My Father – From School Clerk to Company Secretary


On the occasion of Father’s Day, EE brings you a piece by guest writer, Mario Poppen, a moving, humorous and heart felt tribute to his dad.

Mario with his Dad at the Taj Mahal
Mario Poppen with his father, Herman Patrick Poppen at the Taj Mahal, Agra

My Father- From School Clerk to Company Secretary -By Mario Poppen

At 56 I cannot claim that my father is a hero or the best father in the world.  For almost everyone,his or her parent is the best. What I can claim is that he has been exceedingly important and integral to my life,and that of my family.

Herman Patrick Poppen,for that is his name, is a very sprightly 85- year old.  His physician advised me that he is in better shape than I am,and mentally he is actually at his sharpest now. Every evening we play a silent game. Will he inherit my provident fund or will I inherit a part of his? You could guess who is winning, as he is already making plans to travel overseas, yet again, as soon as the lockdown ends!

In his younger days with his wife
A young Herman with his wife

My father is, even though this is a cliché to end all clichés, a self-made man.  He came to Bombay in the early 1950s, standing in a train, all the way from Madras, with all of Rs 100 on him. He was a matriculate clerk in a  school  and other companies and came to Bombay where he got a job, educated himself, all the while bringing up a family-including washing the  clothes of his wife and four children,  by hand  (these were  days before washing machines) before heading off to morning college. He retired as a Company Secretary and Director, having worked with Warner Hindustan,Warner Lambert and Parke Davis.  After he retired, he was retained by other companies.

Since he never completed his law degree, at the age of 80, he signed up at a law college.  He couldn’t cope, understandably,and had to drop out.

Herman enjoys, well not anymore,going to the market, sourcing his produce and cooking up gourmet meals.  I would regale friends with his ability to snatch a pigeon from the window, and turn it into soup for my late mother, who was asthmatic.  From Roast Tongue to SucklingPig, Fish Roe to Lobster Thermidor, he would whip up the best meal possible.

Enjoy a meal with the family
Enjoying a meal with the family

In his spare time, he painted. He was self-taught and his paintings adorn our house. He does not paint anymore and amuses himself watching TV.  He is quite an authority on Hollywood and Martial Arts films and enjoys watching UFC, boxing and tennis,unlike me! What he doesn’t enjoy is seeing his shares tumble and the economy in shambles.  Having lived through wars and pandemics, he is more optimistic than I am,about the state of the world.

My father is a disciplinarian, and I am totally scattered.  We complement each other and have established a modus vivendi, with, to mix metaphors, all the cards stacked in his favor.

With his grandchildren
Herman with his grandchildren

He is loved by his children, respected by his sons-in-law, and adored by his four grandchildren.  I cannot call friends to our house, as he takes over and dominates all our conversation. At 56, I am still fussed over by my father. I am the oldest little boy in the world.  He still makes morning tea for me,before I’m up, so that I can shower my unwanted and unsolicited radiance- or so I like to think-on the world.

At Niagara Falls
At Niagara Falls

The writer, Mario Poppen, is a marketing professional with a leading hotel company. He is the epitome of work life balance and has never let his work come in the way of living his life to the fullest. He enjoys and studies Western Classical Music, Classical European and Romance Languages and History,The Influence of Science, etc. and tries to fuse art with his life.