A Lesson Well and Truly Learnt- A Slice of Life

by Chandrika R Krishnan

It was in late eighties. My father was looking out for a suitable alliance for the twenty-three-old me who was also a closet feminist. To paraphrase the old advertisement, I was dreamy enough to want it my way, but not daring enough to find a partner for myself. I was caught between the romantic life that I learnt through books and the real life when the world was in the cusp of changing from the deeply-entrenched patriarchal set-up.

I made my father’s life miserable by saying that a Taurean and a Gemini can never get along well as per Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs. The then world of horoscope depended on matching alliance based on our natal charts and the stars that we are born into which many times did not align with Linda’s world.

Every alliance that my father discussed with me was met with, “they seem to be old-fashioned,” or “he appears to be a mama’s boy.”

It was then my tired and spent father, rifled through a whole lot of Reader’s Digest and finally let out a shout of triumph and gave me a book to read marking a particular page.

The rather short tale titled Borrowing Jacks written by J.P. McEvoy, goes like this:

A man was speeding down a country road at night and bang goes his tire. He realizes that he had no jack. He says to himself, “I will walk to the nearest farmhouse and borrow his Jack.”

 He sees a light at a distance and says to himself, Well, I’m in luck; the farmer’s up. I’ll just knock on the door and say I’m in trouble, would you please lend me a jack?”

  And he’ll say, “why sure, neighbour, help yourself – but bring it back.”

 He walked a little further and he realizes that the house is farther than he thought. He tells himself, “Now the farmer will be upset that I disturbed him and maybe he would want some money for his trouble.”

 He walked on a little farther and the light went out, so he says to himself, “Now he’s gone to bed and he’ll be annoyed because I’m bothering him. And I’ll say, all right, it isn’t very neighbourly – but I’ll give you a quarter. And he’ll say, do you think you can get me out of bed in the middle of the night and then offer me a quarter? Give me a dollar or get yourself a jack somewhere else.”

 As he goes on towards the farmhouse, he works himself into quite a lather. He turned into the gate and muttered. “A dollar! All right, I’ll give you a dollar. But not a cent more! A poor devil has an accident and all he needs is a jack. You probably won’t let me have one no matter what I give you. That’s the kind of guy you are.”

 Which brought him to the door and he knocked – angrily, loudly. The farmer stuck his head out the window above the door and hollered down, “Who’s there? What do you want?”

  The fellow stopped pounding on the door and yelled up, “You and your damn jack! You know what you can do with it!”

I laughed uproariously at this and my father asked me, “Doesn’t it remind you of yourself? You know nothing about the family, nothing about their life but you have already decided that your life is going to be miserable. And you and your husband will spend the rest of your life arguing.”

Years have gone by. I have shared this story with all my students during my teaching days and with my children too. My father is no more. But when Reader’s Digest announced its closure of its UK office recently, my parental home with its treasure house of books and my father who made me see how I was jumping to conclusions with as little information at hand still resonates with me. Can’t say I have overcome this particular habit..but each time I do, this story gives me a pause and I chuckle remembering my father.


This blog post is part of the blog challenge ‘Blogaberry Dazzle’
hosted by Cindy D’Silva and Noor Anand Chawla
in collaboration with Dr. Preeti Chauhan.


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Samata June 29, 2024 - 9:05 pm

Well dear what your father said to you is not wrong and neither are you. We cant trust anyone these days and so matrimonial relationship and too the arranged one are more riskier to me. I was never in favour of arranged marriage and not even checking horoscope to choose the ideal boy for me. Risk exists in both arranged and love marraige- So nothing is risk free why not go by own choice. This is strictly my opinion and I dont expect everyone will hold the same thought as mine.

ambica gulati June 30, 2024 - 10:10 am

I must say Linda Goodman was such a huge influence during the 70s-80s. She did make for happy reading. And I also feel sad that good magazines like Reader’s Digest are lost in time now. I credit my entire childhood learning to these good mags. Your father was a wise man and gave you good advice.

Harjeet Kaur June 30, 2024 - 11:15 am

Salute to your dad for sharing this amazing story with you. I was just like you, with my head in the clouds and imagining a prince on a white steed scooping me up and riding away into the horizon.But I was married off at 19 by my parents and had a tough time adjusting myself to my husband and my new life. I miss those times, though. The good reads we had are all gone now.

