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Dad, My Armor and Shield

by Jigyansa Mohanty
(Michigan, USA)

For Ashwin it’s been a long day……………. Since the time this middle-aged lady shouted at him at the top of her voice, he has gone into hibernation. The 8*9 restroom seems like a cage, from which he wants to escape into his world and hopefully there won’t be any space for this shiny, soft, malleable yellow metal. He just wants to run away to the quietude of his inner self. The more he tries to distance himself from this ductile element, the closer it comes to him.

He flashes water on his face in an attempt to wash away all the bizarre thoughts that have been gripping him since long. He knows well, that he is not made for this shiny world and has always been curious about its dynamics.
“How does Papa manage this?” The question has been plaguing him since long.

Somehow, he has never felt himself to be a part of this family jewelry business, set up by his Dad Mr. Ajit Sharma. Ashwin’s father is the founder of AS jewelers which has been sitting proudly in City mall, Borivali since last twenty-five years. Ashwin knew how hard his father had toiled to reach this stage. From living in a one room kholi to daily commuting by local train, life had thrown curve balls to his Dad several times but it was his conviction that made him overcome all of those and build this shop which is one of the best in the market today. May be, that was the reason for which he has refrained himself from expressing his feelings all these years. Though in his initial years he frequented the shop with the urge of grabbing chocolates from Das Babu, with time his disliking for the place grew manifold. Unless and until he was summoned by his Dad, he never felt like visiting it. It was only during Diwali, that he would heartily accompany Maa to the glorious AS Jewelers.

For last couple of months, he has been trying to convince the other two elders in his family, Maa and Dadi. While Maa understood her son’s state of mind, Dadi was fully vocal………
“What are you up to Ashu? When we have such a huge business to look after, what is the point of going abroad and studying?” taking her glasses off her eyes she gave an annoying stare to Ashwin.
“You would never understand, Dadi” Ashwin’s reply was wrapped in a soft murmur. A peace-loving youth, he didn’t feel like arguing with his beloved Dadi.

Ashwin has been like this since day one, a shy and focused kid whose only aim has been to attend an Ivy league college in USA and then be an investment banker playing with numbers. Born as a rainbow child to Ajit Sharma, Ashwin was pampered by everyone in the sharma household. He is the cynosure of their eyes and this prevented him from putting forth his views.

Last week after receiving his acceptance letter from one of the top universities somehow, he got the tsunami of courage to speak to his Dad. But before he could open up, Das Babu briefed him about AS Jewelers 25th year celebrations, which was supposed to kick off from today. As part of AS Jeweler’s 25th year initiative, Ashwin was supposed to supervise this marketing event called “Think and Win”. The contest invited ideas which had the potential to transform the burgeoning jewelry segment in
India. Ashwin’s Dad Mr. Ajit wanted him to personally monitor the same and that was the reason he has been a frequent visitor to the store. However, the three C’s of Color, clarity and carat irk him and he would feel out of place. From the wanderers to the showroomers, from the rowdy to the indecisive ones he has seen them all and credits his Dad for acknowledging these diverse customer base and tailoring their approaches accordingly.
“When Dadi didn’t understand, will Dad be able to relate to my views? What will happen if he denies?” Emerged in these thoughts, reluctantly though he tries to segregate the best ideas from the “Think and Win Contest”.
“Selecting just three out of the whole bunch is such a difficult task!” Ashwin wonders.

As he is busy with his selection, he hears a frantic call from Das Babu………….
“Ashu Baba, Seth ji wants to talk to you, now” Das Babu, an elderly man has been associated with Ashwin’s Dad from day one. Das Babu’s receding hairline and feeble vision has never impaired his spirit. The heaviness in Das Babu’s voice bear testimony to the fact that something was not right.

“Dad must have come to know about all this, Why can’t Maa keep a secret? Will he be able to understand me? I hope he doesn’t put pressure on me to join his business". Ashwin’s heart sinks and he develops cold feet. He resorts to his oral compulsive habit of Onychophagy.

Biting his ten finger nails with approximately the same degree, he marches towards his Dad’s cabin. His heart races fast as he tries to push the door.
“Did you call me, Dad?” swallowing a lump in his throat he asks….
“Yeah!! Sit Ashu,” putting his phone down he looked at Ashwin with eager eyes.
“Did you have lunch?” Mr. Ajit quipped.

Before Aswin could reply back, he got two Kulfi ice-creams and placed them in front of Ashwin.
Ashwin couldn’t hold back; he remembered his school days, when senior Sharma used to pamper him with Malai kulfi. He would wait for that moment when, his Dad would be home with Kulfi in his hand and he would run to give him a hug. Engulfed in these thoughts he stares at the two kulfis and lifts the one that’s close to him. Suddenly he realizes that it’s the same Malai kulfi which he was so fond of in his childhood.
“Dad remembers this!” he wonders.

As he looks up, his Dad smiles and takes out a file from the cabinet next to him. Deep red file with white tag was like this complex mathematics puzzle whose solution can only be predicted. Many unanswered questions started making waves in Ashwin’s mind and with sweaty hands he turned the file to look into what laid within.

Few glances and tears started rolling down his eyes. He couldn’t control himself and broke down in front of this Man who has not only reconciled with his son’s choice, but has made every possible effort to see that his son achieves what he had envisaged. Every minute detail about the University town was clipped in this Red bundle of joy, starting from town map, to restaurants to shops…all details were covered.

Oh Dad!! Ashwin was sobbing painfully and in no time he got the comfort of these two arms that have been protecting him all through like his armor and shield.

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