It’s Father’s Day. And my TLs, both on FB and Twitter have been flooded with thoughts, wishes and expressions of love. But how do I tell my father what he means. We are not part of that section that celebrates days and anniversaries, real and imagined. We belong to that section that quietly goes about its work, save for a quick phone call on a birthday or anniversary. We don’t tell each other how much we care. It is assumed. It is a given. I don’t quite know how else to be. I haven’t spoken to my father today. I haven’t told him how much he means to me, not because I don’t care, but because saying it is too difficult.
That said, today is perhaps as good a day as any other to remember the childhood years when Appa was everything. When Amma was the villain of the piece and Appa was the superhero. My earliest memories of my father involve talking about everything under the sun. They involve lying down in the terrace, on a beautiful starry night and learning to identify the stars. I remember learning to recognise Venus, the Pole Star and Ursa Major. I remember finding the Pleiades somewhere in the distance and trying to understand what they mean. I remember trying, and failing to distinguish between Sirius and some other distant star in the galaxy. Much later, I remember the discussions around the meaning of life. On whether the scriptures really spoke the truth. Whether there was really some such thing as the absolute truth. I will never forget what my father told me that day. That truth is always relative. That reality is often a grey area between the black and the white. That every single thing, every single human, even the gods are some shade of grey. That between the black and the white lie a million shades of grey, each unique, each special.
A second, more tangible memory of my childhood years is the way he engaged with me. I remember the games we played. I never had dolls and kitchen sets and makeup kits. Instead, he bought me books and crayons and brushes. He bought me pens and notebooks. He played hangman and word building when children my age were playing car racing games. He taught me to teach myself, to learn, to grasp and to understand. The greatest gift I have ever received from him is the ability to learn something out of my own volition. He taught me to enjoy the written word, to let my mind wander, far into mythical and fictional worlds, to explore and to travel into the deepest recesses of my heart. He taught me that failure is not just acceptable, but actually encouraged. He taught me that unless you make an attempt, you will never learn. And for this, I love him.
To this day, he engages me in ways nobody else quite can. In his mind, I am still his 3-year old who doesn’t quite understand what she wants. Yet, he lets me be. Lets me make my mistakes. He lets me fall so that I can pick myself up and emerge stronger from the experience. And most importantly, he has never once said I cannot do something I truly want to because I’m a girl. And for that, he’s the best father one can ask for.