I hugged him tight as tears rolled down my cheeks. The train gave a long hoot and slowly started moving away. “I don’t want to go”, I whispered. “You HAVE to go. Go and build a wonderful career. You HAVE to do this without me. Without US”, he said and turned away to wipe his tears.
“All the best, paapu”, he said and watched me hop on to the train. I stood at the door, waving my hand at him, bidding him a goodbye. His eyes, they spoke everything. I have big eyes, just like him. I have his teeth, elongated and pointed teeth. I have his nails. I have his color. Wheatish. I have his qualities, I sing, I write. He does them too. I’m short-tempered, so is he. I’m courageous and bold (if someone had gone through what I went through, they would have quit college long back. It took a lot of courage to stand up to people and prove myself right.) The courage and that thing to ENDURE people, especially bad ones are from him. He has endured more of such things in life. The way I sit, the way I pick my spoon to eat, the posture I sleep in, the way I twitch my face and look up at the sky when I laugh, it’s all HIM. I’m the Daddy’s girl!!
He was the first man to hold me in his arms. The first man to touch me. “Ap-pa”, I must have fumbled when I was a baby and I can imagine how overjoyed he must have been that day.
“Appa, do a jeeeeeeeeeee-jhik”, I would ask. A Jeeeeeeeeeeee-Jhik meant, he would throw me high up in the air and catch me. He would repeat this until I’d ask him to stop it!!
Up in the air and he would never let me fall. He would hold me before I could fall. Maybe, as a kid, I trusted my dad so much that I knew he would never let me fall.
“Appa, I have a doubt in these allied angles. Can you explain them to me now?”, I asked him when I was in fifth grade. It was 3 AM. “Now? Its 3 AM”, he said rubbing his eyes and looking at the clock. Nevertheless, he immediately recalled I had an exam coming up in the morning and sat up all night with me to teach me allied angles. My Math Whiz Dad!! :P
“Look at this”, he said, waking me up one fine morning. “Look AT THIS”, my paapu’s photo is in this newspaper. “WHAT!”, I said throwing myself up from the bed. I could see my dad’s face beaming. I was one among the toppers in my tenth boards and my photo was in the newspaper. He was flaunting it to my mom – “my daughter”, he said. He used to stay up with me all night while I studied for my boards, because I just couldn’t study alone. He would do little things like making coffee for me, playing the radio so that I don’t fall asleep, keeping me company whenever I felt bored of answering ‘model question papers’. All of this, in spite of working all day long in office. I don’t know how he managed to do that.
“Appa, are you sure I can do this? I’m kind of scared”, I had told him. “Of course you can. I’m right behind you”, he said and wrapped his arms around mine and turned on the accelerator. It was my first scooty lesson. Dad had insisted I take a scooty to college. At some point, I remember, I had put on the brakes with the accelerator turned on. I fell and he fell with me. We both were bruised. Badly. Yet, he never stopped giving me driving lessons.
On the first day to College, he had followed me up in his car, while I drove the scooty, just to make sure that I would wade through Bangalore’s traffic carefully.
“Which course do I choose dad?”, I had asked him. My Medical ranking was WAY better than my Engineering ranking. “I think I would get a better medical college than an Engineering college”, I had said.
“It’s Engineering”, he had said. “You cannot survive in medical, paapu. It’s not for emotional ones like you. You will break down if your patient dies. I’m not discouraging you. But it’s a hard field for you. Think about it”, he had said. Had I taken Medicine as my profession today, I would have flunked. I’m glad dad put some sense into my brains then. I joined an Engineering college.
“Appa, I have a confession to make”, I said one day. He looked up from his papers and removed his spectacles. I slept on his lap and cried. I had got my fifth semester results that day. And I had passed in all the subjects with a meager FIRST CLASS. A girl who scored distinction, stooped down to a FIRST CLASS. “I’m sorry Appa. I don’t know what went wrong. I’ll work harder next semester”, I promised. “You need to know what went wrong, paapu. Tell me what is happening. Is everything fine at college?”, he asked.
I looked at him. He had turned into a friend long back, maybe ‘I’ hadn’t noticed him. “Nothing is fine, Appa. I don’t have any friend in college. It’s just me. I don’t want to go to college anymore Appa. Can I just quit and take some other course? Please Appa”, I had started crying uncontrollably.
“You will NOT quit just because you do not have any friends. You will NOT quit your career just because somebody did something to you. You will NOT quit just because you are alone in college. You will NOT quit just because people are stamping all over you. I want my girl to be strong. Stay where you are and show people that you are strong and can survive without them”, he said. If I had quit that day, if he had LET me quit that day, I don’t know what I would have done today. My dad had analyzed the weak point, and he helped me convert it into a strong point. And the next semester, I was back on the topper's list.
“If you feel alone in college. Call me up, call up mom. Talk to us, we are always there”, he had said the next morning before he left for work.
That’s probably how me and Appa became ‘friends’!!
Finally, when things in college settled down and I found my true friends, Appa would sit with my friends and talk to us. He would talk to us about college, lecturers, laboratories, internals, externals and would still not get bored of our college talks. Probably, that is why my college friends still make it a point to visit my mom and dad when I’m away from home myself.
“You are also not here, somebody should visit your parents when you are not around, right? So, its US”, my wonderful friends had said. I feel they are the angels in my life. I’m glad; at least, somebody visits my parents often to see they are doing well when I’m away. How many of you have such friends? Lucky me, isn’t it?
“Appa, guess what, I got placed!!”, I had yelled over phone. “That’s awesome news. Congratulations paapu. I can’t believe my little girl will be going to office”, he said.
And THAT office, packed me off in a train and brought me to Delhi. Away from my dearest Da-da!!
“Appa, I want to do my Masters. Please don’t get me married soon”, I said jokingly. He laughed at it, I’m not letting you get married until I understand that my little girl can handle a family. And you can do your Masters if you wish to. Go ahead and study everything that you can”, he said.
I gave my entrance here, in Delhi. I missed him so much on the day of my exam. Every exam, my dad would drop me to the examination center, he would wait there till I wrote my exam and would bring me back home. But this time, I was alone. I had to take an auto. I had no one to come back to when I finished writing. It was such an empty, hollow feeling.
Every time I roam around places in Delhi, my mind would go back to my dad. “Would dad like this place? Would dad eat here? Would dad buy this shirt? Would dad like my office? Would dad…”, so you get the drift.. It’s always my DAD for me.
Thank you Dad! For being there with me, for me and for being the First Man in My Life!!