When I was little, my father made sure that I had everything I wanted, from Naturo candy bars to colourful storybooks. Every night, we would sit for hours and talk about my day at school, his favourite Indian comedy shows or my fights with my brother.
He cuddled me every time I dozed off, reprimanded my mom when she scolded me for being disobedient, dropped me off to school in the mornings on his motor scooter and listened to my silly Hindi poetry while taking sips of scotch. Together, we heard musical verses, took long drives in our family's first car and watched cricket matches in anticipation of India's victory. When I was small, I was a better daughter. I saw dreams that were more in sync with his hopes from life. I loved him a little more than I loved myself.
The more I struggled against traditional boundaries, the more I hurt my father.
I was raised in Bhopal, a small city in the central part of India where my childhood was confined by the ideologies of my parents. But, as I grew older, I began to fight with the constraints that my conservative Indian family's belief system put on me. The more I struggled against traditional boundaries, the more I hurt my father.
I hurt him every time I sneaked out to go on dinner dates with friends or spent hours talking to boys on the phone. I hurt him when I hid under the blankets reading Western novels about romance and when I wrote diaries about my crushes. I hurt him every time I said "no", every time I lied or stood up for what I believed in. And he loved me still. Maybe because that's what parents do.
After high school, our discussions lessened and arguments increased. I wanted to become a pilot. He didn't want me to go to flying school. He believed that girls shouldn't work. I convinced him to let me move to Pune, a city about 500 miles away from home, for a software job. He wanted me to marry someone he chose. I wanted to spend my life with the man I loved. I fought at every step to get closer to being independent. He fought at every step to maintain his dignity.
I announced that I wouldn't marry anyone except my then boyfriend. Papa told me that he wished I was never born.
For my family, I was a ruthless daughter and a bad example for other kids. I was excellent at school but not so at home. I would join horse-riding classes instead of signing up for cooking lessons. I would prefer meeting enlightened writers over pretentious businessmen.
In 2012, when I was 23, I announced that I wouldn't marry anyone except my then boyfriend. Papa told me that he wished I was never born. From then on, he stopped talking to me. I tried to initiate conversations every time I went home but he turned his back every time he saw me. For my father, it was difficult to accept that his daughter was choosing another man over him.
For two years, he avoided taking my calls, stopped wishing me on my birthday and refused to pick me up from the railway station when I went home. I would cringe at the sight of my friends' fathers taking them out for dinners, pining for the same sense of family that once defined my life.
For two years, he avoided taking my calls, stopped wishing me on my birthday...
All this time, I knew he missed me and he knew I missed him. What we didn't know was how to make the other happy without making ourselves miserable.
One day in 2014, when I was home for a break, I went up to him and told him that we needed to talk. He tried to move away but I clutched his hand as I cried, "Please talk to me. I don't want anything else."
I was afraid that he would scream at me like other times. But, there were tears in his eyes. Before I could say anything else, he hugged me. I smelled his cologne and felt his warm skin.
He was scared of losing me to the grandeur of the world, to the cruelty of life.
He said that he cared and he wanted me to be safe and happy. He was scared of losing me to the grandeur of the world, to the cruelty of life. He loved me for who I was even if I was different from who he was.
After two hours, he dropped me off to the railway station and told me to call him as soon as I reached Pune. Like old times.
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