Saturday, August 15, 2009
15th August has always been special because it is my father’s birthday. I used to love that day more than any other. Even my own birthday paled in comparison…we always got gifts on 15th August, usually there would be a neatly gift-wrapped new box of paints for me waiting at the breakfast table….. in myriad colours….and I would set about painting with gusto for the only man who really mattered. When I learnt about my dad’s illness that would take him away from us I first went into denial. Then I was angry…..later there were times I just wanted to hold him and cry my heart out in his arms but never found the courage to do it…preferring to be brave and “take it like a man”. When I used to sit quietly by his side while he slept, when he could, though the pain, in his last days, I realized I could never have enough of Baba. I would always want more. Today I yearn for those arms more than ever and I need to feel his strength and listen to his answers. I find some comfort in words and paintings which someone said are always lonely…like I’m looking for something and cannot reach out to it. It’s like there’s a strong current and the water is dark and deep but I know he waits for me on the other side…..to take me home when my journey is done. I wish he had been around for my daughters who never met him. For my husband who tries to understand why a song can surprise me into tears….Sometimes I blame him…why didn’t he take better care of his health? Why didn’t he tell us he was this ill? But then I realize Baba always had more time for us than he did for himself. The illness had been growing inside for years but he had pushed it aside, for everything else he thought was important.
My father was just a man. And he was just being himself.
I always used to say I would never get married…because my dad would shoot anyone who ever came close, no man was ever good enough for his little princess…but then suddenly now here I was, free of paternal judgement…but without paternal love as well.
After I finally decided to marry, I suddenly felt more lost than ever before. There was no way I could talk to Baba or seek his approval, was I making the mistake of my life or was this just what I needed? Does anyone really NEED marriage? What if I tired of it all or, worse still, got bored? What if I just didn’t measure up? The list was endless, the questions coming thick and fast….and then there was some comfort for everyone agreed 15th August was a good date for a wedding…I was eased…..to an extent…… and then came the poem; for the best father a girl could ever have:
Your arms were my refuge in every storm
Each step I took guided by your love
You watched over me, helped me grow
And suddenly – silently, you had to go.
Years passed. An emptiness no one still
can fill; time flew, venues changed, life held
surprises new, which never ceased to test
the courage you taught me as a child.
Now it’s come. The day you told me of
A day in my life you’d be proud to be
here. I’ll miss you – and I can still see
those meetings you cancelled, the work
you left to be one indulgent smile in the audience-
When the lights went low and the house
was dark and the theatre waited (bated breath)
for that momentary spark. You gave me the guts
to act that solo part….It’s like that now
too. I’m getting married. True,
this is not a school production and I know
you’d love him well. Still I need you here, I need
your consent. 15th of August, isn’t it ironic
I never asked you but I feel it couldn’t have been
without your approval. Do you recall those long walks
together with the sun barely out. Stopping
to look at the trees, to smile at the pups
each morning was new – it’s like that now
I’m a little apprehensive, a little scared
I wish there was your hand to hold on to.
They say dreaming of fathers is an ill omen
Little do they know; those are the dreams
that sustain me. Keep me sheltered
from the storm. The world outside is dusty
the winds blow my dreams asunder
but I have you to cling to when the morning
comes to thunder; into my haven
of sleep. Those moments with you I cherish,
unreal as they may be. I’m not sure
if I’m where I belong but this much is true
when I smile and the world thinks all is well,
it’s a smile that comes from you.
There’s so much going on these days
what with the big day drawing near
there’s all the joy, the excitement, the pain
and also an insurmountable fear
that comes from knowing you won’t be there
to guide me or help me on my way –
but Baba, I had to write all this
talking to you eases my mind, and yes,
help me please that I may be worthy
of all the trust and love you showed
help me be strong, courageous and kind
a worthy tribute to your generous mind.
It’s confusing here, I know I’m disjointed
I need your love to help me. Since I cannot
ask for your consent let me at least
take your blessings. Let me carry you in my heart
in every action, every dealing. Give me
your integrity, your values, your strength
bless me so I can be brave. Let me not stumble
in my duties, let me not crumble
or be vain. When I fall, help me stand
let me not break or be broken
give me the strength to be your daughter
give me the strength to remember your name.
I do not know who regrets it more.
You, for not being here, or I because
you’re not. But when they take me away
I know I’ll see you standing around
There by the door, a tear in your eye
A heavy heart but full of joy and pride…
I know somewhere you listen. And you watch.
I know you’ll be near when I’m a bride.