(In response to 'Write a letter to a young lady in your life. What are your dreams for her?)
The Letter A Proud Father Writes to his Daughter:
I know how surprised you will be to receive this email from me. I can even see the look of shock and disbelief in your eyes as you go through it.!
"A letter from Baba, of all people!" I can already hear you murmur out.
I know, my girl, (Why is the look of sadness back on your face again?) that all of those last seventeen years must have been terrible for you…..
I can still hear you arguing with me one day right after we, your Ma and I, decided to shift you down to our hometown, Kolkata, from Tsimalakha in Bhutan, where I had been working as a Language Teacher. Having arrived in Kolkata, you missed those days of childhood spent amidst the bounties of Nature terribly badly. Those grave and grey mountains, the bluer than the blue skies overhead, the lush greenery all around, looked lonelier with you gone.
How I wish now that I had a chance to share with you, my dreams for you, when you stayed in The Happiness Country! I was introverted and not used to baring my heart easily. But like any other parents, I had big dreams for you. That one day, you would win people's adulation and admiration as an educated lady. You would be Ceoing an MNC, scaling new heights, setting the benchmark! That despite all your name, fame and affluence, you would be grounded and a good human, first and foremost.
You told me that dark night that things started changing once your elder sis, Akanksha, graduated out of CCS and got admitted at CPS in Kolkata.
All on a sudden, our small yet well-bonded family seemed to have received a massive blow! We had decided earlier to let you stay with me while your sister, Akanksha and Ma moved down.
But hardly did one week elapse when I thought you were getting very quiet in their absence, keeping yourself mostly to yourself, neglecting studies and keeping a distance from me. You would get back from school late most of the week days. When asked, you told me that you had work to do at school and were made to stay back. It was either the Scout Master or the Class Teacher assigning you with some tasks along with a couple of your friends after school.
Your behaviour also changed drastically. You became quieter, aloof, looking lost and hurt. All this got reflected in your performance. Your marks dipped even in English, your favourite subject till then!
I never told you till the day you caught me talking to Ma over the phone that I was constantly calling her to have you admitted in a school down in Kolkata at the earliest. There was still hope, I also told your Ma. You must have overheard me telling Ma how fed up I was with you and your high and mighty attitude.
It took me till that awful night to realize that you felt the same way about me!
Kolkata didn't prove lucky for you either. When I came down next time after a gap of some six months during the vacation, gone was the spirited girl you once were. In her place, I found a complete stranger fiddling with the mobile twenty four hours a day, sensitive and unsure of the purpose of her life! You never attended school, seldom hung out with friends and did not talk much to most of us! Ma had started working by then and you seemed to rue her absence at home too.
I screamed at and scolded you after I had left the gas oven with the milk pot on, to fetch water from the tap in the courtyard outside. On my return, I could smell the ardour of burnt milk. One peek at the oven and I knew what the matter was. You didn't even move an inch from your place, hellbent on the mobile and ruining your future, as you were.
I smacked you hard that day. But the way you reacted, left me shell-shocked at the end! Gone was that decent girl, the topper of her class at CLSS. Instead an arrogant, unruly brat had emerged!
I learnt another lesson that day- that using force against a young girl like you, was no solution, it would never help.
Later, much later, that night when things had quietened down a bit, after Ma had stopped being hysterical, trying to refrain me from pulling you down from bed as, she cried, you were a girl, after Akku had stopped shrieking at Ma asking her why she ever thought of marrying and spending the rest of her days with me - you CAME BACK to me.
I was so panicky internally, Milu, I saw the pain and anguish in your eyes. I thought I had lost you at that time. But you were brave to talk to me first. You always did that, my child.
Let me tell you now, when I am far away from you in a distant land, that you taught me that night the true meaning of 'family'. That despite the one million and one hurdles and differences between us, we were meant to stand by each other, in happy and sad times, to be a close-knit family.
I kept looking down as you kept on talking and sharing your worries and. dreams with me in the quiet of the night while the rest of the world was sound asleep!
While listening to you, I had an inkling into a new world of darkness and ignorance! Darkness, due to my lack of knowledge about Parenting and 'ignorance' as I learnt how little I knew about you even while staying under the same roof!
