Wg Cdr N.D. Mohan (V.S.M) is a retired Air Force officer, a father of two and a grandfather of four. He shares his memories of growing up in the 1930s in Bangalore, his unique relationship with his father and how grandfatherhood changed him.
I was born in a very different time, back when life was simpler and telephones were a rarity. My mother gave birth to me in 1929. My childhood was wonderful, and I imbibed much of my culture and values from my family environment. The doors to our home were always open, and we always had guests in the house, both invited and uninvited. Everyone was welcome. Ours was a large family, burgeoning with sisters, brothers, cousins and visitors.
If I were to rewind to my childhood, I could beguile you with an array of vibrant memories. But because I can’t fit so many on this little page, let me leave you with just a few. My father was a strict taskmaster and was a stickler for timeliness, a trait that I have unwittingly inherited, perhaps. He set an example for us about the importance of hard work, and would guide us when we were faced with difficulties. He was a pious man, and religious events and festivals were honoured throughout the year in our home. He was a cricket enthusiast and encouraged me to play cricket and other sports. My father and I shared a formal relationship in the 1930s and 1940s, and naturally, my day-to-day conversations with him were limited. I don’t remember ever sitting down with him for a discussion after dinner or sharing my day with him.
My mother was the binding force of our family, though she came from a poor family and had been orphaned at the age of 9. Although she had studied only until middle school, she became the secretary for various organisations in her adulthood. Yet, she was an ideal mother and I was very fond of her.
After graduating with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, I joined Hindustan Aeronautics, and was then recruited by the Indian Air Force as a Commissioned Officer. In the Air Force, in which I served for close to 26 years, I was assigned 14 postings, at times being separated from my family. When I became a father myself in July 1961, and then again in 1966, I reflected my own father in many respects. I cultivated the same principled life, dedication to work and love for my children.
As an officer in the armed forces whose tomorrow was sometimes uncertain, my wife underpinned our boys with love and care, shielding them from the uncertainties associated with the defence forces. She cared for our sons and took to life as a military spouse, like a fish to water. She became a shining beacon for me and my sons, managing the household beautifully while I was away on duty in various corners of the country. With an understanding wife and family support in tow, I had no qualms about my boys’ upbringing, though I often missed their company. But I ensured that my absences were few and far between, and that my boys grew up with a father around. I took my family along for most of my postings, and my boys collected new experiences and friends on the way.
When I became a grandfather in 1989, I became immersed in my granddaughter’s upbringing. Her arrival was greeted with unusual pomp and celebration, by not only her grandparents, but our whole family. Our mirth and happiness knew no bounds. I personally devoted more time to her upbringing than I had to my two sons’. Then, six years later, in 1995, I became a grandfather a second time around, and was gifted with another grandchild to dote on. As a father, I had always been on the go, with little time to attend to the needs of my children. That department had always been successfully managed by my wife. I became a grandfather two more times, both in 1998, when I was blessed with another granddaughter and grandson.
I think I really caught up with life once I retired. After I bid my career farewell, I found more time to devote to my children and grandchildren. I am 88 years old today, and my fondest memories looking back are those of my children and grandchildren. Those memories will always remain golden, and forever be cherished.