“Do you want some chocolate?”, Appa asks me. We’re shopping at Costco and just like that, I’m a 3-year old holding on to his thumb. I’m still his little girl. As a kid, his hand was too big for me. I’d wrap my hand around his thumb instead and skip along, without a care in the world. The great thing is I still feel like that when my dad is around.
1962, Mysore, India – A man furiously pedaled his bicycle towards my grandfather’s home with an important message. That my father, had secured a job in the Defence Services. A job which would lift the family out of their dire financial situation. My dad, who in all of his 20 years, had never been outside his hometown, moved to a new city. This was also the first time he would graduate from slippers to wearing shoes. He still remembers how he slipped and fell the first time he wore them.
A new city, a new language, but my dad, ever the optimist, did what he stands by even today – he took it one day at a time. He made a life for himself and for us, all by himself. What’s that word? Self-made.
“Appa, get off the train, it will take you away!”, the almost 3-year old me shouted out to him, tears streaming down my face as the train slowly chugged away from the station. My sister and I missed him terribly when he was away on transfers. When he was posted in Bombay, he would come home every Friday, stay the weekend and leave on Monday. Fridays to us, were sacred.
I get my love for reading from my sister. But come to think of it, it was Appa who encouraged our love for reading in an indirect way. My sister, then 6, badly wanted to subscribe to a children’s book. Anyone remember ‘Champak’? Appa first said she couldn’t have it. “But Mom gets a magazine, why can’t we?” To which he said something amazing “You are right.” He has always appreciated a valid argument, regardless of whether it comes from an adult or a kid.
As my sister and I grew older, we understood the efforts involved in raising us. And we always marveled at my mother’s ability to singlehandedly manage two kids without any help from family. But we didn’t talk enough about how hard Appa worked. I can now imagine how he must have hated being away from us, when he got posted to some really god-forsaken places.
Appa was the one who pushed my sister and me to be independent. He would take us to banks and make us fill out cheques so we would learn. He taught us by example, to be polite, to everybody, especially to people who were less fortunate. Appa, with his thick mustache and his tall frame and his Defence background looked intimidating, but his princesses knew the soft and squishy side of him, just like his thumb felt in my hand.
Every evening, Appa would be in the kitchen helping my mother right from chopping vegetables to doing the dishes. He set a really high standard for my sister and me when it came to choosing our spouses. And boy, did we both get lucky!
To this day, when my sister or I are in a sticky situation, we only have to look at Appa to get our strength back. “What’s the worst that can happen?”, has always been his motto. I think about the worst and I’m prepared for it. Whatever does happen eventually is better than that.
To this day, his discipline, his dedication to keeping fit, his kindness and positivity are admirable. And just like he learnt to live in a new city in his 20s, he has singlehandedly learnt to navigate the treacherous waters of the Internet recently. I am so proud of my dad.
Thank you, Appa for showing us what real men should be like. You probably feel left out sometimes in all the girly conversations between Mommy and us, but we want you to know that you were and always will be our True North. Happy Father’s Day with all our love!