My Dad didn’t read me princess stories. He didn’t ooh and aah over my every word and accomplishment. Despite being an award winning photographer he didn’t take 1,001 pictures of his first and only daughter. He was never present at any of my school events or even award ceremonies. We didn’t go on many vacations either. He never took me shopping! Or even a movie. I don’t remember if he ever took me to school either. Heck… he wasn’t even in the hospital when my mom gave birth to me, or so I’ve been told :)
He was never around… At least not in the traditional way. I remember those nights when my brother and I would sit up waiting for him to come to us and perhaps read or even talk. He would come… but he would be too exhausted to keep his eyes open and my brother and I would take guesses on how long it would take him to doze off. It sort of has become a family joke now :)
While other dads were taking their daughters to plays and movies, my dad was on his scooter driving more than 100 miles in the sweltering heat to his factory… working.
Other dads would spend a nice Sunday afternoon with their children in the playground or take them for a picnic. Papa would not be there, because a phone call the previous night at 3:00 AM changed his Sunday. The furnace broke down and he needs to take the engineer to the factory to fix it, otherwise the production would get delayed.
“Why can’t Papa ever be home?” I would ask Ma. “Why doesn’t he take us on vacations?” Mom would make excuses for him. Or try to distract us with her yummy cooking. I didn’t understand then why sometimes her eyes would get moist. She missed him too of course. But never said anything.
Yes, My Father is a businessman. To most people having a business directly equates to having boat loads of money and a comfy life. Far from it! Because you see… having a business means you have to work for everything. You need to start from the bottom, even scrub toilets if need be. It means you are responsible for providing for not only your own family but the family of those who are employed by you. So we didn’t take many vacations. Because Dad had to be at his factory. In the 24 years I lived with him, I think I remember that he only took time off when he was sick. And sometimes even then he would not.
No he didn’t make a bed of roses for me. But he did teach me how to smile and survive when it gets rough.
For my 12th birthday, he gave me a gift of 100 Rupees in an envelope which had the picture of Rose on it. Dad wrote “I smile among the thorns. Can YOU?“
He taught me how to drive a car! But how many Dads teach their daughters how to change a flat or check the oil? Mine DID! As he was teaching me he realized that I was afraid of driving with trucks. So that’s where he taught me! “Anyone can drive fast. Show me how you can drive slow in 1st gear” He would say. When he visits me in August in the States, I’ll return the favor by teaching HIM how to drive my car :)
He taught me how to appreciate and learn from our experiences. When we did go out, he made me write an essay about the place we visited! Now I blog about my travels..
Dad and I don’t agree on a lot of things. I always reasoned with him… He would say “I don’t have it in me to reason with my parents.” For him, his parents are everything. Guess what? I have a payback child, whose favorite question is “Why do I have to do this?” And “Because I said so” isn’t cutting it anymore :)
We did go on walks every once in a while, and I would say “Papa, you need to change with the times. Things are different now“. To which he would say “Dear, the world can change, but there are some things which will always remain right and others which will always be wrong.” And then he would go on to elaborate… He is a very principled man and I love that about him. And yet, he always wants to learn. He was the first in our family to embrace technology. He never bought me a dress but he did buy me a computer so I could learn! I wrote my first computer program to help him track his inventory. I hope you’re not still using it Dad! The other day he told me “Whatsapp is great! Now I take photos of the samples in the factory and send it to my vendors“. Its never too late to learn he always says.
But the best advice he ever gave me was on the eve of my wedding. “Dear Deepu” he said. “Remember beta, respect is not something you demand. It is something which needs to be earned. And the ONLY way to do that is to GIVE respect. You are not just marrying a man. You are getting another family, and you have to embrace them as your own and love and cherish them for the rest of your life.” I hope I’ve made you proud Papa!
I don’t like to talk about this but when I was 23, despite everyone else’s advice, he took a bold step and got me out of a terrible engagement which would have crushed me and my spirit completely. He faced the world for me and helped me bounce back. He. Saved. Me.
Today I am married to the most wonderful man who is my best friend.
I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t admit that there are times when I wish I had more memories of “normal girl” childhood but then again, my dad is not just a normal guy. He is an extraordinary man who wants his children to be the same. Would I trade my childhood for anyone else? Never in a Million Years!
My Dad didn’t raise me to be a Princess. He raised me to be a Real Woman, who can face the world with a smile on her face. Someone who knows how to pick herself up and dust herself off. And for that Papa, I LOVE YOU. And I wouldn’t change a thing about you, not now, not ever. You’re one in a million!
And today, when I see you with Dia and Aditya, I feel blessed that you are not only my Dad but also their GRAND DAD, touching their lives just like you continue to touch mine. Love you Pops!