Losing a parent is the toughest loss anyone deals with,at any point in time. I faced this loss 5 years ago - and never had the courage to talk about it at length,let alone write about it. Just the sheer thought of our times together, of what was - and what could've been - gives me a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach.I refrain from letting myself feel the enormity of it, that's my mechanism. We all have our mechanisms. I've been dealing with it all this while - and finally it's time to write that long due letter to my Dad.
I was never really a Daddy's girl. Until the day I became a parent, and it dawned on me how heavily influenced I was by my dad's strange ways. I say strange, because, well he wasn't really the dutiful,family-oriented, Sooraj Barjatya movie-kinda guy. He was pretty much the guy who did exactly what he wanted to do. He was adventurous, bordering on crazy,he was liberal, almost too much,he was abashedly expressive about his love and anger, he was all about having fun. No, he wasn't even close to being the 'Trophy Dad'.Which made me resent his ways in my growing years.
Much to my surprise, as I'm growing older, I see my Dad in a whole new light. As relationships get more complicated, and so does finding truly joyful company - I often find myself going back to Dad's unabashed sense of fun. As I reflect on the 26 years we spent together, among the jokes and the fun, there are many ways in which Dad made me the person I am today.
Whenever I'm scared of any untravelled path, I think of Dad.
He was fearless - like I said, almost crazy. Dad was a sucker for the Mountains - and his idea of a holiday was only one - road trip to any corner of Himachal. My every memory of a vacation for almost 18 years of my life, involves a car, mountains and lots of stories. We travelled with no clear budgets, no itinerary - we slept many a night in our van- trust me for really long, I thought that's the way everyone holidays!) We have barely any road trip story where our car didn't break down. We have had mangoes in random tube-wells by the road and feasted at highway dhabas in quirky corners. For all the times I felt this was ridiculous, there were lessons I learnt which no book could ever teach. It taught me never to be scared of exploring. Probably that's why I venture into the unknown paths of life quite easily.
Make Stories as a Family
These road-trip adventures also gave me the guts to see shit through. We have travelled on roads which were as wide as the car, we have trekked on glaciers, stayed in tents by the mountain streams , we have raced against elephants at Jim Corbett and we have witnessed forest fires hitting our hill-cottage. If you thought watching a sci-fi thriller was thrilling, you haven't travelled with Dad. Now let me clarify - dad's sense of fun was never about driving rashly or jumping off cliffs.I think he saw life through the eyes of a child wanting to explore more. And in the process making memories and stories. Stories which we all survived to tell. To laugh at together. And that stayed with me.
Unlike dad, I am a thorough planner - but I also want to create my own adventures. I know life is too short to live perfectly - I want to continue the tradition of making crazy stories together with my family. I want my daughter to see me as tad-bit fearless and borderline bizarre. I want her to know that we have one life - and we can choose to laugh less or choose to laugh more. We can choose to be perfect - or we can choose to be ourselves. We can choose to be practical - and yet, choose to break into a chicken dance in the middle of our hotel lawns. I want her to choose happiness. Like Dad chose for himself.
No Girl-y Rules
Dad was pretty hand-off as a parent - and thanks to that - we never had curfew hours, 'girls dont go to parties', ' don't wear this' type of issues. We were pretty much treated as adults even when we were 12. This made me responsible with my freedom quite early. I made mistakes, hell yeah, but I never had anyone but myself to blame. I learnt to choose better. I learnt to trust myself.
Know the Boyfriend
Dad established certain boyfriend rules - every boy who was my friend/ potential boyfriend/ boyfriend - must come home and be introduced to my parents. Not in an inspection kinda way. No way, dad was too cool to weigh anyone top to toe. Dad was great with people, like I said, and it wasn't long before most of my guy friends enjoyed chilling with him. I never felt the need to not introduce them. And my parents always knew the company I kept. Kick-ass parenting move.
Mange your Money
When I started working, dad made it amply clear that I was to use this for my car fuel, my shopping and any other indulgences I so desired. There was never a concept of 'your income is your saving - we will give you money to indulge'. I admit, again, that I detested it initially. How could I be expected to enjoy with that meagre an income!Today, I know better. I learnt to live in my means and to manage my own money.I started taking my own decisions about what amount to spend and what to save and how. There was never someone else who I needed to look towards for handling my finances.I became truly independent.
'It's your Life'
As I grew older, dad and I disagreed on almost 99% of the topics.But I give him credit for always listening to my point of view without any rhetoric or harshness. He would continue to present his advice, but in the face of my persistent disagreement, he would close the argument with this one line :
"It's your life. I can only guide you as a father. Rest, you will have to bear the results of your actions.'
I often mocked him for being indifferent and unhelpful in decision-making when he made this statement. But now, I think of how these words came to be my strongest guidelines. I never depended on anyone for decision-making. I get confused, I get lonely, I get disturbed, even mad at myself. But I seek within - and ask myself about the choices I want to make whose results I want to carry on own shoulders.
Don't make the mistake of thinking that Dad didn't have opinions. He sure did - but he never imposed them. He just wasn't the kinda guy to. He was truly cool.Mostly.
He didn't raise 2 daughters - he raised 2 kids. Ofcourse, there were stereotyping melodramatic dialogues like 'tu mera beta hai' etc. - I'm sure Dad and I would have argued about that over dinner,if he were around.He'd probably end it with a funny PJ with both of us breaking into meaningless laughter.
Yes, there is no nigger loss than losing a parent. Remembering them not just in prayers but in our actions, remembering them not just on a shraad but everytime you do/say something they would, remembering them not just on their birthday,but in times when you're looking for honest,fearless answers, remembering simply how much of them is now us - will always keep them alive and closer to us than we imagine.
Thanks Dad..Guess I forgot to say it enough..