Now if you come to hypocrisy, We are the most skilful hypocrites in the world. All of us are experts at practising virtue at a distance. On first encounter every boy’s father invariably remarks – ‘we don’t need anything. Whatever you give is your choice. It will be after all a gift to your daughter. The demand is never openly made. Someone from groom’s family will innocuously ask about items being given to the bride so that they will not purchase the same for the bride’s room in their house. “What will be the point in duplicating the purchase of a Television, fridge, washing machine, play station, double bed, dressing table, safe, decorative items, modular kitchen, car, etc.? It would be better if the monetary value of these items is calculated and cash is given to groom to purchase items of his liking.” It’s like a naming a ceremony, replace the word “Dowry” with ” father’s gift to his daughter”.
“Rakhungi naino huzoo, Laado ko main dur na dungi
Bangla bhi dungi, aji Motor bhi dungi
Sona to dungi zaroor, Laado lo maain sur na dungi”
My granny used to sing this song when she was overwhelmed with love for me; I would be sitting in her lap, thinking WOW! Someday I will get married, and granny would give me so many things, but not get me married far off. This is the psychology of most Indian parents. They are ready to shower the groom and his family in all the riches but want to see their daughter’s happiness at any cost. But sadly, more often than not, the exact opposite happens. Instead of buying her the love of her husband and in-laws, they buy her misery, torture, pain, exploitation, not just physically but emotionally and mentally.
Usually, when we hear any case of dowry killing, burning of newlywed brides…
I am writing this letter to you and writing just because I need to pen down my feelings; I need to let my thoughts on paper, or they claw me from inside. You are sacred to me Papa. I can never have a better god. A religion where You and I, we both are dedicated to each other. You have now left that body, the body I learned to love all my life. The hands that caresses my hair, wiped my tears, held me in my times of need, embraced me to shower immense love, fed me when my hand was broken, even tied my shoe laces before school every morning, wish I could hold them once again and hide my face in your palms like old times. There was never a better touch than your loving caress. I learned to cherish your eyes, that saw me as the perfect daughter; I was beautiful even with acne and pimples to your eyes.
The eyes I miss so much, so many tears I saw in them, that would well up at my slighted wound, be it to my body or heart. I wish to look into your eyes once again and kiss them; they are my two worlds. I miss your shoulders you know, on which I could rest my head and feel like all the pain washed away, in them I would hide from all the world and you would let none see me, harm me. I am still hallowed by your voice; that is still echoing in my voice, solemnly living in my soul. I miss the laughter in your voice and the way you scolded me in front of mum, just for the heck of it, My Goodness, so fake it used to be and made us conspirators against her. I so want to hear that voice once again papa; I so want to have that one more talk. I so want to hug you and hug you so bad.
You called me pious, after you, no one thought I am pious, you called me Angel, I have never felt like one after you. You made me your religion and your sanctuary, I have lost my god with you, never again my heart found peace. I touch your glasses and try to find your eyes behind them, but it’s just plastic, I kiss your watch wanting to feel your wrist in it, but no, it’s just metal. Your perfume bottle is till secure with me, and you know, I spray it sometimes, just in my room and close my eyes, trying to imagine that you are here, and for a moment, just for the time being, I fabricate you from pieces and feel your presence.
Why am I drafting this letter, I don’t know, but what I do know is it will reach you, I want to say so many things Papa, I am so desperate for you sometimes, just that one phone call. You remember how many times you told me that Papa is just a phone call away, Oh why then I can’t reach you on your number. I still have it, I call it sometimes, and despite all my wisdom your little girl who lives in me says “Pick Up”, haha, wasn’t I always a little foolish Papa ? I still remember the day of that Earthquake, you remember I was scared, and you told me, that you would shield me but let no harm come to me, I so miss my shield. You know I eat the things you loved, even lot of green chillies, thinking that you live in me somewhere and I might feel satiated by doing all this. Why Papa, why is body temporary when we are taught to love it for years upon years.
You know numerous times I have seen Mum miss you, but she never shows, she hides her pain from me, Yet I am her daughter and can see through her fake smiles, the unshed tears. Let me confess; I have not been the best daughter to her. I have not even taken care of her like you used to do, in fact, she is the one who took care of me all this time. I was always partial to you, always loved you more, I haven’t done justice to the woman who gave me this life and nurtured me within her body for nine while months, and has been nurturing me ever since. She is a pillar of strength Papa, you won’t know how bravely she held things together, I am very ungrateful to her you know, but you always knew. We still fight a lot you know, the only difference is that now we patch up on our own since we are aware you won’t come to mediate. I am sorry as I didn’t even keep the promise I gave to you on your last evening with me. It is a tough task you left me; I am so sorry.
