How I hated him for everything.
His inability to earn enough money for us. His laid back life. His preference for spirituality rather than wealth. His pathetic reasons for not buying me Smart phones and instead hand me over cheap phones I felt so ashamed to possess. His shirking brands and going in for cheap clothes that I am sure had many people laughing behind my back.
For every godamn thing he had a reason. There was no way I could win an argument against him.
I had wanted a laptop but he planted a desktop for me giving all the reasons why a desktop was a better option.
The fact was that he was taking life a bit too easy instead of slogging hard and getting in the moolah that was so necessary for me to have all the things I wanted.
“There is a fine balance between wealth and joy. Excess of wealth can eat into joy which I don’t want. We are happy with whatever we have.”
He was into a government job. While all his colleagues minted money through bribes, he was the only one who didn’t take any bribes. And because he did not pay out to his seniors, he was never promoted. He didn’t make a compromise and because of it I was making compromises everywhere in life.
OK, it is bad to take bribes, but he could have taken up to some business. When I suggested this to him he said that Govt rules did not allow that and so he didn’t take up any business. Govt rules my foot! Look left and right and you will hardly find any govt official observing rules. He did. And I suspected it was more because he wanted to take life easy, rather than being an honest person.
So we had big quarrels at home whenever I wanted a new pair of jeans, pocket money, the latest phone, or the laptop. He would open his purse only for bare essentials like he called them. And this meant books and studies. As if nothing else was important.
So I would raise my voice, shout, cry and pull my hair but he would not budge. He would either become very quiet or leave the house, leaving me frustrated.
The one who said that one could choose many things in the world but not one’s parents was dead right. I hated him from the bottom of my heart. Everywhere I saw parents pampering their only child and here I was, the most neglected, only child of the home. What a suck kind of luck was I born with. And how I hated being a part of this stingy family. Maybe it had got to do with my being a girl and not a boy!
Despite his claims of having less, he wasted a lot of money on charity. He would give alms to the poor. Once I actually stood in front of him with a begging bowl. The poor were actually luckier than me. He did not budge from his position and laughed it off.
So there were no birthday celebrations, no dining out, hardly a few holidays and just one movie in say two years. It was like I was living in a deprived African nation.
Then one day he died in a road accident. With the only earning member of the family gone, I was worried about the future. Mom was handicapped, both her legs were useless. But Mom, when she came out of her grief said he had made provisions for us with a hefty insurance. The amount was so big that we were richer with him dead, than he was alive. And in some corner of my heart, I cheered the fact that maybe now, I can get all those things he denied to me. Moreover, I was about to complete my education from IIT and being one of the top performers, I would definitely get a good job. So freedom was not far away.
On the tenth day after his death, mom handed me an envelope.
“He always had a premonition that he would die early. That is why he insured himself so heavily. And he had written this letter many years ago and wanted me to hand it to you, in case he died.”
I rolled my eyes. What sort of a father was he? And what could he possibly have written. Let me guess. Instructions to spend the money wisely. To be conscious of value for money. Not to be lavish. Think of the poor (as if I was rich!). All those things that he repeated and which irritated me no end.
I am very proud of the way you have shaped yourself. Worked hard to be where you are. Every day, whenever I see you, I feel happy of the decision I made 20 years ago. Your mom could not have borne a child because of her handicap and so we adopted you. My mother wanted us to adopt a boy but I wanted a girl all along and when I saw you, I instinctively felt you were born to light up our home.
Three days later, when you developed pneumonia and we were told to admit you in the hospital, mom, my mother tried to convince me to send you back to the adoption centre from where we adopted you. The pressure was so much, and the money which I had was so less that I drove you back on that rainy day. When I was about to get down from the car, to return you from where I adopted you, you caught hold of my finger and smiled a beautiful smile. A thought occurred to me that instant. What if you were born to me? And what if you fell ill? To which place would I have gone to ‘return’ you?
I made the decision then and there. I took you back home. Mom called me insane but I had made my decision. You would be our daughter. No way I would return you to the adoption centre.
I had to spent 2 lacs on the operation. In that difficult time, my new car, which I had purchased a few months ago, was stolen. Mom kept telling me that you were jinxed and I should pack you back before it is too late. But you were our daughter, come what may.
That difficult phase of life passed and it took a long way to recover from that setback but we never felt sad for a moment. You were there to light our life and our home and make us so happy. We were glad you were a part of life. You made us forget any difficulty I was facing at my job because of the extremely corrupt and harrowing environment that I faced every day.
I know I have not been able to provide you with luxuries but I tried not to compromise on any necessities. Whenever they arose, God helped us by way of increments and salary hikes. There was not excess but there was enough to cope with expenses.
If you get this letter, it would mean I am no more. With my death, you would have some wealth that I could not give to you when I was alive. But I did my best and expect you to be a shining example of humanity. More than the love for worldly things, I would want you to have love for worldly living beings. I can see it there in you and with your intelligence and compassion, you will surely become an inspiration one day.
Be good to your mom, she has been my strength all these years. She enabled me to rough out life, even though people call her disabled.
I am glad of the two women who came in my life. You and her.
Don’t grieve over my death. We are here to play our roles and make the lives of other people easier. When the role is over, it is time to quit. But let’s do the best of our bit.
The paper got smudged with tears. I remembered the stories of the horror of adoption homes where girls had been exploited, abused and raped. I saw all those things he did for me without complaint. I saw his face light up with a smile I always thought was a sarcastic grin.
What kind of a father was he?
I began to sob uncontrollably………