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Anger management

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“They’re ruined!,” Dad muttered as he rushed to turn off the gas stove in the kitchen. The pressure cooker on top of it was steaming noiselessly. I quickly placed the cooker under a tap of water to cool it down, and opened the lid. The sweet potatoes were floating inside boiling water, gaped open like a dog-bitten rug. Strands of the fruit were separated from the peel; clearly the potatoes had been overcooked. Dad’s evening plan of making custard had been wilfully destroyed through my carelessness. In my defence, I had no clue how long did these things need to soften. The result was an angry father, irritated at his daughter’s stupidity and figuring out how to save the dish.

Cancer. It changes you. Mentally, more than perhaps physically. It altercates your behaviour. A person who would barely ever show emotion, turns into the most sensitive of all. A person, who had a high temperament, changes to a quieter soul. And a person, who has had a nonchalant and easy personality, rather turns finicky and irritable. My Dad’s the latter.

Through time, cancer has made him a short tempered person. He gets easily irritated, sometimes complains about things not being in order, and sometimes, just resents the life. The mood swings shift quickly. He feels tired and then lies in bed, with a sullen face. Often, a short nap does the trick of diverting his thoughts and taking him to other matters.

As much as Dad is an optimist, the disease has turned him into someone opposite his nature. The fatigue and helplessness that would often find a way through his jokes, has now found anguish as an outlet. The will that was there to fight has lost its way.

The positivity does not shine through.

Despite those tendencies, there are some characteristics that still remain the same. Dad like always, just as easily, walks up to a fruit seller and enquire his health and well-being. Asks him how the business is going, and end up buying extra bunch of grapes, even though we have enough fruits at home. Despite the body ache, he will wear his jacket, wrap up his scarf and run errands for Mum. Sit down and catalogue all his medical reports, to make sure everything’s in order.

And that attitude of his encourages us to believe that the anger will subside. That his true innate self will always remain the same. That even in his darkest moments, he will sum up the courage to fight through. Cancer cannot rob him of his true self.

So when he scolds me for messing up, I always search for the person who would always be the first to bring a closure to an argument with Mum. After a heated exchange of words, Dad would casually walk up to her, singing an old Hindi song, playing with his eyebrows and shrugging his shoulders, and say, “Begum, ab gussa chod do.” (Darling, let the anger pass).

He’s still that man. Deep down. Somewhere.

Hi, I’m Mariyam, thank you for reading my post. This is part of my series on finding positivity and decoding the ‘be positive’ attitude as my father fights through aggressive oral cancer.

If you liked it, you can read other posts on

You can also follow me on twitter @MariyamRaza for more. Much love 🙂

Mariyam Raza Haider

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A journalist by training, Mariyam Haider is a writer and performance poet in Singapore.
She is the researcher of the book The Billionaire Raj: A Journey Through India’s New Gilded Age written by James Crabtree.
Her writing has appeared in Hindustan Times, Livemint, Feminism In India, New Asian Writing and Kitaab.

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