I know you have broken the laws of nature to get back to me in ways no one will comprehend. In my dreams, in my friends, in things I do or say. You know I look for shades of you in all I meet, but you were Great, none is like you, none at all. I was a princess to you always, but you are my king too, now I tell you what I lack, what I need, and before I know it, you help me in mysterious ways. You have proven your presence to me in so many ways, and I know you will always be with me. I know you know all my heart’s desire, but I have learned things you know. Learned to make my way, learned to survive without dependence, learned to fall and get up myself. I have held onto your memories with both hands and trying to move ahead. Life has moved on like all told me it will, I don’t cry that much now, like all said I will, but you know, one thing they told wrong, that Time heals all wounds, IT DOES NOT! It is just that we learnt to adapt and evolved as per the situation. Now I firmly believe that what doesn’t kills you makes you stronger. I can’t say enough how much I miss you. But I know you know that I MISS YOU!
Sometimes I wish you were not that good; I might not have missed you so much, but you were so good, a great Father. Never you laid a hand on me, never you scolded me, and whenever you did, I would encash on the coaxing and cajoling that followed a few minutes later. Always you would say a Goodbye and then come back for another Goodbye, just to make sure nothing was left unsaid, but not this last time. You know you went without a Goodbye, and I am still waiting for it. I still hear your car come to a halt at the gate; I still hear your footfalls around the house. I still look into your briefcase to find scraps of your handwriting. I still got your pen and your ties and your shoes. I touch your shoes when I need your blessings, they still got the shape of your feet. Life is long, and there is still lots of time left in our reunion, but know that I carry you in my heart. Make this journey with me Papa; I so need you.Till then I will wait for the day I get to see you again. Promise me you will take me in your arms like you used to do when you were back from tours.
I Love You, Today, Tomorrow and Always, Forever and Ever
I was a Copycat ! Yes, that’s true. My mom would sit in front of the dressing table and I would run to my little toy cabinet and get my mirror and sit nest to her and watch her closely. Observing her each move I will apply fake lipstick and put fake nail polish. She would put rollers and I would put toy rollers and then she will brush her hair I would follow suit. She will puff her perfume and I will do the same with a little perfume Papa got me. And when she would preen herself in the mirror I will do the same like a lil copycat. She looked at me all the while but never stopped me from copying her, and then she will kiss me when she was ready telling me I looked better than her, and I would blush. She will look at me fondly and apply a bit of her lipstick on my lips and smile as I would purse my lips together like her. That was such beautiful moment. Papa would call me a copycat and I would shy away hiding face in his shoulder.
Years passed and that memory was buried deep under the huge pile of memorable moments. But I was reminded of it in the most awesome way today when I saw my little niece doing the same thing to me. She was grooming herself with me, by my side, copying my actions spot on. It made me feel so loved and idolized. It was a heady moment to see the little angel looking up to me as her role model as she mimicked me. I was having a Deja Vu and was nostalgic as I relived those moments when I copied my mom like that. I kissed her so much not just for her cute little endeavors but also for the little girl from my childhood, I loved myself in that moment. The little me idolized her mom, the little I thought mom was the most beautiful in the whole world, the little me was trying to follow her footsteps.
You know what, my mom is older now, but she is still beautiful, I still idolize her and try to imitate her words, her wisdom, her talents, her charm, her cooking, her systematic nature but I realized she is unique and she is one of her kind. Yet, that won’t stop me from being her copy cat even today. The only difference was the little I showed her adoration so openly, so obviously, so completely while the older me, she doesn’t want to let her mom know how much she adores her, how much she is fascinated by her and how much she wants to be her shadow. I, this I makes us something we are not, we are lost in this I and forget to be ME, I make me so selfish that it won’t admit that it is totally smitten by her own mother. Kids are so much better at expressing themselves, they are so much bolder, so unadulterated. My little niece introduced me to that little me today, and it was a heady moment. I so wished in that moment to turn into a little girl and let my mother know how much she means to me without ego and pride blocking my way. I so wanted to tell her that I am still a COPYCAT !!!
