No, today is not a special day to remember him. But my father’s memories have overwhelmed me. It doesn’t matter how old we are. We often miss our parents. There is no age limit when it comes to the relationship between children and parents. I was not as lucky as any other child to have an opportunity to meet my father every day. I don’t remember, but my mother often told me that my father used a cotton swab to feed me milk because I could not suck on the bottle due to weakness. I lived with my father in the valley for the first five years of my life. When my father moved to Russia, my mother took me back to my ancestral home. I still remember the house on the hill, which had some apple trees in the backyard. My dad often picked me up on his shoulders so I could pick my favorite apple from the tree.
Initially, I missed both my father and my beautiful valley. Eventually, time helped me forget my father and the valley. I felt awkward because of language and cultural differences, but I was also happy to play with my cousin Binu. Mum was happy because she could see her father and brothers often. In the absence of my father, my uncle became everything to me. He played the role of my parents. No doubt, he had given me so much love and attention that I did not feel the absence of my father. This does not mean that I had forgotten my father. As I watched any plane in the sky, I told my uncle, “Let’s go to Delhi to pick up my father from the airport.” My uncle often had to convince me that not every plane comes from Russia. The father left and did not return home for three years.
I am not sure why I have missed my father for the last two days. Today is neither his birthday nor his death anniversary. I miss her every day; however, it feels like something different today. I wonder what he would have looked like if he had still been alive, how he would have treated me as a little girl or adult. For parents, their children are always children. This is the only relationship that never changes. Neither respect nor love decreases with advanced aging in this relationship.
No, and I did not spend a lot of time with my father. He did not work 8-5 or Monday through Friday type. When I was a little kid, he could not take me to the park. It depended on my mood how I wanted to address him, like Baba or Dad or Daddy. Hardly I had spent enough time with him, but of course, we had spent the quality of time together. I believe in qualitative relationships rather than quantitative. I spent quality time with each loved one. I wonder why they are still with me, even though they went away long ago.
In the absence of my father, my uncle had played a great role as my father. My uncle often carried me on his shoulders to take me to the farmhouse or town hall. I had become his shadow. Three years later, my father returned home. He hugged me and took me to my favorite dessert shop. He also brought many toys and clothes for me. However, there was no spark in our relationship from my side. I did not feel any emotional connection with him. I was already 7-8 years old. He stayed at home for a month. Every single day, I asked my uncle if this man would ever leave our house or not. My uncle often smiled and tried to clear my mind that ‘this man’ is your dearest father. I used to get upset with my uncle, “No, you are only my father and mother. He is not my father.”
I heard my father saying to my uncle, “You stole my daughter.”
I remember a particular day. My father was sitting in a chair on the porch. My uncle returned from the farmhouse, and his back was itching, so he told me, “Toomba, can you scratch my back. I can’t reach my upper back.” I tried scratching his back with my nails, but my uncle was not satisfied. so he kept saying, “Munna, can you scratch it a little harder. “
Instead of scratching his back with my hands vigorously, I grabbed the shovel and tried to use it on his back, “Chachu, I feel like my hands are not doing a good job on your thick skin so that I will rip all your skin with the shovel.” My father laughed out loud. I can remember the scene perfectly. My mother told him, “This is their weekly story. Believe me, you do not interfere in their fight.”
My father was there for me, but I found no spark in our relationship. Instead of spending time with my father, I had chosen to be with my uncle. He tried several times, but I always refused. My uncle also asked me to spend time with my father, but I always treated him as a guest. Perhaps it was a warning alarm for my father. Later, he came home every six months. Somehow, there was a lack of bond between us. At that time, I had no idea what I was missing or ignoring in my life. I refused to obey him. If he asked me to do something, I always shook my shoulder and ran away. But he never looked at me angrily or yelled at me. He was always calm and quiet.
I was 14 when he returned home permanently. He was physically ill, but his mind was still very sharp. He needed someone’s support to walk. Now I was old enough to understand that this man was my father, and he needed my help. I was his only child, so it was my turn and responsibility to take care of him. He suffered from autoimmune muscular dystrophy. He never liked the hot weather either. He spent his entire life in the cold valley, London, and Russia. He wanted to go back to the valley, but my mother refused to go back. Her attitude was like, “over my dead body.”
However, my father was a peaceful man who worked hard in his life. My uncle always told him to stay at home, but he believed in hard work. This was the time that I spent with him. Now I knew that I had missed a lost bond, love, and affection between us. We talked endlessly and shared many stories. Now was his time to smile whenever I did little things for him, and he looked at my uncle as if he was the winner.
He believed in peace and humanity. He never talked about anyone who was not physically present there. His rule was very strange, “praise the person behind their back. If you need to talk nonsense about someone, then talk on their face.”
Yes, he had his own principles, which nobody dared to change or challenge. He always taught me, “Work hard and be smart. Be honest. Never talk behind someone’s back.”
We spent two years together. Now we were very close to each other. But I never ignored my uncle. The three of us had a great bond. I never saw if there was an argument between the two brothers. They respected each other’s decisions. I always found myself sitting in the middle of them. My uncle was still ‘my mother with a beard.” No doubt, I was still closer to my uncle than my father. The uncle still had a right to make decisions about my life, such as education and sports. I often asked my father, “Am I the reason my Chachu never got married.” My father used to laugh, “No, he failed to propose to his girlfriend.”
My father was a modern and open-minded man who didn’t believe in anything except humanity. In the last two years of living together, we came to know each other. Now, it was understandable why people had compared my father to a saint. He shared all his foreign travel stories and all the fun things. I shared all my childhood notorious things with him. Those two years of quality of life brought us so close to each other that it never came to mind that we had ever been separated from each other. He was a man of his words. He was a fearless and careless person. He had become my hero when he stood in front of the terrorists and told them, “I have lived my life on my own terms. I will die like this. You cannot force me to grow my hair and my beard. You don’t own my life, so you don’t have a right to tell me what to do or not to do. Shoot me if you want.” I was standing next to him. He was physically weak, but his determination was strong. He was not afraid of guns or death. I was very scared, so he told me, “No, you don’t allow other people to control your life.”
