 8


A Father Story: Chapter 7

The Famous Dachshund

Sometime in the mid-nineties I had related how the Favorite Dachshund lost the chance to be a Father Dachshund in a short story titled “The Prodigal Dog.” Having had over twenty years to think it over, I now realize that was a bad title. Unlike the Prodigal Son, the Family Dog did not come to his senses in a pigsty. He never entered the pigsty in the first place, so there was no question of him coming to his senses.

CensusWhen we finally found him nine days after he had fled the canine bedchamber, the Family Dachshund was leading a privileged existence as the guest of a dispensary in an affluent housing society. He had no inclination to return to the humbler Family Dwelling of yore.

And who could blame him? We did not allow him to sit on the sofa, but here he was installed in the most comfortable seat the dispensary possessed – and remember this was an affluent society. The seat was made of the best Rexine money could buy, and padded to boot. The patients patiently remained standing so the Fatigued Dachshund could remain seated.

Of course we adored him, but there were only five of us and we couldn’t do it 24/7. At the dispensary, he was surrounded by constant streams of worshipful masses. Doctors, nurses, patients, neighbors, maids, watchmen, and even the odd rickshawalla all came to pay homage to the Fabled Dachshund. Some stood and gazed in silent admiration, some genuflected in reverent awe, and some collapsed prostrate with screams of Frenzied Devotion. Such star power did the Famous Dachshund exude that they had named him Ringo.downloadFor weeks afterwards he refused to answer to any other name, even though in his pre-traumatic stress days he had answered to any name if there was food involved. But we were so thrilled to have him back that we were willing to call him Ringo, and we even let him sit in the rocking chair. He eventually started responding to his own name, but he never stopped sitting in the rocking chair.

Ch 7




A Father Story: Chapter 6

The FD Fearfully Disregards Filial Duty

Last time I had (parenthetically) introduced a new FD character. This character was a prominent member of the Edwards family. Had he had two legs, there would have been four castes in the favoritism caste system. And had he had two legs and also been the firstborn, there would have been only one caste in the Edwards family.

When my esteemed parents realized that they were parents-to-be, they both hoped that the stork would bring them a son. Had the stork obliged, there the Edwards family would have ended, with no Favorite Daughters to speak of. I certainly would not have been around to tell the tale of the Family Dog.


My esteemed parents shared a love for animals. They had each grown up with pets, so they thought it only right and fair that their children do likewise. At various points in my younger and more vulnerable years, we had cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens, turtles, fish, parrots, and parakeets. We also had lizards, mice, ants, spiders, snails, slugs, and bugs, but they weren’t pets, just pet peeves – at least for us Favorite Daughters. My esteemed parents loved their menagerie.

While writing this story I sent Mummy a message asking if I had missed any pets. “No,” she replied, “but I was asked if we could get an elephant.”

If you’re wondering which Favorite Daughter could have made such a request, I’m afraid you’ll have to keep wondering. I am trying to take the shortest distance I can to The End and cannot stop to answer every question.


As a family, we liked brown dachshunds best. We had two of them – a female in Lucknow, who once nursed a stray kitten, and a male in Pune, who once nursed an aversion to a female of his species. My esteemed parents had sent him to reproduce after his kind, but instead of doing his Filial Duty and supplying them with grandpups, he turned on his heels and fled the canine bedchamber.

Ch 6.JPG

A Father Story: Chapter 5

A Good Democracy

As I mentioned last time, I am going to listen to the math teachers. It’s something I should have done more of at school, but it’s never too late. I may never be a software engineer like every other Indian, and I may never be able to tell one pint from two, but my hearing is still intact and I can still listen.

The Edwards being a good Indian family (despite our good English name), and India being a good democracy (as good democracies go), the Edwards voted. We said we were happy to share plates, glasses, and everything else in the kitchen that had survived demolition at Butterfingers’ hands, but since Papa had made his bed, he must jolly well lie on it. In other words, he must jolly well get his own saucer.

I voted

As often happens after a vote, Papa put up a fight. First he declared his undying love for us (the emotion in his voice reducing the family dog to tears). Then he declared that he truly did enjoy drinking tea with us, just not from the same cup, boiled in the same saucepan, strained with the same strainer, or stirred by the same spoon. Other than that, he said, we were family and should behave like one.

Rubbish, said the Favorite Daughter with a look. And since the FD had the power to silence him with a look, Papa meekly lapsed into silence and went to the kitchen to dish soap his saucer.