I always believed in fairy tales, from my childhood they fascinated me, those mystical lands of Prince and Princess, Kings, and Queens, Demons, and Devils, Witches, and Wizards, of Palaces and Caves, of Unicorns and Centaurs, of Spells and Potions, of Curses and Charms and I was lost in them for as long as my father could manage to stretch the stories, and then I would whine and sulk that it wasn’t long enough, and he would kiss me as he made me sit in his lap and promise me an even better story tomorrow and I would go to sleep with that promise hanging in the air, already eager for the next night. The next evening as he would come home from the office I eagerly would wait for him at the door, reminding him that he needs to recite the longest story tonight and he would smile and nod hugging me despite his tiredness and weariness. I could hardly contain my excitement as he washed and changed, finished dinner, spent some time with grandparents all the while holding my palm in his hand like a constant reassurance that said “soon”, and then he would pick me up in his arms and retire to our room(me, my mother and him had one room to ourselves as we lived in joint family), there he would help me get settled for the night, lovingly containing my excitement with his words, making me realise that we should finish all our nightly routine so no one disturbs us during story time and my eyes would grow a little wider with that pre-event buzz. He would tuck me in my cot and lie next to me on his side of the bed as my mother finished the remaining chores in kitchen and finally, he would ask ” so what kinda story shall I tell my doll today ?”, I would turn to him with enthusiasm only to find him drowsy, about to fall asleep, then tickle him, till I see him shake off the sleep, wanting his complete focus and unwavering attention. He would pretend that he was just acting to fall asleep and I would start giving preferences “Papa I want one where there are animals and a princess and a ghost”, and look at his face eagerly for him to begin, and then he would say “my hand I can tell you one magnificent tale of a lion, a princess like you and a poor carpenter”, cleverly deterring me from the demand of a ghost story as he knew that I wouldn’t sleep out of fear then. I would nod vigorously just wanting it to begin, and he would always start with “once upon a time”, and trust me, it became my favourite quote.
He would meticulously weave his story through all the elements and characters, spinning a thrilling tale for me on the spot, he would decorate it with sound effects of animals, horse hooves, arrows flying and drums beating, he would change his voice and tone for each character, turning it animated for animal characters, making me jump and squeal and laugh with each twist and turn. Somewhere during the story, I would leave my cot and scoot on his side clinging to him as I wrapped my small arms around his belly, thinking I have secured the most unique seat and he would tap my back in that rhythmic pace. I would hide my face in his chest when he told how the lion attacked the princess and would kiss him in between when he said how the carpenter came to her rescue and my breathing would get shallow when the King decides to execute the carpenter for touching the princess, I would change postures in elation as the adventure progressed losing myself in his voice as he traveled with me through that magical world and would stop breathing when the princess marries the carpenter to save him from King and clap like the most attentive and satisfied audience when he ended it with “and they lived happily ever after”, never once he ended them sadly, making his girl happy, keeping her safe from the harsh realities. My mother would settle with us by then, and she would look at my father with the hope of exchanging a few words with him, but he would be softly snoring by then, and I would place a finger on my lips ” Sssshhhh, Papa has fallen asleep, I helped him tell a very nice story”, my mother would give me a warm and sad little smile and place a finger on her own lips in agreement, and we all would switch off lights and close our eyes. The only thing I could think of was how nice a tale, what wise princess, what courageous Carpenter, what a fierce lion, while my mother would be gazing silently at my father’s sleeping form with contentment. The thought that the story was told to make me sleep, so that my father could have a few words of affection with my mother never crossed my mind, I was gleeful that I am still up while he slept, it never occurred to me that my mother was a very vital part of my father’s life, that she yearned for a little time with him, for me he was all mine, my property.
As I grew up my love for stories kept growing, and I graduated from papa’s fairytale to short stories, books, novels, epics, and then came a day when my storyteller left this world forever! And now, I want to write a story, I want to be a tale spinner, you know why? Because I know that my love for stories was not because I loved to read, but because he loved to tell them, now I know that I was his only audience, and he charmed me each night, just for love I showered on him. The magic was in the man and not the tales, in his unconditional love, and I often crave for one more story. Now it’s my turn to be showered with love. Today I wanna be a storyteller, today I want to return some of what I got, today I want to honour my father’s memory, today I have decided I will spin some tales of my own as I was nurtured with the fables of a Tale Spinner!