©2013 Nim Gholkar All Rights Reserved
We don’t stop being daughters when we become mothers. It’s just that we sometimes forget, in the hustle and bustle of daily life, that there was a time when we were little too just like our children are today.
Sometimes, when my children ask me questions I just don’t know the answers to…..sometimes, when life overwhelms and nothing makes sense…..sometimes, when being an adult is not all as glamourous as it is made out to be…..I want to put back the clock, and just for a few seconds, be simply a daughter again. How lovely would it be to keep all your responsibilities aside, and simply sit at your father’s knee and be able to say: ‘Baba, tell me a story’.
My father passed away fourteen years ago. I so wish he hadn’t….but he did.
This morning, I woke up at the crack of dawn and could not go back to sleep. The world was slumbering. An autumn chill hovered in the air. As I rummaged in my wardrobe, looking for a shawl, my hands found an old cloth bag. Startled, I pulled it out. It was full of letters. I peeped in and found all kinds of wonderful goodies in there. Memories of another day. There were letters from college friends written years ago… thick envelopes packed with faded photos of my younger self as I stood amidst my girlfriends at some picnic or the other. There were wedding invitations from each of my best friends….weddings I was not able to attend as I was then settling into a new life myself on foreign soil. There were letters sent by my husband to me nearly 18 years ago while he was in Australia and I was in India, waiting to finish my Masters degree before flying to a new country to begin married life. There was a greeting card, dulled with the passage of time, with ‘Congratulations’ written all over it, signed by my two beloved English Professors at college. ( I can’t recall what they were congratulating me for. It must have been some essay competition they were referring to).
And then….as I pulled my hand out of the bag with the next item, I found myself staring down at an old, faded aerogramme. My heart began pounding. I had forgotten about its existence. Life has a habit of making you so embroiled in the responsibilities and running around of day to day life, that you simply forget about these little treasures that are lying somewhere in your home….beloved yet forgotten.
It was the last letter from a father to his daughter.
It was written two months before he died.
With trembling hands, I opened the crumpled aerogramme. The words jumped out at me. ‘My little darling Nimutee’. My chest constricted painfully and I burst into tears. It was so long since anyone had called me ‘little’ darling. For of course, I wasn’t little anymore. I was a wise and grown-up mother, struggling to be a role model to my children. I was at that stage in my life where I was the adult, where I was meant to have all the answers, where I had to wipe tears and bandage scraped knees. Grown-ups cannot throw tantrums. Grown-ups cannot cry openly. Grown-ups cannot be little anymore. But that one tiny phrase, ‘lttle darling’, transported me back in time to when I had been, all those years ago, just that: little.
Baba wrote how he still couldn’t believe that I was finally so grown-up that I was now a married woman. He wondered where all the years had flown. Just yesterday I had been a baby in his arms, being rocked to sleep. Just yesterday, I had been a cherubic faced four year old in tight pigtails, wearing a school uniform for the first time. Just yesterday, I had been a shy eight year old, sitting at his knee and clamouring for just one more bedtime story. Only yesterday, I had been a sullen teenager slamming doors and having tantrums. ‘When did you grow up, Nimu?’ he wrote and my tears splashed, smudging the ink. I wept into the letter.
There was no one around to see me. I didn’t have to wear the disguise of the perfect mother who knows all the answers, who can solve all puzzles, who can fight all battles.
For those few moments in the early hours of dawn as the world slumbered, this daughter put aside all pretences of being grown-up and cried for a father who was no more.