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  • Writer's pictureLara Karuna

Thinking of my Father

Today marks the 23rd death anniversary of my father, Atul B. Vaidya. I’ve felt him very strongly these past two months. I know he would have been horrified as to what’s happening to the Palestinian people. My father was a talented writer, journalist with a passion and deep knowledge  of history and politics.

My father was born and raised in the same medium sized Gujarati city as Gandhi. His family were freedom fighters working closely with Gandhi as India took off its yolk of imperialism. At 6’2” with a wide dimpled smile, everyone thought with my father’s family history, talents and good looks he would naturally go into politics in his home country of India. As a dashing foreign correspondent for one of Indias premier newspapers my father seemed well on his way. However that trajectory was thwarted when he met and then fell in love with my mother and brother while living in Nepal.

Five years later, my sister three, my brother nine, and me growing in my mom’s belly, because of my sister’s failing health in Nepal, our parents decided to move back to the US.  There the deep racism and xenophobia prohibited my dad from ever finding the same caliber work as a journalists as he had in India. He worked many odd jobs- a paralegal, a baker, a shop keeper- alongside my mom - first at the flea market in Berkeley, which grew into two clothing stores until they decided after 10 years to shutter the doors.

Ultimately  my father returned to writing. Finding a job as a journalist and then their Editor-in-chief at the national newspaper for Indians in the US- India West;  It was a far cry from the  aspirations many had for him in India. He told me it was very humbling to work for that newspaper, however , he also told me that meeting my mom and brother and convincing my mom to take a chance on him was the best thing he’d ever done in his life. He had no regrets.

My father fought all his professional life for Hindu Muslim unity. One story stands out in my mind during the time I lived in India with my parents during my junior year abroad.

We were looking at rental apartments and the landlord whispered conspiratorially, “well you know, we don’t rent to Muslims.” To which my father responded with a light-hearted smile, “oh I’m Muslim.” He was Hindu. But his Hinduism was one of inclusivity. On his alter alongside the various pantheon of Hindu deities also stood  Jesus, a book of Sufi verses, Buddha, the Star of David, and other representations of the many other religions of the world. And this is how we were raised.

At my dad’s proclamation of being Muslim, the potential landlord started to stutter and back pedal.  It was beautiful to watch him squirm. At age 19 I never forgot that lesson and I’ve never stayed silent when I’ve been faced with bigotry in all its shapes and forms .

Today on the eve of eves of the birth  of Jesus-  a Palestinian Jewish man, a revolutionary, an ascetic who preached love and peace, who spoke for the downtrodden and the oppressed, who lived with the leapers not the elite, I would like to remember what he stood for and  add with it my own cry for peace. For us to remember  to move in love and compassion and never forget our connection as humans, as sentient beings, made from the same light that expands through this vast universe reverberating through infinity.

I love you Daddy, forever, beyond space and time. Be

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