The saucer had already been washed by the maid, but in Papa’s opinion no maid knew how to wash dishes, so he always washed his tea things himself. This is how dish soap comes into this story. Next time a new FD will come into this story. Or at least, the FD will be Further Discussed.


A Father Story: Chapter 4

Hitting the Wall (and Pleading Temporary Inanity)

A straight line is the shortest distance between two points, math teachers tell us. Literature teachers tell us about the shortest distance between two pints. Since I can never tell one pint from two, and since I will not indulge your Fervent Desire for Hamlet (which covers the longest distance between Enter and Exeunt), I’m going to listen to the math teachers on this one. From this point forward, I’ll take the shortest distance I can to The End.

To recap, Papa initially had only his own saucepan, strainer, cup, and teaspoon, deigning to share the saucers with his family, and this was stressful for all four women in the family. I have told you what Mummy and the Favorite Daughter did to relieve their stress, and now I will tell you what the Third FD did.

The Third Favorite Daughter relieved her stress by putting up posters of punk rockers all along the passage outside the girls’ bedroom. The posters were life-size, and Papa, being absentminded at the best of times, invariably thought that some white boy with pink hair had taken up residence in his castle. It would have been bad enough had it been a brown boy with black hair, but white boys with pink hair made him see red.

Whenever Papa saw red, there was an altercation with some white boy with pink hair. Each ended with a badly bruised fist, Papa having hit the wall. His aim being poor when he was seeing red, his fist invariably landed on the chin. Had the pink-haired punk rocker been able to speak (and everyone knew he couldn’t sing), he would have said he’d taken it on the chin.

On the chinkYou’re right. I did skip the Second Favorite Daughter.

You’re wrong. I did not forget the Second FD. 

I will never forget the Second FD. For one thing, I have the memory of an elephant. For another, I don’t have the manners of a goat. I never forget myself in public.


Clever of you to so quickly figure out that I am the Second FD. It took me years to figure it out myself. For most of my life I thought I was the Third Favorite Daughter (of three), but I have realized that perhaps my perception was not reality. Perhaps we were all Favorite Daughters in our own way. So I will berth myself by my birth order.

Still, I refuse on principle to discuss my role in the dish soap opera. The principle being that while it’s inane to wash one’s dirty dishes in public, it’s insane to wash one’s dirty laundry in public. I can plead temporary inanity every now and then, but I can never plead temporary insanity. It’s insane how sane I am.Ch 4

A Father Story: Chapter 3

Your Fervent Desire

I deliberately did not end chapter 2 by saying whether I would continue the story of the Favorite Daughter, aka Butterfingers, or whether I would move on to the other Favorite Daughters, aka Second FD and Third FD. Truth be told, I myself did not know.

Yes, I know that “I myself did not know” is extremely awkward, but it’s more accurate than “I did not know myself.” There has never been a time when I did not know myself. But English being as idiosyncratic as it is, occasionally an Indian American writer must dish out extremely awkward prose.

Still, I appreciate your attention to my prose, especially when it is extremely awkward, and when I make a spelling mistake.


I was in three minds about whether to continue the saga of the Favorite Daughter (and given how much I know, I admit I was tempted). But since I was in three minds, I decided to forget about the Favorite Daughter and move on to the other two FDs.

Before I move on, I must draw your attention to a point that, at some point, may turn out to be crucial to this story. If it turns out not to be crucial to the story and you want to sue me for making a promise I did not keep, let me ask you to move your eyes back 43 words, to the word may in the previous sentence. The difference between may and will is akin to the difference between May and June.

To get to the point, the point is that at times people in three minds do decide. It’s only when one is in two minds that one cannot decide. Like Hamlet.

No, I am not going to indulge your fervent desire for Hamlet. I have, out of goodness of heart, indulged it many times in the past, but this story is not about Hamlet and his father. Just because I titled it A Father Story and not The Father Story does not mean I can drag Hamlet and his father in to indulge your fervent desire for Hamlet.

And anyway, given your FD for Hamlet, you know already know that Hamlet is not about Hamlet and his father. It’s not even Hamlet and his stepfather – notwithstanding that his first lines relate to that lecherous, treacherous villain. (Which is the second kindest thing Hamlet can say about Claudius, the kindest being “A little more than kin, and less than kind.”)

Hamlet is about Hamlet and his mother. Nothing to do with an Oedipus complex. (He may be complex, but he can tell Gertrude from Ophelia.) Hamlet is about Hamlet and his mother because even though he must avenge his father’s death, when he finally does kill his father’s killer, it is to avenge his mother’s death.

Hamlet Act V scene ii

Chapter 3