“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.” ― Umberto Eco
A father-daughter bond is very special. I remember people asking me who did I like more amongst my mother and father as a kid. Owing to the big bars of Milky Bar chocolate Papa would get for me each day while coming back from work, my answer would always be in his favour. In fact, mother tells me that the first word I uttered was ‘Pa’. I think this annoyed her and as soon as my younger sister was born she took to the task of personally making her learn to speak ‘Ma-ma’ before she too was “fatherfied” (sic).
What you share with your mother is not just a bond. That connection runs deeper. A mother and a child are a part of each other. They have their own individuality, yes, but an individuality that is derived from each other. On the contrary, with your father, you have to build a relationship. You do not already know him like you know your mother, you get to know him. And it’s a beautiful process – discovering that broad shouldered man who is ever so strong and there to protect you against all odds. Of course, as you grow up, you don’t run and share everything with him anymore. Certain topics come with a strict label of ‘Mother-daughter’ talks only. But this doesn’t mean an end to those days when you come home after having bruised your knees badly and hope to avoid an encounter with your bound-to-turn-frantic mother and rather look for your father, who you know will tell you to get up, brush your shoulders and start afresh. His strength makes you stronger. He says that he believes that you can do it and you believe him. Trust comes easy. He is your best friend.
Ever since I was a kid, I have had a theory about my father. He always seemed to know what I was thinking, what I wanted. Even before I could confess to a prank, his warm but tiger eyes reflected that he already knew. If I was disturbed or bothered about something, he’d creep into my room quietly and get me to take him into confidence. For a long time I thought that he could read minds; that he was God, which he isn’t, of course.
It’s been more than a decade since I was 8 and oh-so-naive (not that all these years have made me any less naive), but even today, whenever he calls me into his study and while casually talking about college, friends and other stuff, says certain things or at times, (I feel) penetrates deep into my soul with his wise, old eyes that I can’t help feeling that maybe, just maybe, he can read minds.
Eventually, you reach an age when your father no longer reads out bed time stories to you and no longer kisses you on the forehead and tucks you in bed each night. You don’t share as many conversations and spend less and less time with him each day. Some days, the only time you get to see him is at the breakfast table for a mere five minutes because all your attention is focused on stuffing down your toast and milk so that you do not miss your school bus. What does he now do to show you that he loves you?
Last night, I was on the terrace, headphones on, trying to tune out the world. The sky had never looked more gorgeous. I have been a witness to a night sky that once gave me twenty three shooting stars and twenty three wishes and I still say, the sky that night has got nothing on the sky the night before, even though, it was 3:00 am and all I had got so far was an aircraft that I almost mistook for a shooting star.
That’s when, out of nowhere, I spotted it – the Scorpius.
“Trace out the Scorpion for me,” he would say as I lay on his stomach.
I remember searching every nook of the sky for the J-shaped assemblage of 15 stars that make up the constellation. All in vain.
“Show it to me, dad.”
Like every time, he held my hand, pointed it towards the bright ruby star, Antares, that marks the Scorpion’s heart. After this, together, we traced out constellation after constellation, my hand in his, until I fell asleep.
“Next time I’m not going to help you, okay? You’ll have to locate all these constellations yourself.”
I never could however hard I tried to recall. That is, until last night.
Life sees you through a lot of heartbreaks- some dramatic, some genuine. On such difficult days, after you are done crying, you lift your head, look at the stars shining brightly down at you, think of the times you’d stare at them lying on your father’s stomach and feel loved. You feel special. You know you will never be alone.
Ours fathers kill our monsters for us. He helps us colour inside the lines, walk us to school each day, teach us how to ride a bike, and is always there to see to it that we do not stumble.
Here’s to all the wonderful fathers out there. Your daughters love you.