Among the sediment of sentiments
I hold an empty envelope
Of old photographs and memories…
So it’s 5478 days today for her.
What should I call her? I have many, many different affectionate terms for her over the years – some of which she would cringe at today, and it being her birthday, I won’t embarrass her.
But she came into my life one night in May. Tousled hair, red cheeked, chubby in the ways most babies are. To grow into the fine young woman she is now. Shapely, if I may say so. Gangly, in a teenage kind of way. Pimply, temporarily. Pretty, permanently (but then I’m biased!). Moody. Confused. Stubborn. Sensible. Sensitive. Alternating between dependence and eagerness to be set free. Itching to find her place in the world. Utterly loveable as only a daughter can be to her father.
We’ve been through it all. From the early, reaching out, “papa, papa”, clutchy-feely-cuddly days to the present “go away, people are looking” days. From the times spent teaching her to swim or ride a bike to today waiting for her to get back from a friend’s. Dropping her off to nursery to picking her up from teenage parties. Worrying about what now seems like completely nonsensical trivia to currently more important things like college and boys.
Shorts have given way to even shorter shorts and the occasional skirt. Unkempt hair to ironing and straightening. The chess board to Snap Chat. And dad to other boys, who hopefully will love and care for her as much. We’ve had the parent-child conversations. On values, expectations, responsibilities, shortcomings, goals, the future. And we’ve not really reached a full understanding. Perhaps, we never will.
There have been the usual tears, temper tantrums, threats. Scoldings and punishments. But also fabulous moments, etched forever in my memory. Of time spent in the magic of Disney, at McDonalds, the park, at home… Just the two of us. At other times, with mama also alongside.
She’s still my little girl. And even when it’s time in a couple of years to let go of her, she still will be. Always and forever. My only advice to her today is to set her mind on something solid, give it the thought it deserves and then just go out there and kick ass big time, whether it’s in the remainder of her formal education, her career, her choice of life partner, whatever. And I have immense faith that eventually everything will turn out perfectly right for her. Because I believe in her hugely.
Taarika, as you turn 15 today, this is my public present to you. A piece dedicated to you, from your father. Who’s proud as heck of his daughter. And who’s brimful with emotion as he writes this.
Bless you, darling! Love you to bits!
The title of the essay can be read as “THE RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL”, although it literally means ‘The Lad Is Back.’
September 25, 1989. As you descend through the shimmering heat haze, you close your eyes and think “…aah, I’m home!”
You alight onto the tarmac and are assailed by the familiar smells of Mumbai. You enter the terminal and your jet lag vanishes amidst the cacophony of touts badgering you to jump queues and offering you a ticket through Customs. For what, you ask, the couple of pairs of jeans you’ve brought back after penny-pinching on your student allowance? But kismet, karma and all that Eastern jazz plays its hand, and as you pass your bags through the X-ray machine, the bottle of Continue reading →
Late-November. Evening lapses into grays with vivid orange flashes of dusk. Driving towards a long-standing desire. Where different millennia are juxtaposed in one single geography.
Destination reached, I park and alight. And take the bridge across time.
To a cool breeze. Ripples and rafts chasing each other downstream. Birds hurrying home. Bovines ambling amidst backpacking tourists, mendicants and foraging mongrels in narrow alleys. Shops on either side. A motley multitude of myriads. Taped trance meeting synthesized chants, adding to ambient noise. A salute to eternal India.
I navigate onwards, captive to a call. With anticipation. An eagerness not often felt. A magnetic draw. A hastening of pace, a sidestepping of the onrush. Strains of a bhajan waft across. Soothing my eardrums amidst the cacophony. Fixated to the source, I continue to an inner beckoning. Remembrances of an earlier visit flit past. I hurry forward. Towards where steps lead to the river.
And then I am there again. One in a gathering of several strangers. All, united in the moment which will soon be upon us.
As the sun withdraws from sight, temple bells chime. Harmonium and flute tease each other in a melody. A slight breeze serenades flames of a holy fire. Smoke dancingly ascends heavenward. A hundred young voices entreat the Gods in Sanskrit. Some sway, some clap. As flashbulbs go off, diyas are lit. The lamps shine light on an ambience the antithesis of the city where I started out from.
The stars above look on silently and benignly. As the timeless river flows on serenely.
Head bowed, hands clasped I stand. Glistening eyes closed, I see. I hear, I feel. I experience with overcome senses. The definitive presence of an indescribable power. And a resonating peace.