It was my school annual function and I was performing onstage for the very first time. They didn't let you and mom in because amidst all the excitement to see your little one on the stage, you forgot to carry your invite. You struggled with the security guard. "It's my daughter's big day and I can't not be there," you told him. When he didn't listen, you fought with him and made it just in time for my performance. The confused kid with stage fright cheered up when she could locate you in the audience. Your watery eyes gave away how proud you were to see me in the limelight. I was 7 then.
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I scored a 10/10 on a silly English test at school. When I came back home and told you about it, you said it called for a celebration. It wasn't a big deal but you ordered ras malai and made me believe like I was the smartest kid on the block. I was 13.
I was heading out for a National Karate Championship. You'd been sick for a while and rested on the bed, by the balcony. Drained out from the sickness, your face had become pale. You could barely talk but when you saw me leaving, you hugged me tight and said, "All the best, beta." A tiny tear trickled down my cheek. I hated to see you like this but your wish meant the world to me. Seeing you like that made me resolve that I'd win a medal. I won a gold. I was 12.
There was a debate contest at school. I wanted to participate just because my friends were. I had no idea what to say and came running to you for help. "Pehle, khud try karo," you said. Disappointed, I wrote something of my own and then proudly narrated it to you. That was my first meaningful piece of writing. I won the second position. I was 15.
I joined an NGO when I was in college. This meant I had to travel some 7 kms away from home everyday, to teach kids in a slum. I had no vehicle and relied on you to drop me. But you suggested that I take public transport. "Why can't he just drop me?", I wondered, almost hating you for it. That was my first solo auto ride. Little did I know it'll help me haggle with autowaalas later in my life, living in Delhi. I was 17 then.
I was learning to drive a car and banged it into a gate. Scared that you'd be furious, I quietly parked it in the garage without informing you. You got to know the next morning and unlike I was expecting, you started laughing. "Koi gall nai, puttar. These things happen when you're learning." I was 18.
Stepping out for my postgraduation, I was moving out of home for the first time to Delhi. While packing, I realized that I forgot to buy a diary for myself. You went in your room and brought out your most-prized possession - a beautiful vintage diary that grandpa gave you. "Take this one," you smiled, handing me a piece of yourself. I was 20.
When I didn't get a job right after college, I lost faith in myself. May be media's not for me, I told you. You looked me in the eye and said, "Never, ever repeat that." A week later, we celebrated my first job. I was 21.
These things might have seemed trivial back then, but they have made me what I am today. People see me as a strong, independent and self-sufficient woman but they don't know that you're the reason behind this little excited kid turning into the woman that she is today.
Thank you, papa.