I remember that curly haired man always surrounded by friends. I relish with fondness the special moments shared with him in CubbonPark in the toy train as I gleefully munched away on the popcorn that he religiously bought for me every Sunday – a toy train luxury for me every inch of him. I tried hard to keep him happy just to hear him praise me before friends! How could I forget the tasty MTR idlis! So many more joyful memories rush through my brain all jostling to express themselves even as I lay back and warm myself in happy mundane childhood reminiscences of the past. Today, that thick tuft of hair on my father’s head has turned to a withering grey. The joy for life has lessened but his eyes still glisten when he recalls the earlier days.
The first man in my life, my father was my role model. I admired.
“That’s my daughter,” he would proudly say.
How much pleasure those words gave me then. Even now, in spite of the long passage of years I still feel good when he introduces me to his neighbors or the odd friend or relative with that slickly hidden compliment. It was his high expectation of me that goaded me to ‘do well all that I did.’ The fact that I resembled him physically gave me all the more reason to be proud of being his daughter. The chip of the old block you see! As I grew up into a tomboy in my teens, I rebelled often. There were many times when I had been shown my bedroom door (thankfully not the house door!) for not abiding by a father’s rules for a growing daughter. I wanted to be everywhere and all at the same time. I wanted to do a host of things. I also had to study. The pressures of high school often led to arguments. Only today, having become a mother myself I realize that all that screwing of my ears was not to nip an over enthusiastic bud but help it to bloom properly.
My first cycle, my first bike, my first typewriter, and my first day of school – I remember everything with a lot of affection. He taught me to ride a cycle holding on till he felt I was confident enough to let go. I loved the occasional late night parties held in his friend’s houses as I was guaranteed a trip back home on his lap in the driver’s seat at the wheel. Wow! What a thrill it gave me to even assist maneuvering the old Ambassador car and I loved him for it! His heart swelled in pride whenever he related to friends about my first school interview – about how I confidently answered all the questions that the nun had to ask me while a neighbor’s daughter who had come with a recommendation just kept mum and was hastily dismissed.
“Boys are fine too,” he would often say, “but they have too many rough edges which need chopping off as they begin to grow older whereas girls stay charming always.”
Like in most households, father was head of the family. What he said was usually, the ‘lakshmanrekha’ we dared not cross. But, his stern front also had that soft heart which he did not always show. That softer side of him revealed itself in the most unexpected of situations. This was visible during the times I fell sick or required any thing from dolls to sketch pens, from movies to a stay-over at a friend’s place. While my mother was very protective about me, my father was all about making me brave and confident. How I loved him for trusting me to take those first independent steps.
Just as every relationship has its ups and downs so has my relationship with my father. It is a pity that many daughters and fathers fall prey to such situations. There are moments which only a father and a daughter can enjoy. There are times when a daughter can lighten her father’s conflict or sorrow by just listening. Sometimes, the very process of fathering a daughter and earning daily bread can make a father suddenly look up to find his daughter fit to get married. In the same manner, a daughter who adored her father so much when young finds it difficult to get across to him in later years. I have always felt that it is easier for a young person to adjust for his parents. For an elderly person especially a man to become flexible, it is very difficult. Why wait for a death to repent? Why not show your care and appreciation when he is alive?
It is indeed a very strange relationship- that of a father and a daughter. One moment you are the apple of his eye, the next moment you become the tears that swell within his heart. Today, when Papa, my ‘self made’ father who prided himself in being fit as a fiddle is fiddling with the ailments of ageing years, I am beside him to give him respite. I thank the Almighty for giving me the opportunity and the wisdom to be near him and do even an iota of what he has done all his life for me. Thank you God.
Thank you Papa.