No one knew what I was up to. I was a naughty 3 year old out to make a new discovery. I lay there on my bed juggling seashells, not completely agreeable with Einstein’s Law of Gravity. I’d sent tiny seashells up hurtling above my head while I lay right beneath them, flat on my back, on my bed. I watched them rise and fly up ….high in the air. On their passage back, down towards the earth, one had a long dark tunnel to pass through. And that tunnel happened to be my left nostril.
My father had come in search of me just then like a God-sent angel. With the sea-shell stuck somewhere between its way to my intelligent brain, I was gasping for breath. My Pa whisked me up into his arms and rushed to the docs’ that very instant. I remember he kept talking to me all the way asking me to stay calm and breathe only through my mouth. I soon had the Doc’s cold pincers travel down my nostril and the teensy weensy shell was out in no time! I was too little to know what could have happened if it wasn’t for my Pa’s perfect timing and presence of mind but I clearly remember I’d decided my father was my best friend. And he has proved himself as one, time and again.
That year I was in the Vth standard at a convent school at Mahim, Mumbai. The Hindu-Muslim communal riots were rampant which I was aware of and scared about. One morning as my father dropped me off to school I asked,
“Papa, if they attack our school will you come to get me? You won’t let them kill me will you?”
“No darling. I will come to get you come what may! You can trust me.”, promised Pa.
And he indeed came.
There had been an outburst that very afternoon and stones were being pelted on the houses around. We could hear a whole lot of screaming outside. All of us were made to hide beneath our desks in our classrooms. I prayed that my father wouldn’t risk his life between all this and come to pick me as I’d asked him to but somewhere I was also longing to feel the security of being back home with my parents.
Just then I saw him standing at my classroom door and I burst into tears as I rushed into his arms. We hurried to our car and he hit the gas like never before. Our front windshield cracked from the stones and we could see the road ahead with great difficulty. Still we drove at break neck speed taking the main road and avoiding the usual route through by lanes. And my father got me home safe and sound. There couldn’t be a better example of a friend in need, for me.
Friends define our personality. Acting as chisels they shape our lives. My father did more than that. He built my confidence through affirmation and corrected my mistakes with gentle confrontation. My Pa taught me to trust my capacities. Unlike most of my friend’s fathers, my Pa believed his daughter could do more than any son would.
As I was taking the oath to assume the post of a cabinet minister at school, I could see my Papa sitting in the front row, pulling out his kerchief and dabbing at his eyes. As I came offstage and hugged him, flaunting the badge on my lapel, he said
“I always knew you would do me proud!”
It was his attention that helped me evolve as an achiever at school. He made his daughter a bold and independent lady with a mind of her own!
My Papa shaped my career into what I could only dream of. I wouldn't have been this happy doing anything else. I am what I am today because of my loving father.
The most effective lesson learnt from this friend of mine has been
" Think before you speak, not speak before you think!"
He brought me up with open conversations and healthy interactions. In my growing years just like my Ma, I found a great friend in my Pa too. He accepted me with my flaws et al. Not a single day went without him giving a loving ear to my day's escapades at school or at play. He took keen interest in my passions whether it was sports, painting or music. He always taught me to take every facet of my personality seriously. Never should it be a half-hearted attempt and that’s what taught me to patiently explore every aspect of my interests, revel and excel in them. I always had much to learn from him on the varied subjects which helped me hone my skills.
My father filled up a space in my life like no other friend has. I was only a teenager when I lost my mum to Acute Renal Failure. Her death came as a jolt I couldn’t deal with. For months I was down in depression and had lost faith in God. My doting Papa set his grief aside and put my life on priority again. My Pa was constantly at my side consoling me and teaching me to be strong. With his help I resumed college and got back on my feet. With every passing day I realized that he was steadily making up for the missing link. I can imagine it must have taken him immense courage and selfless love to rise to the need of the hour, to bring up a teen in the absence of his life-mate.
Our life took another turn with my marriage and I found myself separated from my papa for the first time in my life. The distance would rip my heart to pieces. And he would send me such loving SMs that made me miss his company all the more. Never a day did he ever let me feel guilty about leaving him alone and taking on a new life. But I'm sure he must have felt extremely lonely with the only two loves of his life gone away on their own journeys.
Even as I played my new role my papa was always there for me time and again. My papa also took up my father-in-law's problems like they were his own and helped him sort them out one after another.
Today as I play the role of a young mum I take most valued lessons in parenting from my papa. My son is already very attached to his Ajja (thats how you address your grandfather in Konkani). And many a happy hours are spent by him in his caring Ajja's lap.
I still lead a child-like carefree life because my Papa still pampers me like he would when I was little.
What would I have done without you Papa?
God has truly blessed me with the biggest gem a daughter could ever wish for!