You told me in the quiet of that fatal night how you missed Bhutan after coming down to Kolkata; how the very thought of being rejected even by your Baba kept HURTING you, how you felt like a stranger not only at school but also back home!
You started thinking then that staying away from those big-mouthed, high nosed friends at your new school, might help you. You started spending more and more time at home. But even at Home things were far from looking up. Your sis Akanksha was busy with her own circle of friends. She didn't have time for you anymore. You found it hard to accept the truth and open up to her as a result. Ma would return home late from office and how you missed them, the friends of your former school and wanted them back in your life. That is how you started spending more time on your mobile.
I thought the face-to-face talk that night, wisened me up. I was a fool! I'd do the chores from then on in a way I had never done before, doing the dishes, hanging the washings along the line, making your coffee or arranging Akku's bed.
You, my girl, did not change a wee bit even then and went back to your old, murky ways! Someone suggested we take you to a psychiatrist. You went berserk at the very disclosure!
After the Year-End Exam,when I asked you about your Result, you told me that the result would come back from the Board next year, that your name was there all right in the First List along with those students who got through in flying colors. I am unsure if I believed you that time! But when the Pre-Test Result for XII was declared after six months and parents informed about the PTM, you looked depressed again. The PTM over, I nearly gave up on you!
I thought It best not to tell you what your Class Teacher or Psychology Madam had told me that day. I was devastated, to say the least. I couldn't take it any more from them.
I kept walking around the lake by your school. Round and round, pondering over my next course of action. I walked completely preoccupied with your thoughts! It was only then that I saw the barebodied lad diving into the green water of the lake. An withered lady sitting by the steps, taking out the hook from the mouth of the silver fish and keeping it in a pot behind. I was also mesmerized by the sight of the rippling water under the bushy bamboo trees…..
Everything in nature went on its usual course. It didn't matter at all to anyone but me that you were being sent up on 'CONSIDERATION'. They thought they were doing you a great favour!
The calm of the lake and its surroundings helped me finally come to terms with myself. If you were fated to be an academic loser, so be it. The world is not made up of the winners alone. 'Some lose, some win'. But in the end it is the wonderful people, people wonderful from inside, who go on to leave their marks behind!
I couldn't get over my anger with you easily. There were just two more months left for your Board Exam. A few weeks before the exam, I had a mild flu which developed into an unbearable headache. I was delirious when the physician turned up. One look at me and next moment I was being rushed to the CMCH (Calcutta Medical College Hospital). I remember the precious moments when, eyes closed I could still hear someone whisper into my ear:
"Baba, I'll do well. I promise you that.." You were trying to reassure me for the first time at that crucial juncture through tears were welling up in your eyes!
I tried to open my eyes and smile back at you. But in place of the pain, there where blinding lights everywhere and I felt myself freer, lighter and calmer than ever before!
After the discharge, I heard the doctor telling me that I should consider myself lucky to be still alive.
On the first day of your Board Exams, I showed you, once you were out of the Centre, the Offer Letter from the UAE and asked for your opinion. Though you looked a little shook up, you asked me to go grab the opportunity. I left on the last day of your exam. As I saw you coming out, I looked up and thanked Him for letting you finish the exams.
The day your HS result was out, Akku told me through Skype that she had been working frantically on her computer trying to find out your index number on the WBHSE website. The way she cried out after a while, made both Ma and you rush out into the dining room.
"Ma, Anu has passed in First Div!" Then all three of you were crying and dancing and shouting hoarse. Amidst all the cries of tears and tears of happiness, I kept looking at you. You looked all grown up and had a woman's sixth sense.
Slowly you disentangled yourself from the arms around you and walked up to me on the laptop screen. Looking up into my eyes. You could sense my pride, my joy, Milu, and must have heard me thanking God;
" You will always be a winner for me, my angel. For deep down, I had never had doubts about your abilities…"
I broke into a sob in front of all three of you huddled together.
That was when I decided to type this letter and email it to you. I want you to know this in case I don't get a chance to tell you again that you have been a winner for me all along, in defeat, in disgrace, in the dark hours of Life. I learnt the very meaning of Life from you, my love. Proud of you. God bless you and all of us, my child.