by Neha Tambe
She tossed in her bed while she waited for the night to pass. It just seemed endless. She had an early morning flight to catch, her body was begging her to rest a while, yet her mind seemed to be unrelenting. Just a few hours ago she had been window shopping at a mall and planning on treating herself; now all she could think of was him. She had never felt so helpless before. If only she could hug him tight one last time and tell him that she loved him. Tears welled up in her eyes as she thought about him. She stuffed her face in the pillow and let out a sob as she said “I love you Dad. Please just be there.”
Her father, Girish was a simple man. An average Indian middle class father. Like most of them he worked all his life in a big company as a small officer. He was never ambitious for himself. His family was his world and his children were his crowning glory. Their smallest achievement made his heart swell with pride and their slightest pain bothered him beyond words. He wasn’t brilliant, he wasn’t ambitious nor did he have any riches to boast about, but the one thing he did provide was love and time for his family. He was content and happy around his family.
She was his elder daughter and she had never known how he felt about himself. For her he was always the loving father and a caring husband. A man of few words, he had always been hero. She brushed a tear as she rechecked the watch and willed herself to make a hot cup of tea. She rushed to the airport as she couldn’t just sit at her house. She was early, but she finished her security check and waited in the sparsely populated waiting area. Just as she settled down in the waiting area with another cup of tea, her mind slipped back to her last real meeting with him.
It was six months ago. She had landed a good job in a big city. Her father was brimming with pride. He was also worried sick about her staying alone in a big city. He had checked and rechecked the hotel in terms of safety, locality and proximity to some long lost relative. He had even managed to find a contact in the company that she was hired, just to be sure that the company was good and was employee friendly. She teased him “Dad you call me your son and you are worried like I am some tiny fragile thing. Chill dad, I will be fine!” He just smiled and said, “You will understand someday.” She had asked him to come with her, just for a few days so that he would stop worrying, but he just nodded and never said anything.
Their relationship was never too emotive or communicative. They didn’t need words. Just his presence was enough to make her feel strong and secure. A gaze, a hug, a quiver in the voice or just sitting next to each other was enough for them to sense the matter. She remembered how he took her for ice-cream when she was upset that she lost a match. The time when she had cried while he sat next to her when she had
her first break-up and how the soft-spoken father had turned into a raging volcano when he realized the reason for her sadness was a guy who eve-teased her. He always told her that he was proud of her no matter what. So when he just hugged her as he was loading her suitcases in the cab she knew that was his way of saying “Goodbye and take care”. That was her last encounter with him. Even after she settled in the new rented place, he called her regularly but didn’t know what to say. All he asked was “How are you doing? And are you happy?” After that the phone usually went to mom.
And now suddenly her world was changing. She felt as if her strength was slipping away. Just then, the flight announcement was made and she slowly moved towards the gate. The waiting area was now brimming with people but she felt lonely. She settled in her seat. Finally she was home bound. She said a small prayer and wished she could talk to him.
The last 12 hours had been a blur. She had received a call in the evening from her mother informing that dad was admitted in the hospital. He fell unconscious. She had been worried sick, but her mother was composed and was confident that it was nothing. After a few hours of calls running back and forth it was clear that something was terribly wrong. She booked the first available flight to her hometown and rushed home to pack. By now her mother had been crying, the doctors said it was Dengue and because of his diabetic condition things had gotten worse. In one of her calls while she was trying to console her mother, her mom said, “Do you know, he wasn’t his usual self yesterday. He wasn’t effervescent or funny yesterday. He said he had been a failure in his life as he had nothing to show and his family could not boast about his achievements. There was nothing for anyone to be proud of, he said.” And that’s when it hit her. She had never said to her Dad that he means the world to her. She had never told him that she was proud to have him as her father, because he always believed in her. He let her follow her dreams and never once questioned her choices. He stood by her when she failed and swelled with pride at her smallest achievement. He never let her doubt her abilities whatever others might say and yet he was battling self doubt. She just wanted one chance to tell him this.
As she reached the hospital it was early morning. She raced up the stairs of the hospital. Now all she could think of was to meet him and tell him that he was never a failure. She wanted to tell him how important he was for her and there were no words to describe his place in her life.
As she made her way to the reception, she saw her mother. She rushed to her, half hoping that things would have improved, and they could all go home together, but as she reached closer her mother just broke down in her arms. Her sister was sobbing quietly in a corner. Her world came crashing down. Her father was no more. ***