First hero: Papa!

When I was ten years old, my family and I visited Sachdeva Uncle’s place. He had a fancy double storey home in central Kanpur, thanks to his CA profile. Everything adorning his house was quite exquisite which timid Srivastava sisters looked at with awe. As my parents got engrossed chatting with Sachdevas, their 8 year old boy invited us two to his room upstairs. We looked at our parents who nodded. Holding hands, we climbed up the stairs and entered his child fantasy room. We had just begun to gaze at his toys that he pinpointed to his new belonging – a digital piano from Casio(Casio). The way it was placed neatly and appropriately on a table showed us how expensive and unique that gadget was then. My eyes touched its black body whist its shiny white keys unlocked my heart. It was love at first sight. I looked at Sonam standing behind me, and knew she has fallen for it too. We sisters spoke best unspoken. It was our own language. He asked us to play it but we gently declined. Our parents had taught us well.
While returning to our home on our prestigious Priya scooter all Sonam and I could talk about was the Casio. We didn’t want it to be ours as we knew our limits. Ours was a middle class family who had set budget and we knew our lines, but desires could cross borders. We went to our bed that night with content. We saw a Casio.
The very next evening a man rang our doorbell. He came to deliver something. It was wrapped in a newspaper which I thought was a mosquito repellent. No sooner had my mother unwrapped it, than I realized what it was. It was a socket charger of a Casio and then he handed us the dream product itself. He added a line – Sanjay Sir ne bheja hai. That’s papa!
Dad made our unleashed desires a reality. He could read how badly we wanted a Casio, even when not once did we mention we needed one. God only knows how many happy-sad tunes Sonam and I played on that Casio. We played with it and treated it as our supreme gift. It’s not the only time my father got us a gift, but this incident is engraved in my heart. That day I felt proud as I could own something that Sachdeva’s Uncle son could. As a kid it meant a lot to me then.
Last month my dad got retired. He served the Income Tax Department for 32 years. My dad aspired to be an IFS, but settled to serve IRS. I have always seen Papa go to work. Right from the time he commuted on his Priya scooter to Maruti Zen, to a pooled Government Ambassador  to the time he got his separate neeli batti car as an ACIT. It took time for me to realize the importance of his job in our lives. The look on people’s face when they learnt that my Dad was working in Income Tax Department was precious. As I grew I learnt more about the aura and perks of being a Government officer. The term‘sarkaari naukari’ made more sense. It made me more proud that my dad had such an esteemed job.
My father is a reserved person. Things he loves is to read (a lot), catch on news and sports, listen to Lata and Rafi, eat, sleep and spend time with his family. These traits are a legacy passed down to him by my grandmother. His normal days used to comprise coming home after work, sit reading a Clive Cussler or Robin Cook, while my mother filled him with the day’s proceedings and us two sisters sat in the next room, studying preferably.
Papa took his responsibilities rather seriously. He has been a great provider and I don’t remember a time where money was a hassle. He never made us realise how hard he worked to provide us with what we needed, but  he always made sure to mention how necessary it is to attain education. He pushed me every time I wanted to let go off the academic ladder. Even after learning about my relationship with a man of different belief, he never made me quit my studies to get married, an advice given by some relatives. In his words “Saumya may take a wrong decision in life but by taking her away from education, I will make a worse decision. Tomorrow the man she wants to spend her life with may not turn out to be gold, then her education will give her that hold she needs to stand in this world again.” He knew me, before I discovered myself.
As a child I felt my father was too rude. I felt all he did was to check me. ‘Study harder Saumya’, ‘Little effort now will earn great rewards for future’, ‘No one will support you if you can’t support yourself’ were some of his favourite lines. It took time for me to understand and then act on each of those golden phrase. My mother nurtured me, but my father groomed me. He prepared me for the future, a bright future. I believe I am a very strong person and I can profoundly say that behind every strong daughter, there is a stronger father. He believed in me and so this post comes from a person who used to struggle for basic passing marks in English language. My English teacher said I lacked expressing power, if only she could read me now.
Now that my father got retired I feel how different his life will be. I was glad I was in Kanpur to witness the heroic day my dad last went officially to work. He went as a routine and came as a humble person too, just with lots of garlands and bouquets. Even on that day, I never sensed pride in him, when all his family felt was immense gratitude and pride of course. Wish I can give my Papa at least 10 percent of what he has given us. I have started realizing the worst fear of being an adult – your parents start getting old. Hard to accept, harder to overlook.
I guess all I can give him at this hour is my time. Seeing Mysha and him bond makes me feel extremely content. Grand kids do bring out a side in individuals that their own kids did not. Papa has lived his ‘providing’ term so fine, we can’t even come close. Now it’s our turn, how and what needs to be done, only time will decide. I did not know how to be a mother, yet somehow I managed and sustained. Now it’s time to be a better daughter. How? That’s a question most kids need to figure out. God will give us strength.

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