“Someday you’ll understand”, he said. I stood and I watched him say it. I wasn’t overcome with emotions. I mustered a smile and waved my goodbye with a cold heart. That was it.
“Papa, how do I put this on” Radha asked me. Radhey, her passport read. I couldn’t bring myself to call her that. I thought it was dorky. Then again, like all married men, I only had so much choice over such matters. I’d always make it a point to call her Radha.
She was my little angel. She was five and I was already the proudest dad on this planet. She was dressed in blue with polka white dots. She looked like a doll. She had her mother’s looks. I’m glad she had her mother’s looks. I’m also grateful that she also inherited her mother’s brains. I got to pick her name. I was very happy with the way genetics played their part. She had the best genes running through her. She had her mother’s angel like looks, her smart brains and my sliver tongue of sarcasm.
“Like this sweetheart”, I patiently showed her how to buckle her seat belts. Vaishnavi gave me a cold stare. “You are spoiling her”, she dubbed silently. “I know”, I smiled at her and acknowledged . I kissed my daughter on her forehead when I was done buckling her up. My wife was not very enthusiastic about my promise to get our child a chocolate cake for lunch. Few perks of travelling the business class. We were all spoiled by the choices. Ours was simple. Chocolate truffle cake for lunch 🙂
The British airways flight took off in time from heathrow. Chennai was not far away now. As the blinkers indicating that the seat belts should continue to remain fastened flashed, I slowly drifted away into a comfortable slumber.
It was probably a decade ago when I left Chennai, my home, for London. I still remember my last moments in that city. Dad and I had gotten into a fight the previous week. He was not enthusiastic about me moving out. He kept nagging me over details. I knew he’d miss me. He was at his annoying best. He was excellent at finding bugs in my plans. He kept pointing out the things that were stupid in my plans. He kept stating that I’d fail and would come home running. I had had enough. We fought long hard and nasty.
Push came to shove, when it was the time for me to board the flight and leave home, I hugged my mom and said I’d miss her plenty. I spared my dad a glance. I didn’t bother shaking his hand. We stood apart. It felt like we had been separated by a massive iceberg. We both stood with cold hearts. I didn’t hug him. I didn’t tell him that I’d miss him or that I ever loved him. I waved my bye from that safe distance and didn’t bother turning back. Before I could leave, dad said, “Someday you will understand”
London was daunting at first. I met Vaishnavi a few months later. We fell in love, we got married and two years later, complications in the maternity ward meant that I had to worry over Vaish and my new born daughter. It hurt my soul to watch the two lady loves of my life under a ventilator. I’d distribute my distraught time staring at both of them from a distance. The little one was the first to breathe life. I was too scared to even hold her. I was worried about Vaish. I could not bear the thought of raising my daughter all alone. She was a slice of my life and yet, I was such an unfortunate dad that I could not bring myself to rejoice her arrival. Two weeks later Vaish’s condition stabled. It was only after that, my ordeal was complete. I finally managed that smile.
The recoveries took time. I put my job on hold and spent time with my family. I took care of them both. I ran the house, I got the supplies. I had no free time left to indulge myself in any distraction. My world had shrunk. My challenges were plenty. I didn’t have the time to sit back and worry about what was to come. I took each day for what it was. It was that love for my wife and child that kept me pushing hard. I nearly burned myself to ashes. I still powered on.
Through the time, I couldn’t help but think a lot about my dad. I remember being told that my dad had undergone a similar ordeal. Only he didn’t have the comforts of medical care that I had in London. Dad did not have the flexibility of putting his career on hold. Money was tight and he was forced to distribute his time between work and his family. Very much like me, he was left all alone to take on the challenges of his life.
The more I thought about my dad, the more I understood his nature of love. My dad was never around to play with me. He was busy making a buck and paying off bills. We were never rich. Yet, I always had all the toys that my heart desired. We weren’t even rich enough to pack me off to London. I know my dad had mortgaged his house, the house that he built with blood and sweat to settle me comfortable. I paid the loan back in full, I was not even close to clearing off the debt of the love my dad bestowed upon me. Money was too insignificant a commodity to balance that debt off.
It was through the hardest time of my life I realized the intent of my father’s tough love. He did not have my failure as his key interest. He wanted me to succeed. He saw the gaps in my plans which I could not because I was blinded by ambition and arrogance of an education that my dad provided. Wish I was too smart to realize that. I wasn’t.
I named my daughter Radhey. A small tribute to the man who gave his best to one thing he loved the most, me. My dad. Retired CPWD Engineer, Mr RadheyKrisnan. I had used words to reconcile with my dad. It was time for me to head back home and bring them here. Not because I had a debt to clear, or I owed him everything in my life. Because I wanted my Radhey to understand what unrivaled love meant.
She will soon.
The captain spoke again. Ladies and gentlemen.. he went on his scripted words.
I turned to Radhey and asked “Sweet heart, where are we going”
She smiled her wonderful warm smile. “To meet Tathaa and paati daddy”, she said . I held her hand.
Today, I understood what it all meant.
Heroes never fall.
Sometimes i feel that fatherhood is very underrated. I grew up in a society where dads worked and moms slapped the kids plenty to help them grow fine. I cant but imagine the pressures that my dad went through in making ends meet, being a fantastic provider and still struggling to balance time between work and home. When we talk about childhood, motherhood always takes the cake. The world talks about a mother’s love. No denying it. Fathers are the sorry blokes who never got to sit with us and watch us take those first steps. Lets give em dads a break. Lets give the dads of tomorrow a lesson to remember. There is no implicit love. Make it explicit. Make the time 🙂