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If Anpag’s father, who because of a genetic cause that was passed down from his ancestors received the title of The Fat Dad, was empathetic towards Bandem, his son found a kind of relatability in Bandem’s father.

He whose name among Anpag and his friends was, by every stretch of the imagination, the worst.

The Tyrant.

The irony here was that this name was given to Bandem’s dad by Anpag himself. It was during an evening during their summer break, when the four were playing cricket in Shanky’s veranda. Bandem’s father’s white SUV rolled past them towards the parking spot outside the house three doors down. The second it crossed Shanky’s house, Anpag remarked, “Bandem, look. The Tyrant’s here!” Which was followed by him guffawing and Shanky and Mompy, the remaining members of The Four Boys Club, looking at each other, sharing an awkward silence between themselves.

As they heard the driver side door to the car shut, Anpag said to Bandem, “You want to go home now, don’t you?”

Bandem, visibly embarrassed, said bye to Shanky and Mompy, and walked out.

Following that day, the name just… caught on. A couple of times, Mompy referred to Bandem’s dad in one of his conversations with Shanky as The Tyrant, before he realised what he had said. Another time, Mompy almost committed the mistake to Bandem’s face, but stopped himself just before. “I won’t call him that again,” Mompy apologised. Bandem merely waved him away.

Bandem, though, learned to take it in his stride. “We just kid around,” Shanky once told Bandem. “You know that. Don’t take it to heart.” Bandem knew they were, in Shanky’s words, kidding around, but he also secretly thought they were right. Maybe he wouldn’t go to the extent of calling his own dad a tyrant – for he believed that was too harsh – but he certainly did not enjoy being the only one in their group whose father had specific instructions that he be home when his father returned from work.

“He just likes having you around,” Bandem’s mum would tell him. Even though she had the heart of a lion, he found her submissive behaviour around her husband often frustrating.

In the defence of The Tyrant – which, being the title he was given, is what we will call him – he was… set in his own ways. He didn’t deny he was domineering; maybe even inflexibly patriarchal. His authority on all matters of the house – from the kind of furniture they had to the food cooked in their kitchen – was indisputable. Sarah, Bandem’s sister, was allowed her first sleepover at her friend’s only after she turned 18. Any birthday party Sarah wanted to attend before she became an official adult saw The Tyrant accompanying her; and waiting for her in the same restaurant, or outside in the car if the party was at a friend’s house.

It was the need to escape the rigidity of her father’s rules that she applied for colleges out of state after she finished school. That, too, became a cause of argument between The Tyrant, and by extension his wife, and Sarah; but we won’t touch upon that any more than we have to.

What really made the business with The Tyrant’s christening ironical was that Anpag, secretly of course, didn’t dislike him as much as he gave the impression that he did. That remark at Shanky’s house the other day may have been indicative of that fact, but, in actuality, a part of Anpag looked up to The Tyrant.

The thing is, The Tyrant was the least communicative among the four dads. As friendly and approachable as the rest of the group found Mompy’s father, The Tyrant was… well, a complete opposite. That constant underlying disdain behind the mask of friendliness on The Tyrant’s face, the conspicuous sarcasm (of a calculated amount yet unmistakable) that he spoke with, or the arrogance (that air of self-believed superiority) that as if gleamed off of him…

Physical characteristics that embarrassed other men in their forties didn’t bother The Tyrant. In contrast, the same attributes – receding hairline giving way to a balding crown on his head, the tyre of a tummy bursting along his waistline – only seemed to enhance his persona.

Anpag liked that authoritativeness in The Tyrant. He found it influential, almost aspirational.

Once, while the four were hanging out in the tree house in Mompy’s backyard, Mompy’s father had climbed the stairs into the little space unannounced. Shanky was sitting by the window looking out, drinking from a can of Pepsi. Mompy and Anpag were playing a round of poker, which Mompy had learned a month ago and had taught his friend. Bandem, sitting on one of the stools, was reading a comic book. When Mompy’s father announced himself, all four were startled. Bandem closed the book shut, as if he were reading something he shouldn’t be. Anpag pushed the cards he was holding, and knew was going to lose the round, under his thigh in an attempt to hide them. Mompy saw what he thought as fear on Anpag’s face, put a hand on his shoulder, and said, “Chill. Dad taught me poker.” He then gave Anpag a big smile, a smile that said I have the best dad in the world, don’t I?

“Don’t worry, I won’t tell your father,” Mompy’s dad, who Shanky and Bandem had rightly dubbed The Cool Dad, told Anpag. Which he followed with a wink. “You guys want lemonade? I made a fresh batch,” he added.

Shanky, Bandem and Mompy raised their hands. The Cool Dad asked Anpag if he wanted any. Anpag said he didn’t. The Cool Dad asked if Anpag was sure. Maybe something else perhaps? Anpag said he was good, thank you.

“Three lemonades, coming up,” The Cool Dad said, and trundled down the stairs. He would return ten minutes later with the beverages.

“I would kill to have a dad like you,” Shanky, who hadn’t finished his Pepsi yet, told Mompy. “You’re so lucky.”

Bandem nodded in agreement.

Anpag did too, but only because he didn’t want to disagree.  

The Cool Dad was cool, sure. He had taught his son poker, would in a year even teach Mompy how to drive (even though Mompy was still a couple of years away from being allowed to apply for a driver’s license), would bring beverages to his son and his friends… And if rumours were true, he even knew about Mompy’s smoking and had never objected to it.

But did all that really make you a good, responsible, worthy dad? As per Anpag, absolutely not.

What did define a dad with those traits was… a sense of tireless authority. Of an indomitable spirit.

Like The Tyrant.

Where did we get the idea that our dads had to be our friends anyhow?

Previous episode: The Trouble With Shanky

Next episode: Ripple Effect

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