He was a great player. Chachu said that nobody wanted to compete with my father in sports. He was full of confidence, but his heart was very kind. He was obsessed with cleanliness. He did not mind cleaning the yard. He always got in trouble for it. Both my mother and uncle yelled at him whenever he tried to grab the broom. I used to laugh. He always said to me, “Tiger, you are not very helpful.” My response was always the same, “Baba, this is not a foreign country. This is a matter of prestige and fake traditions.” He agreed with my view.
I had never seen him go to any mosque or temple. Did he need to go to the temple or mosque? My elderly neighbor said, “No, he does not need to go to the temple or mosque.
Everyone thought he would die soon. However, he had to live to see some pain. My uncle got cancer and was taken to a specialty hospital. The cancer was growing aggressively. My father was too weak to walk, but he managed to visit his brother. I was with him. Chachu was not worried about himself, but he was worried about his brother. My uncle asked him, “Why are you here? You should be resting at home. It is very hot outside. You cannot tolerate heat. I am not dying. Go home.” Both of them held each other’s hands for few minutes. Instead of telling my father to take care of his daughter, my uncle told me, “In my absence, You need to take care of your father. He is a saint. He does what his heart says. Many won’t like his principles.”
Well, my uncle never returned home alive. I did not know how to break this sad news to him. I could not understand how I would tell this saint that his brother had gone forever. So, I just looked into his eyes, and he understood everything just looking back into my eyes. This was the last time my father got up from bed. My uncle died at a very young age. Terrorism was getting worse day by day. I was sent to boarding school so that I would not miss my school or I could stay away from the troubles.
I was 16 years old when Abu died fighting with terrorists. Losing two of my favorite men in a short time had hit me pretty bad. I became silent and numb after crying hysterically at Abu’s corpse. Now, my only hope and love was my father. He was also my moral support. He was so weak, but I still felt so protected in his presence. We shared our stories every day. However, when it comes to Abu or my uncle, I used to walk away. Until now, my relationship with my mother was completely strained. My father knew that if anything happens to him, I will never obey my mother. He knew that a rebel had started to live inside of me. He was afraid that I might run away from home. He also knew that I would never marry. I was young, and my father was dying. My mother was worried about my future.
There was anger in me. I wanted to destroy those who killed Abu. Mum feared for my safety now. My family bought the law with money. My passport with the new name and identity was created overnight. During this time, my fiancé went to visit my father. I was surprised when my father asked him openly, “Why do you want to marry my daughter? Do you know that she is in pain and you still want to marry her? I’m not sure whether Abu’s blood is still trapped in her hair. I am too weak to wash her hair. My daughter indeed lost her beloved people in a few months. Do not expect any love from her.”
Everyone was shocked to hear my father’s honest statement. My mother later shouted at my father, “Why do you have to tell the world what happened to our daughter?” My father smiled and said, “No, everyone should know the truth. I will not keep anyone in the dark.
Now, it was my turn to leave him. Before leaving for the USA, I touched his feet and said goodbye to him. My mother knew well that I would return home only for my father. She was damn right. One day, I got a call that it’s time now. He is waiting for you.
I went to meet him with my bald boy. He was very happy to see us. He smiled and held my little boy with his hands. He wanted me to perform his last rites. I was like, “According to our culture, the only son performs the last rites.” He said, “No, it changes here. I have always considered you as my child instead of my daughter or son. I hope you do my last rites.”
We went to sleep after this conversation. I woke up the next morning, but he didn’t. Of course, I did his last rites. Many people were against it, but he was my father, and no one could stop me. Yes, he was right about Abu’s blood in my hair. My estranged loving man came later in my life. Yes, he combed my hair, and he washed Abu’s blood with his love. I felt protected and loved again. Now he is also gone. I feel insecure again. Whenever I saw my children, I felt like they were in the same boat as me. Unfortunately, I have failed my father. I feel as if I snatched both their mother and father from my children. I often feel like reaching out to my loved ones, but no one can hold my finger. Often I feel alone in the crowd. The quality of love of my father, uncle, Abu, and my estranged loving man keeps me alive now because I spend my time remembering the quality of my relationship with them. While I was writing this story, my dear Khan was awarded on Republic Day with the Presidential Award for his brave work. I am happy for him because he gave me so much love. My pain and suffering is nothing in front of the quality of my bubby’s love. I hope at least he was thinking in his mind, “Munna, how brave I am. I could not protect you. I have orphaned you again.”
My father could have been in his 70s if he were still alive. Sometimes, I feel good that he was gone because he could not see my grief or pain. He was a kind person. If I call him a saint, there will be no question mark. His portrait on the wall reminds me every day, “Munna, Interrogate your soul by looking into your eyes through the mirror, which will help you not to harm others or to keep away from evil.” Honestly, I interrogate my soul every day. I look back over the last 24 hours to see if I hurt anyone or did something wrong. I’ll make sure that won’t happen again the next day.
No, my father was not strong enough to tolerate my pain or tears. He only saw me crying once. He was shivering because of my pain. His hands were trembling. He felt very weak that day. It was my fault to make him a weak person. I had to wipe my tears for him. I wonder how he could have tolerated my pain now. Isn’t it good that he left long ago?
“I miss you, dad. I like to be your daughter in every life cycle because only lucky and rare people can find a father like you. Those memories are keeping your daughter alive. I hope you have also seen and held the little boy.”