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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Dad… Oh how I’ve missed you!

A very usual sight of my dad is of him being annoyed with something or me. Now thankfully Elsa steals the focus of of me. Always in faded ol’ pajama clad like a true bong with the occasional matching kurta – reserved for when the doorbell rings and he must appear ‘decent’. And the evening attire where a casual shirt and trouser from his working years replace the home grunge look he goes in for his walk.

I don’t think I can see him in any other form. Like my face which hasn’t changed since its definition at a year old, my dad whom I fondly call papa, hasn’t changed since I 1st laid eyes on him. His mannerisms, beliefs, attitude, humor, education and most importantly his innocence have remained untouched and unadulterated. That is not to say that he hasn’t been educated through life. He has seen good days, bad days, dark days and some really dark phases where he reached out but couldn’t find a grip or a hand to hold on to. I was merely a kid else I would’ve lent my tiny fingers if nothing else. Through it all my dad has the bragging rights to say that he is indeed a self-made man. The very example of 1.

Born in Dhaka, Bangladesh and raised in post-partition Kolkata, he is the youngest of 9 brothers. That’s right. I would imagine him to be spoilt but he is 1 of the most successful and humble of his siblings. The only 1 who ventured to Nadiad, Gujarat and began his young career in Textile Technology after having not reserved his dream seat in a medical college. He didn’t let that deter him and with the knowledge and endurance of his education and upbringing at the prestigious Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama, Narendrapur, he finally made it to the city of dreams. Here began his bachelorhood, his love affair with mom at Bombay Dyeing Mills, his chance to travel to Lagos, Nigeria, the demise of his marriage, his return to India, the dissolution of textile in the country, his gruelling stints at Nagpur and other Navi Mumbai towns in harsh mill and factory conditions and finally a VRS which he grudgingly but gracefully accepted and settled in.

Through it all he never stopped being my father. He juggled custody of me, made weekend trips to Pune to my boarding school, gave me money, food, clothes and anything I needed or wanted as a growing young lady and still found time to teach me lessons and keep me grounded. My family at some point always had more than sufficient which they used to educate me at prestigious institutes (read also expensive). My father ensured I was never lacking anything, never spoilt for choice and never made a fool of myself by throwing a tantrum to have anything. I was an aggressive young 10yr old; deeply disturbed in a negative manner by her parents divorce. My mother remarried but my father remained single. Theirs was a story only theirs to be told and he always felt like he had failed somewhere. Life in war-torn and conflict-ridden Nigeria has torn many people and relations apart – something I grew to learn off and understand in my late teens. In the meantime, I grew to know him, get attached to him and also as a youngun enjoy the freedom bestowed on me by his helplessness of being a working man.

Today as a grown young lady, I am his window to the world. He isn’t anti-social but he hasn’t made any conscious effort to mingle with the outside world either. Keeping primarily to himself and his business is his way of getting through the day. With ever changing processes and technology, I step in to help-out and get him through these challenges. Having never learnt basic computer or phone, a basic Nokia handset in his shirt pocket, the MTNL landline, pieces of paper, the Indian postal service and all old-school methods are his sure-shot fail-safe channels to finding his way through. High end restaurants i.e. anything above an Udipi really makes him nervous, large crowds at supermarkets, complex questions and his disdain for expensive public transport often have him flustered and left alone.

But through it all he observes which fruit I consume the most and during which part of the year.
Which seafood and what curry I like. New goodnight liquid dispenser for my room to keep them bloodsuckers away. Honey vs sugar. New mugs to waste money on cuz they had cat graphics. Soups when I was ill. Hand towel cuz I lost mine in class. Gluing my broken shoes and chappals with araldite… hell gluing anything in the house with araldite. Stitching up a broken zip on a bag I may have set aside. Fixing my broken 13yr old Sony TV for the gazillionth time. Making my tiffin and lunch box since I could crawl to school. Checking to see if I finished all the food TILL DATE. These are something I probably will never have in another human being or maybe with not the same love and dedication as my papa. I have been an ungrateful, difficult, ignorant, angry, inconsiderate and mean daughter through my years with him. Sometimes all at once and sometimes in parts. I have also grown to let him have the last word and let him believe he was right all along. Cuz these small things don’t matter against the magnitude of love he has showered over me.

My father has been through 3 major surgical procedures on me. Each time he sat through them outside the OT and was available to scare me awake from anaesthesia. Each time he sat silently in a corner lamenting at my pain. We never said ‘I love yous’ but we ALWAYS felt and communicated it. Even though he has vehemently expressed over the years that I have been a failure as his dream daughter with no Indira Nooyi prestige or a Surgeon designation; I know that he has been proud of me for growing up into whatever little I have become. I feel stronger and capable that I could renovate his home, donate lakhs when he needed it and held his hand through difficult times. He never expressed he only needed a son for it despite having my lil brother. There was just 1 time where my heart was broken into unfixable pieces and I cried in his lap and said I loved him more than any boy I would ever love. He just pressed my head and put me to sleep. He still does that when I am sick and I crawl into our tiny sofa and sleep in his lap, effectively messing up his Bengali soap experience. His disdain for men in my life is probably out of the fear that he may lose me to someone better, brighter and more capable. I am in love but not blinded enough to miss my father from my line of sight.

He still surprises me many days with his depthless knowledge, his patience (seriously) and his ability to capture hearts. Recently he bonded well with Abeer and a few friends. I didn’t expect so but he made the effort. Guess even Elsa has some credit for making him a relaxed, amused and funny man. I look fwd to days when I stay alone but I terribly miss him within the hour. No sound, no ridiculous singing, no revival of Tom n Jerry anecdotes (now more so , no food…. No love. Abeer periodically shares his own father’s deep influence on him as a child and young man. Truth be told, that’s where I have taken the “what if” cue and dedicated more time and love to my papa.

I could go on. But all I really wanna say is that I love you dad. I just haven’t said it enough or expressed it enough either <3