Better Late Than Never
by Padmaja Menon
Hi! I am writing this because I couldn’t tell you this. I tried once and failed.
I have always wanted to do this. I have always done what you wanted me to. You wanted me to write the medical entrance when I did not want to but, I did. You did not want me to do Hotel management when I really wanted to do it, but I did not do it. You want me to get married as soon as possible and even though I don’t want to, you know I shall obey you.
Now, I am going to do something that I really want to. I asked you about this in the VIIIth standard and you refused, my teacher even sent a note to you. You told me never to ask such a thing again. I asked once again, this time I am 21 not 13 yrs old, and you said no. But this time I am going to do it and I promise you this is the first and last time I am going to disobey you.(wink)!
I am sorry if I hurt your feelings, but I really, really, really want to do this and I am sure that eventually you shall understand me.
I am really very sorry, do not blame mummy and please do not be angry with her. If I do not do it now I will never be able to do it, so please be happy for me.
I am going for the college trip to Shimla, the details and phone number are with mummy. It’s quite safe so do not worry too much.
Please give me 14 days of my life and I hope you shall come to receive me in the station when I come back……… with a smiling face.
It was a lot like Kajol from ‘Dilwale dulhaniya le jayenge’
but this was not filmy.It was real life. Mr Menon felt his eyes fill when he read the note. The years flashed back. Yes he had been a strict Father. Yes, he had been paranoid about picnics or school excursions not realizing how much he had hurt his girls. But finally with ample support from her Mom his daughter had rebelled. She had gone ahead with her trip. His wife who prided herself on telling the truth always had lied! Lied about the trip. Where to was it? To Shimla and the north. How well his family had hidden it from him. He felt a twinge of admiration drown his first upside of anger. Had he been too much of a tyrant?
Saumya put down a crystal glass of his favorite whisky in front of him. He smiled. She had stocked her bar the moment she knew that her Dad, the tyrant dad was coming to visit her. Her Mom was already there two months in advance. Mr Menon could get only a month‘s leave.
How had they managed to smuggle her suitcase and her out of the house, he remembered wondering even then. He remembered hearing some high pitched, muffled giggles and……..
It hadn’t been easy being a parent…… a father. Specially when he and the other parent the mother could never see eye to eye. She had always been ‘with them’ for them…..
Lenient, understanding…. cool-while he……. She, his wife believed that daughters were all things nice, sugar and spice. While he found them too spicy….!
It wasn’t that he didn’t love them but being a typical “Nair’ he was very orthodox and couldn’t agree to certain things. And those certain things happened to be the ‘in’ things like short hair cuts, fashionable outfits, friend circle – the list was endless.
He also had a phobia about sending them on school excursions or any excursions for that matter, he had managed well so far… But the cocky collegian had graduated from the pig-tailed school girl and flown the roost. His first thought had been to blast his wife but then he hesitated. ‘Do not blame Mummy’ flashed before his eyes.
He sighed. Had he been too strict a father? Disciplining is my domain types? The old school types- daughters should only think of saat phere’s types? Well, not really, he had always wanted them to be professionals and study for these but the bottom line was getting married to a Nair boy and if he allowed you could study further…...
As luck would have it or rather as he would have it both his daughters had married Nair boys from good families and settled down.
Today, as he sat in Saumya’s rompus (that’s what it was called in Sydney the open kitchen attached to the T.V area opening onto the backyard) he smiled. That tomboy daughter of his who had rebelled and gone on that trip was now the adored wife of a Nair and happy to be one. He couldn’t believe that she had taken hold of the reins f her life so well. She had a hi- fi job –was doing her MS and managing her home. Multitasking had never been so simple.
He sipped his spirits (not whiskey in Sydney) and stretched his legs.
“Acha…you have to hurry we eat by 8’O’ clock. Not like back home. Where you watch TV till 9—have dinner at 9.30 and sleep at 9.31! After dinner there should be a gap of 2 hours. But you never listen to anyone na……..” He looked at his wife and raised his eyebrows.
She gave him the thumbs up sign. Which meant serves you right. Mom and daughter exchanged looks and winked. He could swear they were thoroughly enjoying his discomfiture .. But was he discomfited? No, he was enjoying the feeling of being taken good care of by his daughter. It was a very positive feeling.
So even though he had been a wee bit, (his wife would say too strict), the end product had not been bad. But the camaraderie and easy familiarity that her mother and she shared was something he now envied. May be if he had not been such a task master- a tyrant according to his wife….
No phone calls, No movies- No pocket money- No boy friends- and –the list could go on and on….. No, no, no! had he really been so pig headed? So narrow minded? In today’s world?
When girls and boys were on par. And his daughters had been such level headed go getters.
All of a sudden he wished he had been able to enjoy his children more. He had spent their childhood and teenage years worrying and worrying…about them. He had not been able to trust them to do no wrong.. He had always wondered if….. what? He wasn’t sure he wanted to know. Blessed was his wife who trusted in them implicitly and believed in them and allowed them to surge ahead believing in their own worth. He felt a tinge of regret.
But if anyone praised his girls he would immediately say, “after all my kids na”. Which wasn't true. No, they were totally their Mother’s kids, not his. He looked at his diminutive wife, she sure packed a punch and they had imbibed all their values from her. She was the one who had done her bit in shaping his daughters. And she deserved the praise. He had a lot of changing to do.
He sighed and finished his drink. Well, still time for a makeover, there would be grand children before long………. better late than never…. Her lie had been worth it.