Kaveri Chhetri July 1, 2024 - 4:28 pm

I like how your dad showed you a mirror through a story… very smart of him. I guess we all had our romantic fantasies and God knows if anyone’s was fulfilled😬. Btw, I wasn’t much into horoscopes in my youth… and I still don’t know which month is what except a few. But I definitely relate to and resonate with it now… in my 40s… hahaha!

Ratna July 2, 2024 - 10:07 am

Hahaha! Our parents were so much saner than us, and despite not having access to limiltess non-fiction self-help books found stimulating ways to teach us important life lessons. Kudos to your dad for being a great teacher (which seems to have passed on to you too) and even bigger kudos for being a great student!

Meetali Kutty July 3, 2024 - 11:40 am

I really enjoyed reading this! It’s incredible how the simplest moments in life can teach us the most profound lessons. Your story beautifully highlights the importance of patience, humility, and resilience. It’s a reminder that even in our busy lives, there’s always room to grow and learn. Thanks for sharing such a heartfelt and inspiring piece!

Manali July 3, 2024 - 6:07 pm

Reader’s Digest was such a gem 😍It saddened when they shut shop. It truly was a marvel and something way ahead of its time. I remember how excited my brother and I used to be and then we’d point out sections saying ‘Did you read this one?” My favorite was All in a Day’s Work. Such a fun segment that was. The story you shared made me laugh, which of course given that it was from RD, it had to! Thank you for this anecdote which gave me a way of nostalgia 😊 and also, such a wise man your father was. May his soul Rest in Peace 🙏

Varsh July 3, 2024 - 6:39 pm

Trust fathers to get a point across in the most unique and effective ways. He was right though, wasn’t he? Reader’s Digest had the best stories and some real funny jokes too. I used to pour over them endlessly during my school days. Really miss them now.

Docdivatraveller July 4, 2024 - 4:43 pm

Whoa didn’t have any idea about the closure of Readers Digest office. I resonate with your thoughts. Something to really ponder upon.

Jeannine July 4, 2024 - 8:27 pm

First of all, READER’S DIGEST!!! My father used to subscribe them in Japan when I was young and that would be our toilet companion everytime we go! hahaha…This amazing story from the Reader’s Digest is something I’ll also remember from you. It teaches such a big lesson in life. Such a lovely one. And lastly, I could only admire your bond with your father. Sweet memories indeed!

Aditi Kapur July 5, 2024 - 12:01 pm

Haha… I can understand the Linda Goodman craze and choosing a life partner based on those fixed norms. I still ‘judge’ people based on their sun signs but now I know that there are many more aspects that make a person what he is.
Your father saved you, buddy!

Madhu Bindra July 5, 2024 - 12:51 pm

Such a lovely story. That is how fathers are. I am really going to miss Reader’s Digest. I preferred the original version. The new version and the quality was not as good.

Janaki July 5, 2024 - 3:30 pm

An interesting story and now I’ll share it whenever needed. So true, right? We jump to conclusions without even knowing anything. I’m sure this tale will resonate with many.

Pamela Mukherjee July 5, 2024 - 3:46 pm

Loved reading the post. Fathers are always their daughter’s huge supporters and great teachers who teach us our life lessons in different ways. Loved the way your father taught you a beautiful life lesson.

Neeta Kadam July 5, 2024 - 6:27 pm

I am having arranged marriage and we never checked horoscope. Even we didn’t believe in any muhurt. What your father said is not wrong and you were also not wrong. Both love and arranged marriage is mixture of risk, understanding and the way you accept it.

Ritu Bindra July 5, 2024 - 8:04 pm

Our fathers are so much alike. Loved the way your father shared the lesson all thanks to Reader’s Digest. Heartbreaking to see it shut down. It was such an integral part of our lives.

Caroline July 5, 2024 - 11:45 pm

Father always teach us the best stories of our lives. Glad your dad taught you this. Your story is incredible.

Felicia July 6, 2024 - 8:08 pm

I can completely relate to the struggle of balancing romantic ideals from books with the realities of life.

Isheeria July 15, 2024 - 4:29 am

What a lovely story and an important lesson. It must have been so lovely to have a father who taught you through stories, and now you have this incredible memory with him :)


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