“Exactly Like My Dad”: Of Fathers & What They Leave Us With
Rishi Raj

“Exactly Like My Dad”: Of Fathers & What They Leave Us With

This Father’s day we interviewed two incredibly special people about their unique relationships with their fathers. This piece is about Shruti Sharma, a connoisseur of Sufi Urdu poetry and an avid reader of Manto also championing reform for India’s growing social sector by working in it. We had the privilege of discovering memories and stories of tenderness about the dynamic relationship she had with her father in the comfort of her home.

Photography credits: Rishi Raj

We began the interview with a deep dive into the importance of NGOs and how her father had the absolute opposite approach and opinion. With much gusto for her occupation, she says “I work in the social sector which my father hated the most. I think my father for the longest time he would be after my life because he thought NGOs just eat up money. I always had this fight with him about being super passionate about this and him not understanding it. But after a point, he did understand and he understood why I am doing what I am doing, he used to say as long as I am satisfied going in the morning and coming back in the night and still wanting to do it the next day, he was convinced and then he eventually accepted it.”

Shruti’s stories about her father were peppered with nostalgia. Her love for her dad was deeply etched and it made all the wild chuckle-inducing re-telling of memories funnier. With a curiosity to understand Shruti more, I asked, “Tell us more about your upbringing?”

“I have lived all my life in Delhi and studied at Lady Shri Ram College and my father has also lived all his life in Delhi and one thing I have got from him is travel, both he and my mother were avid travelers. My father and mother have been together since the 8th std and they have had a love marriage. And my mom is Punjabi and my dad is Haryanvi and it was full on drama and all of this can’t happen! Both of them were madly in love. Their love never ended.”

Photography credits: Rishi Raj

With a few giggles, Shruti goes on to say “You don’t find this form of love anywhere in this day and age. I have an older sister and we both are single and we completely blame our parents for it because they showed us this epitome of love which you just don’t find in this century. This was one of the topics my dad and I always fought about. Why can’t I be in one relationship!? I believed that something or the other would always happen and he used to reply saying ‘No you have to understand and work through it’ and it’s just not worth it for me. Maybe he found his person at a very young age. There’s just so much access to get partners quickly now it’s just not going to work for us.”

Travelling and her relationship with her dad were inextricably linked. Her father had encouraged her to travel and find her footing and to go out and not hold an unbudging mentality of judgment when coming across various people. It was also an escape, she says, “Whenever any of us felt stuck or anything my dad would just pack us in the car and just drive. My dad used to love driving and he used to drive 18 to 20 hours straight. They used to pack us in the car and just take us to any random place in the hills.”

While Shruti wore her father’s lovely plaid shirt she was searching for her dad’s famous BIC lighters I asked her “What her relationship with her father was on a deeper personal level?”

She replies with a knowing smile, “If my dad said this is white I would say its black because he always used to challenge me and I used to love that challenge. When he challenged me it pushed me to actually do something. When he challenged me on the social sector it pushed me to be more in it and believed that this is what I want to do. Somehow he always brought in a lot of clarity in my life. I was the closest to my father and also I’m exactly like him and it’s very weird saying that now.”

Photography credits: Rishi Raj

While we were talking about how her relationship with her father shaped her, we also conversed about his interests from political stances and how Shruti would really try to understand her father’s perspective. Between posters of Quentin Tarantino films and infamous historical figures, we discussed how her father absolutely loved Urdu poetry. Shruti also talked about the impact he had after his death, “Even his going away was so random and unusual. He knew he was dying and basically for 5 months he was trying to convince us to let him go. The best thing we did was we all started traveling and we quit our jobs and left with our dog. He got liver cirrhosis and my dad used to drink but it wasn’t how it was portrayed he was super happy and told everyone to live life happily. There’s nothing to worry about type of attitude. He was a complete joker. He made anyone he talked to feel like they are the most special person in the world.”

Photography credits: Rishi Raj

“What lessons did your father teach you?”

“The conversations I had with my father varied from relationships to finance and he used to tell me money means nothing in life. If you are happy in life that’s the biggest thing. The last 10 days my entire extended family from around the globe flew down to see him in the hospital. My dad had one on one time with absolutely everyone. After he passed away also it was impossible to remember my dad without laughing about all the funny memories. Everybody who came into our house after his death would leave the house smiling.”

Amid Mumbai’s residential skyline and the purple glow of early dusk, Shruti tells us, sitting on her bed, her intense love for all genres of music, especially the Beatles and how everyone in her family had a favorite Beatles member. Shruti was an absolute delight to talk to and reminded me how far lessons your parents teach you really goes. Shruti’s quirky interests and hilarious experiences made us feel right at home while narrating the fanatical yet very important stories and lessons her father taught her.

Featured Photography by Rishi Raj for Homegrown

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